The Super Bowl Report: Rams make the Super Bowl, to face Bengals

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford celebrates.
Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford celebrates the NFC championship.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.

Gary Klein on the Rams: All those billions Stan Kroenke spent to build SoFi Stadium and host Super Bowl LVI.

All those trades for star players.

All those moves to go all-in.

All of it paid off.

On Sunday, the Rams continued their dream season and fulfilled their mandate to play in the Super Bowl by defeating the San Francisco 49ers, 20-17, in the NFC championship game before 73,202 at SoFi Stadium. The Rams advanced to the Super Bowl on Feb. 13, where they will play the AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals.


“Love this team,” said coach Sean McVay, who led the Rams to the Super Bowl for the second time in the last five seasons. “We got one more.”

On the one-year anniversary of the blockbuster trade for quarterback Matthew Stafford — the Rams’ pronouncement that they were pursuing a boom-or-bust run to the Super Bowl — Stafford connected with star receiver Cooper Kupp for two touchdowns and led a game-winning scoring drive for the second week in a row.

Stafford had more than the 42 seconds needed to knock off Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl-champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but he escaped a near disaster and led the Rams to another 30-yard field goal by Matt Gay that gave them a 20-17 lead with 1 minute 46 seconds left.

Star lineman Aaron Donald pressured 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo into desperation mode, and linebacker Travin Howard intercepted a pass that sealed the victory, breaking the Rams’ six-game losing streak against the 49ers and sending them to the Super Bowl.

“It feels amazing,” star cornerback Jalen Ramsey said. “That’s really the only word I can think of.”


Rams’ 20-17 victory over San Francisco 49ers by the numbers


Underdog (?) Bengals rally from 18-point deficit to beat Chiefs, advance to Super Bowl

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Sam Farmer on the Super Bowl: Before he joined the Rams, Matthew Stafford had never won a playoff game.

Before this season, the Cincinnati Bengals had gone 31 years without winning one. It was the longest active postseason drought of the four major professional sports.

Talk about colliding Hollywood stories.

The Rams and Bengals will meet in Super Bowl LVI on Feb. 13 at SoFi Stadium, the glistening $5-billion palace that played host to Sunday’s NFC championship game.

“It’s beyond surreal,” said Rams executive Kevin Demoff, ducking out of the locker room delirium to speak to a reporter. “We dream of moving this team back to Los Angeles, building this stadium, hosting a Super Bowl, hosting the championship, and we beat the 49ers to make the Super Bowl in your own building? It’s unbelievable.”


To Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey, it was all a beautiful mystery.

“I don’t know how like the logistics of it work,” Ramsey said. “Hopefully we can get our locker room. I don’t know how all that stuff works, but hopefully we can be up in our locker room and have the music playing and kind of get a vibe and hopefully L.A. comes and packs the stadium out. I mean, just playing in the Super Bowl regardless.”

The Super Bowl will be a showdown between two teams led by quarterbacks selected No. 1 overall, Stafford and the Bengals’ Joe Burrow, and two head coaches who used to work side by side.

Cincinnati’s Zac Taylor was an assistant wide receivers coach in Sean McVay’s first season with the Rams, then quarterbacks coach on the 2018 Rams team that lost in the Super Bowl to New England.

“Great resilient team,” McVay said of the Bengals. “It didn’t look good for them, and they’ve just continued to show why they’re a mentally tough outfit. I think that’s reflected by their head coach. I know what a great coach he is.

“They’ve done a great job this year. We’ve crossed over with them a little bit but I’m looking forward to diving into the tape and figuring out how we can put together a good game plan to try to see if we can finish this thing off.”


Dylan Hernández on Matthew Stafford: The view was different from up there.


On a makeshift stage in the middle of the field at SoFi Stadium on Sunday, Matthew Stafford looked out at a world that would never see him the same again.

Thirteen years into his career, he was finally a winner.

A year to the day of his trade to the Rams, Stafford advanced his team to the Super Bowl.

