MMR: Los Angeles Rams Take Down Tom Brady, Defending Champs

by Blaine Grisak
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With 4:44 left on the clock, the then St. Louis Rams (now Los Angeles Rams) trailed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 6-5 for a chance to go to the Super Bowl. Kurt Warner had turned the ball over three times and the offense had struggled to find rhythm all afternoon.

Finally, on 3rd-and-4, Warner took a shot down the left sideline and found Ricky Proehl in stride in the end zone to put the Rams up for good. It’s a classic moment that’s been engrained in our brains forever.

The next week in the Super Bowl with the game tied 16-16 and 1:54 on the clock, another classic moment that would go down in history was made. Warner took a huge shot from Jevon Kearse, but stood in the pocket just long enough to find Isaac Bruce on the right sideline. It’s the throw that everyone remembers. Bruce cut back and made his way to the end zone for what would be the game-winning touchdown.

In 2018, with 1:49 on the clock, trailing 51-47 against the Kansas City Chiefs, the Rams needed a play. Jared Goff delivered in what many consider the greatest regular season game of all-time. The Rams quarterback found Gerald Everett in stride to put the Rams up 54-51.

You can go back to the 1989 NFC Divisional Round when Jim Everett found Flipper Anderson in overtime against the New York Giants. These are throws from franchise legend quarterbacks were legendary. They are the throws that show up on the highlight reels decades later.

Matthew Stafford had one of those moments on Sunday to send the Rams to the conference championship game.

The Los Angeles Rams traded for Stafford for these moments. It wasn’t that Jared Goff wasn’t capable of winning playoff game. It’s that when everything was chaos around him, Stafford could still overcome it.

To say the second half of Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was chaos is an understatement. The Rams turned the ball over four times – none of which came at the hands of Stafford. As Tom Brady mounted arguably his greatest comeback since 28-3 against the Atlanta Falcons in the Super Bowl, Stafford remained calm and collected.

The 27-3 lead that Stafford had built up shrunk and shrunk. After a fumble by Cam Akers, Brady and the Bucs tied it at 27 and the Rams were on the brink of one of the biggest chokes in postseason history.

What came next was the anti-Super Bowl 36. Matthew Stafford was sacked for a one-yard loss and it looked like the game was destined for overtime. Instead, Stafford got right back up and did the unexpected with 35 seconds left and no timeouts.

“I’ll tell you what, he certainly delivered in a big win today,” said Sean McVay. “That’s why you go get him. [I] always had a lot of confidence in Matthew. That never wavered.”

A 20-yard pass to Kupp – who ran a perfect route – put the Rams near midfield. The Rams receiver got enough separation to get out of bounds and stop the clock.

The next play is the stuff that legends are made of. With 35 seconds left and no timeouts Stafford found Kupp streaking down the middle of the field past the Tampa Bay secondary and Stafford hit him in stride. All Brady could do from the sideline was watch as Stafford sprinted 44-yards down the field and gathered the offense to clock the ball.

“They decided to bring the house and go to zero [coverage],” said Stafford after the game. “The route that Cooper is running there is – we describe it a lot of times in our meetings is a ‘Love of the Game’ route. You’re really never getting the ball. You’re just clearing out some area, working for some other routes. They decided to bring everybody and that’s really the best option at that point.”

All that was left was the game-winning kick. Matt Gay who had missed early drilled the 30-yard field goal and the Rams were headed to their second NFC Championship under Sean McVay.

Yes, the Los Angeles Rams made the game much closer than it needed to be. However, they delivered in the game’s biggest moment. 22 years to the day that Warner hit Ricky Proehl to send the Rams to the Super Bowl, Stafford hit Kupp 44-yards in stride to send the Rams to the NFC Championship Game.

If the Rams bring home hardware, it’s a play that will go down as one of the most iconic in franchise history. For a quarterback who couldn’t win a playoff game, Stafford took down the winningest quarterback in NFL history at home. Matthew Stafford Tom Bradied Tom Brady.

In just two playoff games with the Rams, Stafford has two of the best postseason performances in franchise history. According to EPA/play, Stafford set the record last week with a 0.516 EPA/play. On Sunday against Tampa Bay, Stafford had an EPA/play of 0.436. That mark is the fourth-highest. In two playoff games, Stafford has two of the top four best playoff performances in a Rams uniform.

It’s not over yet, however. The Rams need to slay the 49ers dragon next week. That alone will be a difficult task, but we’ll get to that in the coming days. For now, let’s get to the rest of the Monday Morning Rambling.

Los Angeles Rams Three Word Game Review: Way Too Close

After not being able to give up a halftime lead, for the second time in three weeks, a Sean McVay-led team has given up double-digit halftime leads. They got a little lucky being able to hold onto this one on the road. This game had business coming down to a miraculous throw at the end.

However, that just shows the resiliency of this Los Angeles Rams team. Teams that turned it over 4+ times on the road in the playoffs were 10-90. The Rams defeated the odds and overcame a lot to host the NFC Championship game.

The Turning Point: Cooper Kupp‘s 70-yard Touchdown

There are a few turning points in this game. You can easily point to the final throw from Stafford to Kupp or to either Cam Akers fumble. The Kupp fumble can also be mentioned. All three plays were turning points for both teams. However, the Rams dominated this football game.

Without four fumbles, the Los Angeles Rams likely win 40-20 and it doesn’t come down to a game-winning field goal. On 3rd-and-20, Matthew Stafford hit Cooper Kupp down the right sideline and Kupp took it in for the touchdown. That score put the Rams up 17-3 and you knew then that the Rams were going to be the better team.

Game Ball: Matthew Stafford

How does the game ball not go to Matthew Stafford?

Stafford has played some of his best football this season in the playoffs. Remember, this was a player that couldn’t win in the playoffs prior to this year and “crumbled” in big games. Against Arizona, Stafford was able to rely on the run game and be efficient. That wasn’t the case on Sunday.

This game was in Matthew Stafford’s hands. He had no run game. The guys around him tried to give it away. Matthew Stafford delivered in the biggest moment.

Three Up

1. Joe Noteboom

Joseph Noteboom had a win rate of 96% filling in for Andrew Whitworth. The Buccaneers were without Tristan Wirfs and the effect was obvious. Noteboom stepped up in a big way on Sunday for the Los Angeles Rams. He’ll be a free agent this offseason and the Rams will without a doubt look to make him a priority signing.

2. Nick Scott

Nick Scott played a great game against the Buccaneers. Playoff Scotty has shown that he’s more than a special teamer and can step up when his number is called. The Rams have been without Jordan Fuller and Scott has stepped up to the plate. Along with the interception, Scott had five tackles and is the second-highest graded safety in the postseason according to Pro Football Focus.

3. Von Miller

In his last six games, Von Miller has seven sacks, 11 tackles for loss, 10 quarterback hits and two forced fumbles. The Rams traded for Miller halfway through the season and were criticized for it due to an early lack of production. However, these are the moments why you trade for Miller. The former Bronco strip-sacked Brady which should have been a game-ender.

Looking Ahead

The Los Angeles Rams will get a third shot at beating the San Francisco 49ers next week. They lost 31-10 early in the season and then 27-24 in Week 18 after blowing a 17-0 lead. Let’s put it like this. The Rams were 87 seconds, 89-yards, and one stop away from knocking the 49ers out of the postseason. Now, both teams are in the NFC Championship Game.

It will be a rematch of the 1989 meeting in which the Rams lost 30-3.



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