The Super Bowl Report: Matthew Stafford’s fearlessness is a strength, and a weakness

Rams coach Sean McVay and quarterback Matthew Stafford head to the locker room
Rams coach Sean McVay and quarterback Matthew Stafford.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

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

Dylan Hernández on the Rams: A person’s strengths and weaknesses often share a common origin or, as former Dodgers trainer and part-time philosopher Stan Conte once told me, “What makes you good also makes you suck.”


In the case of Matthew Stafford, it’s his fearlessness.

From the Rams’ secondary to the Cincinnati Bengals’ offensive line, there are numerous question marks leading into Super Bowl LVI. The emotional state of the Rams’ quarterback shouldn’t be one of them.

For better or worse, the Rams’ quarterback won’t be afraid.

“No moment’s too big for him,” coach Sean McVay said.

That quality in Stafford is why he could make the kind of throw that he did when he delivered a 44-yard pass into Cooper Kupp’s hands in the final minute to set up the deciding field goal in a NFC divisional playoff win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The same let-‘er-rip approach nearly backfired in the NFC championship game when Stafford threw a deep ball right to San Francisco 49ers defensive back Jaquiski Tartt in the fourth quarter. Tartt dropped the ball, and the Stafford went on erase what remained of the Rams’ 10-point deficit.

There were other mistakes too, but the Rams weren’t punished for them, resulting in Stafford earning the first three postseason victories of his 13-year career and the team returning to the Super Bowl for the second time in four seasons.

With football’s greatest prize on the line Sunday, the Rams once again will count on the positives of Stafford’s style to outweigh the negatives.

Don’t expect Stafford to suddenly change because the stakes are raised.



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Photos: Rams vs Bengals in dueling news conferences at Super Bowl media day

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From Gary Klein: Sean McVay has enjoyed success in his five seasons as coach of the Rams, and he could add a Super Bowl title to his resumé if the Rams defeat the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium.

But McVay, 36, went back and forth Friday when asked if he could see himself coaching into his 60s, a la New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who has won six Super Bowl titles.

“No chance,” he said initially, during a news conference in Thousand Oaks. “I love this. But if I’m doing it till 60, I won’t make it.”

A reporter pointed out that McVay, a football junkie, enjoys rallying players and coaches.

Why can’t he coach into his 60s, or 70s, like Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll?

“I joke about it,” said McVay, who has 55-26 record in the regular season and 6-3 in the playoffs. “Here’s what I would tell you … I love this so much, that it’s such a passion. But I also know that what I’ve seen from some of my closest friends, whether it’s coaches or even some of our players.

“I’m going to be married this summer, want to have a family, and I think being able to find that balance but also be able to give the time necessary.”

McVay said he “always had a dream about being able to be a father” and that he could not predict the future.

“I know I love football and I’m so invested in this thing, and I’m in the moment right now,” he said. “But at some point too if you said, ‘What do you want to be able to do?’ I want to be able have a family, and I want to be able to spend time with them, and I also know how much time is taken away during these months of the year.”


From Gary Klein: Rams tight end Tyler Higbee and offensive lineman Joe Noteboom will not play in Super Bowl LVI after being put on injured reserve Friday, but running back Darrell Henderson and defensive lineman Sebastian Joseph-Day will be available after coming off the list, the team announced.

Higbee — the Rams’ second-leading receiver in the regular season with 61 catches, five for touchdowns — suffered a knee injury during the Rams’ victory over the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC championship game Jan. 30. Noteboom, who has played as an extra tight end in so-called heavy formations, suffered a chest muscle injury Jan. 23 in a divisional-round victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

During the run-up to the Super Bowl matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals, Rams coach Sean McVay said it was possible Higbee and Noteboom would be available for the game. But Higbee has not practiced and Noteboom was listed as limited this week.

“Those guys are big losses,” McVay said Friday during a news conference in Thousand Oaks. “They’ve been huge parts of how we got here.”

Kendall Blanton, who has performed well in the last two games, will start in place of Higbee. Alaric Jackson could play in place of Noteboom.

Blanton and Jackson are among the less-heralded players who have stepped up in the wake of injuries, including defensive lineman Greg Gaines and safety Nick Scott.


From Jeff Miller: Final of a four-part series looking at strategy for Super Bowl LVI. Part 4: Everyone knows about Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals’ perimeter passing attack, but how will the Rams deal with containing versatile running back Joe Mixon?

Cincinnati had one Pro Bowl player in its backfield this season, and that player wasn’t Joe Burrow.