“I don’t know that I ever thought about what I would be feeling at this moment,” Stafford said. “I probably just sat there and just wished I could be in those games.”

When the NFC championship game was over, when the Rams closed out their 20-17 victory over the San Francisco 49ers, Stafford’s wife ran onto the field and leaped into the quarterback’s arms.

“She’s fired up,” Stafford said.

They weren’t in Detroit anymore.

Stafford didn’t win a single playoff game in his 12 seasons with the Lions but has now won three in the last three weeks.

A week after setting up Matt Gay’s winning field goal in Tampa Bay with a 44-yard pass to Cooper Kupp, Stafford completed five passes to lead the Rams down the field and position Gay to convert his latest tiebreaking kick.

“We talk about competitive greatness all the time, being your best when the best was required,” coach Sean McVay said. “He embodied competitive greatness today.”



Bill Plaschke on the Rams: SoFi Stadium shook. The Rams danced. Confetti sprayed.

Thousands screamed, again and again, answering the public-address announcer’s bellowing question of precisely who will own this Inglewood palace in the upcoming Super Bowl.

They’ve chanted it many times before, but it’s never quite resounded like this.

“Whose house?”

“Rams’ house!”

It happened. It really happened. The Rams promised, and delivered, and are now staying home for the trip of a lifetime after defeating the San Francisco 49ers 20-17 on Sunday in the NFC championship game.

Their house. Their moment. And now their magic.

On Sunday, Feb. 13, at SoFi Stadium, the Rams will face the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI.

Think about that. The Super Bowl. Being played in Los Angeles. With a Los Angeles team.


Jorge Castillo on the stadium scene: The game surrounding Sunday’s NFC championship game surfaced inside SoFi Stadium once fans began trickling through the gates at 1:30 p.m.

One side wore blue and yellow defending their turf as Rams supporters. Their counterparts — fans of the San Francisco 49ers — were the loud, unruly guests in red and gold. If the $5-billion building was indeed the Rams’ house — as the franchise’s tagline suggests ad nauseam — then the 49ers aficionados crashed the ADU out back and threw themselves a carne asada.


A stroll around the concourse, teeming with playful tension, plainly illustrated the dichotomy.

“Niners house!” a 49ers fan on the 300-level yelled 90 minutes before kickoff.

“F— no!” contested a man with a “Rams House” flag draped around him like a cape.

“Home game,” a man in a 49ers jersey quickly rebutted.

Rams fans were outnumbered. An unofficial tally estimates it was a 60-40 split, though both sides were loud enough for both teams to use a silent snap count on offense. In the end, the people in blue were the last ones cheering in the Rams’ heart-stopping 20-17 win.


Los Angeles and San Francisco football rivalry is super fun for fans

Click here for a photo gallery from Sunday’s win over the 49ers.


Jon Healey on betting: Sports betting is a giant industry, with more than $92 billion wagered since the Supreme Court ruled in May 2018 that states could allow it. That’s why, if you’ve watched any NFL games on television this year, you’ve seen almost as many commercials for online betting sites as for beer and trucks.

Let’s get one thing straight at the outset, though: Betting on the Super Bowl at those sites (or on any other sports played by humans not on horseback at a licensed racetrack) is illegal in California. Even if it’s legal in your home state, if you come to Los Angeles for Super Bowl LVI, you cannot place a legal bet on the game at a licensed U.S. sports book while you’re here.


For many Californians, however, legal restrictions are merely a speed bump. An unpublished study in 2019 estimated that Californians were making $15.7 billion in sports bets, whether with friends, bookies or offshore sites.

Hence the countless commercials touting betting sites, along with the chatter on TV and radio about point spreads and favorites.

“California state law is probably the broadest in the country” when it comes to restricting gambling, said I. Nelson Rose, a gambling law scholar and emeritus professor at Whittier College. “It makes it a crime — a misdemeanor — to accept, record or even make a bet on a sports event. Obviously, nobody ever gets arrested for making bets on sports events. But it’s clearly against the law.”