Instead, it was another Joe — Joe Mixon — who finished third in yards rushing (1,205) and fourth in rushing touchdowns (13) in the NFL.

“It’s heartwarming, honestly,” Mixon said this week about his season. “I truly feel like I’m living in a movie right now.”

The only question remaining is this: Can Mixon turn the game Sunday into a horror show for the Rams?

With so much attention on the Bengals’ trio of wide receivers, Mixon could be the sort of X-factor who so often makes the difference in football games of this magnitude.

He has had at least 18 touches in 15 of the 19 games he has played this season. Mixon has rushed for 100 or more yards only three times but has eight games with at least 105 yards from scrimmage.


From Kenan Draughorne: Drake is all-in on the big game, and he’s not hiding his allegiances.

On Thursday night, the “Way 2 Sexy” rapper hopped on Instagram to share his bets for the 2022 Super Bowl. He went big, putting $1.25 million on the Rams and their superstar wide receiver, Odell Beckham Jr.

According to the screenshots, which list bets in Canadian dollars, he’s got $470,784 worth of Bitcoin on the Los Angeles Rams beating the Cincinnati Bengals, and would stand to receive $843,488 if his bet hits.

He’s got even more money on his friend Beckham. Drake placed two $392,320 bets that Beckham Jr. would have more than 62.5 receiving yards and at least one touchdown. He’d rake in $710,099 and $1,075,000 if he’s correct on those two, respectively.

“All bets are in on the family,” Drake captioned Thursday’s Instagram post, to which Beckham replied, “It’s time.”


Mike DiGiovanna on the Rams: There are benefits to being overshadowed in the Rams’ defense by lineman Aaron Donald, a three-time NFL defensive player of the year, and outside linebacker Von Miller, a former Super Bowl most valuable player and the league’s active leader with 115½ career sacks.

“I don’t have to talk to the media as much — I don’t get all the attention they get,” edge rusher Leonard Floyd said on a videoconference call. “It gives me peace, you know? I don’t have to do anything but play football, and that’s all I want to do. I don’t care for all the extras. I just want to line up and play.”

There was no avoiding the spotlight this week. The Rams play the Bengals in Super Bowl LVI on Sunday, and they’re counting on the 6-foot-4, 251-pound Floyd’s potentially game-wrecking combination of power and speed to play a key role in containing Cincinnati’s dynamic offense.

“Every time you bring Von’s name up, you have to bring Flo’s name up because of the kind of player he is,” Donald said. “He’s a big, strong guy, but at the same time, he has the technique and quickness to play on the edge. He’s a big-time playmaker for us, another guy who played a huge part in why we’re here today.”


From Hayley Smith: Nearly $100 million in counterfeit sports-related items were seized at flea markets and retail outlets around Los Angeles in the lead-up to Super Bowl LVI, federal officials announced this week.

More than 267,500 items, including fake jerseys, jackets, hats, rings, souvenirs and tickets were seized as part of “Operation Team Player,” a joint effort involving U.S. Homeland Security Investigations, Customs and Border Protections, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the NFL, among other agencies.

The items were worth an estimated $97.8 million, authorities said.


From Anita Chabria: For many of the 96 million people who viewed last year’s lopsided Super Bowl, the most exciting moment came in the fourth quarter, when Yuri Andrade charged onto the field.

Wearing a bright pink women’s swimsuit, Andrade raced from the 40-yard line to the end zone before seven security guards tackled and pinned him. Along the way, he tugged his black shorts half off to reveal a thong wedged deep in his butt cheeks, a sight that left crowds roaring, ensuring his 15 minutes of infamy.

But Andrade was no lone exhibitionist. He couldn’t have done it without the trickery of two friends, one a part-time San Diego surfer and the other a Florida pornographer. And to be honest, the story does not end well for Andrade.

It began in a Tampa hotel room, as so many troubling stories do....

Click here to read more.


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.

We continue with the semifinals and finals of the John Madden region:


No. 13 1983 Los Angeles Raiders d. No. 1 1976 Oakland Raiders, 27-7
The 1983 Raiders had a 20-0 lead at halftime and never looked back, getting 104 rushing yards from Marcus Allen.

1989 San Francisco 49ers d. No. 7 1999 St. Louis Rams , 41-14
A rout, as the 49er defense stifled the Greatest Show on Turf and got 276 passing yards and five touchdowns from Joe Montana. Jerry Rice had 121 receiving yards and three touchdowns.

1989 San Francisco 49ers d. 1983 Los Angeles Raiders, 23-13
This time John Taylor was in the spotlight, finishing with 110 receiving yards. And the 49er defense intercepted five passes by Jim Plunkett.

Tomorrow: The Final Four

The 1984 San Francisco 49ers vs. the 1985 Chicago Bears.
The 1962 Green Bay Packers vs. the 1989 San Francisco 49ers


Already closed

—Yukon Avenue is closed to the general public from Century Boulevard to Stadium Drive from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

—Stadium Drive is closed to the general public from South Doty Avenue to the entrance of the Panhandle Lot from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m.

—Prairie Avenue will have fewer open lanes from Victory Street to Touchdown Drive from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m.

Starting Sunday

—Prairie Avenue’s northbound lanes will be closed from Century Boulevard to Arbor Vitae Street from 1 a.m. Sunday until Monday at 2 a.m. Also, its northbound lanes from W. 106th Street to Century Boulevard will be closed from 2 p.m. to Monday at 2 a.m.

—Century Boulevard will have lane closures in both directions from Yukon Avenue to Airport Boulevard from 7 a.m. until Monday at 2 a.m.

—98th Street will have its curb lane closed for about one block from Bellanca Avenue west from 7 a.m. to Monday at 2 a.m.

—Pincay Drive will be closed from Prairie Avenue to Kareem Court from 1 a.m. Sunday until Monday at 2 a.m. During the same period, the eastbound lane of Prairie Avenue will be open only to local traffic from Kareem Court to Crenshaw Boulevard.

—Kareem Court will be open only to rideshare vehicles from Manchester Avenue to Pincay Drive from 10 a.m. to Monday at 1 a.m.

—Manchester Boulevard’s eastbound lane from Prairie Avenue to Crenshaw Boulevard will be open only to local traffic from 4 p.m. Sunday to Monday at 2 a.m.


Super Bowl Sunday
Feb. 13
at SoFi Stadium, Inglewood

Rams vs. Cincinnati, 3:30 p.m. PT, Rams favored by 4 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. For further coronavirus rules and guidelines, click here.


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.

Bryan Beban of Eugene, Ore.: My favorite football player growing up was Eric Dickerson of the Los Angeles Rams. I was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley and my first Rams memory is when I was #32 Cullen Bryant for Halloween when I was 5 or 6 years old in the mid-1970’s. I don’t remember any of the heartbreaking NFC championship games of that era but I do remember watching Super Bowl XIV from the Rose Bowl. When the Rams traded up with the Houston Oilers, I thought, as a young 12-year-old that the Rams had made a great move. And it was.

Dickerson was electric. In the days well before YouTube, I had no idea who Dickerson was or even what an SMU was but man could he run. Tremendous vision, power and speed. Straight ahead. The goggles. With a great offensive line, an emerging receiving core led by fellow rookie Henry Ellard and a run-focused head coach in John Robinson, the Rams would fight with the 49ers all decade long. While I never was able to see ED play in person, or even go to a Rams game at Anaheim Stadium, I never missed a game on television. His contract dispute and trade to the Colts hurt a lot but his efforts to bring the Rams back to L.A. in 2016, his new title of “Rambassador” and his battles with former coach Jeff Fisher have put Dickerson over the top as my all-time favorite player. Thank you Eric for all the memories.

Lee Frye: Roger Staubach! I would take him over any quarterback in history. No matter how many points the Cowboys were behind, I always felt they would still win as long as he was the quarterback.

David Schinnerer: So, I stumbled across football when I was twelve, in 1972. Only eight channels to choose from on a Sunday afternoon made the odds of discovering football much more likely. And there on the screen (a lot, in those days) was a long haired, mutton chopped leftie finding ways to win (a lot, in those days) seemingly by pure will (and, of course, an amazing coach and group of teammates). The Raiders seemed to win every week to my 12 year-old brain. And the guy in the center of it all was working his magic over and over again. He was the beginning of my life-long love of football and the Raiders. The memories of that time in my life and the excitement he provided is why my favorite player is Kenny Stabler.


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.

And finally

Highlights from Super Bowl XLV (Steelers vs. Packers). Watch and listen here.

Highlights from Super Bowl XLVI (Giants vs. Patriots). Watch and listen here.

Highlights from Super Bowl XLVII (Ravens vs. 49ers). Watch and listen here.

Highlights from Super Bowl XLVIII (Seahawks vs. Broncos). Watch and listen here.

Until next time...

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