Super Bowl Sunday
Feb. 13
at SoFi Stadium, Inglewood

Rams vs. Cincinnati, 3:30 p.m. PT, Rams favored by four points

TV: NBC and Telemundo.
Radio: Westwood One radio (AM 570 in Los Angeles), SiriusXM NFL Radio, NFL GamePass.
Streaming: NFL app (iOS, Android), Peacock app (iOS, Android), Telemundo app (iOS, Android), Yahoo Sports

To buy tickets (after mortgaging your house to afford them): Ticketmaster, OnLocation, HOFExperiences, VividSeats, SeatGeek


Halftime show: Recording artists Dr. Dre, Mary J. Blige, Snoop Dogg, Eminem and Kendrick Lamar are scheduled to perform in the Super Bowl halftime show. The NFL has yet to announce who will sing the national anthem before the game.

Coronavirus guidelines if you attend: Under Los Angeles County’s coronavirus health and safety guidelines, all fans in attendance must be vaccinated. Fans attending the game will be required to wear masks and will be given KN95 masks.


The NFL’s current postseason overtime rules were implemented in 2010 and are under renewed scrutiny after the Kansas City Chiefs’ AFC divisional playoff win over the Buffalo Bills on Jan. 23. Of the 11 playoff games that have gone to overtime under the current rules, 10 have been won by the team that got the ball first. Here’s a rundown of the rules:

—A coin flip determines which team receives the opening kickoff of overtime

—Teams play 15-minute periods until there’s a winner.

—A touchdown or safety on the first possession wins the game.

—If the score is tied after each team’s first possession, either because neither scored or each kicked a field goal, the next score (touchdown, field goal or safety) will win the game.

—There are no coach challenges with all reviews being initiated by the replay official.


Ronald Torbert, an NFL official since 2010, has been named the referee for Super Bowl LVI. His crew is set to include Bryan Neale (umpire), Derick Bowers (down judge), Carl Johnson (line judge), Rick Patterson (field judge), Keith Washington (side judge), Scott Halverson (back judge) and Roddy Ames (replay official).


Just for fun, over the next two weeks we will be running a tournament to determine the best Super Bowl/NFL/AFL champion of all time. The teams have been seeded 1-64 (using a combination of regular season record, regular season point differential and playoff point differential) and put into four regions, just like the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Using the Second And Ten computer game, we will run the games to determine the best team of them all. Since there are only 55 Super Bowl winning teams, we chose nine teams from before the Super Bowl era to compete, all champions of either the NFL or the AFL. They are: 1950 Cleveland Browns, 1951 Los Angeles Rams, 1953 Detroit Lions, 1960 Philadelphia Eagles, 1961 Houston Oilers, 1962 Green Bay Packers, 1963 San Diego Chargers, 1963 Chicago Bears and the 1964 Buffalo Bills.


Here are the four regions. Results will begin to be announced tomorrow. In the first round, No. 1 plays No. 16, No. 2 plays No. 15, etc.:

Jim Brown Region
No. 1: 1972 Miami Dolphins
No. 2: 1962 Green Bay Packers
No. 3: 1986 New York Giants
No. 4: 1973 Miami Dolphins
No. 5: 1977 Dallas Cowboys
No. 6: 1970 Baltimore Colts
No. 7: 2013 Seattle Seahawks
No. 8: 1990 New York Giants
No. 9: 1963 San Diego Chargers
No. 10: 2000 Baltimore Ravens
No. 11: 1993 Dallas Cowboys
No. 12: 2008 Pittsburgh Steelers
No. 13: 2015 Denver Broncos
No. 14: 2001 New England Patriots
No. 15: 2010 Green Bay Packers
No. 16: 2011 New York Giants

Walter Payton Region
No. 1: 1985 Chicago Bears
No. 2: 1998 Denver Broncos
No. 3: 1978 Pittsburgh Steelers
No. 4: 1975 Pittsburgh Steelers
No. 5: 1963 Chicago Bears
No. 6: 1953 Detroit Lions
No. 7: 1994 San Francisco 49ers
No. 8: 2017 Philadelphia Eagles
No. 9: 1969 Kansas City Chiefs
No. 10: 1997 Denver Broncos
No. 11: 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
No. 12: 1974 Pittsburgh Steelers
No. 13: 2006 Indianapolis Colts
No. 14: 2018 New England Patriots
No. 15: 1952 Los Angeles Rams
No. 16: 2007 New York Giants

Joe Montana Region
No. 1: 1984 San Francisco 49ers
No. 2: 1991 Washington Redskins
No. 3: 2004 New England Patriots
No. 4: 2003 New England Patriots
No. 5: 1964 Buffalo Bills
No. 6: 1960 Philadelphia Eagles
No. 7: 1996 Green Bay Packers
No. 8: 1992 Dallas Cowboys
No. 9: 1971 Dallas Cowboys
No. 10: 1961 Houston Oilers
No. 11: 1979 Pittsburgh Steelers
No. 12: 2019 Kansas City Chiefs
No. 13: 1987 Washington Redskins
No. 14: 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers
No. 15: 1967 Green Bay Packers
No. 16: 2012 Baltimore Ravens

John Madden Region
No. 1: 1976 Oakland Raiders
No. 2: 2016 New England Patriots
No. 3: 1989 San Francisco 49ers
No. 4: 1982 Washington Redskins
No. 5: 1966 Green Bay Packers
No. 6: 1950 Cleveland Browns
No. 7: 1999 St. Louis Rams
No. 8: 2009 New Orleans Saints
No. 9: 1981 San Francisco 49ers
No. 10: 1968 New York Jets
No. 11: 2014 New England Patriots
No. 12: 1995 Dallas Cowboys
No. 13: 1983 L.A. Raiders
No. 14: 2020 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
No. 15: 1980 Oakland Raiders
No. 16: 1988 San Francisco 49ers


Two Super Bowl polls for you to vote in: Which team will win, and who will be named the game’s MVP? Click here to vote. Results will be announced on Super Bowl Sunday.


I asked you to send me the name of you favorite football player and why, and I was deluged with answers. Answers will be printed starting today. Keep sending them in by emailing me at Include a couple of sentences explaining why that player is your favorite. It’s your chance to be read by the tens of thousands of people who subscribe.

Kirk Pieper: Jack Youngblood. He played an entire playoff game with a broken leg. Also, part of my favorite teams, Brooks, Hacksaw, Mack, Saul,

Greg Flakus: Gale Sayers. He could run with grace when needed and power when needed.

Michael Gorecki: My favorite player is Joe Montana of the San Francisco 49ers. He took a team that had little success and won four Super Bowls without a loss. He completely changed the culture in San Francisco. The team of the 80’s. Joe Cool was the best.

Marc A. Herbst of Saint Augustine, Fla.: My favorite player is the late Johnny Unitas of the Baltimore Colts. I grew up in Baltimore during the 1950’s and 1960’s, when he was in his prime, leading the Colts to championships in 1958, 1959, and 1971. Mr. Unitas came from very humble beginnings in Pittsburgh, played in college for an unheralded Louisville team, and was cut by his home town Steelers without much of a tryout (thank you, coach Buddy Parker). Once with the Colts, he displayed his leadership and athletic skills. He called his own plays, and mastered the 2-minute offense at the end of many games. He played through many severe injuries, during an era when quarterbacks were not protected as well as is the case today. There were not many penalties called against the defense for severe hits like clotheslining, and helmets were not designed with many safety features (Unitas’ helmet had only a single bar across his face). Despite his fame and success, Mr. Unitas remained grounded and humble, fitting in perfectly with the blue-collar fans of Baltimore.


And finally

Highlights from the Rams-49ers game. Watch and listen here. Highlights from the Bengals-Chiefs game. Watch and listen here.

Until next time...

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