The Rams are headed to Super Bowl LVI, against the Bengals at SoFi Stadium

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford celebrates a 20-17 victory over the San Francisco 49ers.
Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford celebrates a 20-17 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC championship game at SoFi Stadium on Sunday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

The Rams, winners of a 20-17 thriller over the 49ers, will attempt to win their first Super Bowl in L.A. when they face the Bengals on February 13 at SoFi Stadium.

Everything you need to know about the Rams-Bengals Super Bowl

For the second straight season, a team will play in its home stadium in the Super Bowl.
Los Angeles, CA - January 30: Los Angeles Rams fans rally before the Rams-49ers NFC Championships at SoFi Stadium on Sunday, Jan. 30, 2022 in Los Angeles, CA. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
(Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

Super Bowl LVI (56) will be played at 3:30 p.m. PST on Sunday, Feb. 13. It will take place at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, the home of the Rams and Chargers.

Here’s everything you need to know about the game.

Who will be playing in the Super Bowl?

The Rams will play the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI. For the second consecutive season, a team will be hosting a Super Bowl matchup in their home stadium — the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the Super Bowl last year on home turf.

The Bengals advanced to the Super Bowl following their 27-24 overtime victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC championship game Sunday. It marks the Bengals’ first Super Bowl appearance since the 1988 season, when they lost to the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XXIII.

Cincinnati Bengals defensive end B.J. Hill (92) celebrates after intercepting a pass against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.

The Rams defeated the 49ers 20-17 in the NFC championship game at SoFi Stadium to reach their first Super Bowl since the 2018 season. The Rams’ victory ended their six-game losing streak to the rival 49ers. The Rams defeated the Arizona Cardinals and the Buccaneers before Sunday’s NFC title triumph.

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Rams win NFC Championship, clinch berth in Super Bowl LVI

The Rams are headed to the Super Bowl.

With 1:09 to play, and the 49ers facing a 3rd and 12 at their own 23, Jimmy Garoppolo was pressured and threw an interception, flinging a ball to his running back that was tipped and picked off by Travin Howard.

The Rams took three knees to finish off the game, clinching their spot in Super Bowl LVI with a 20-17 win.

The Rams’ 10-point fourth-quarter comeback marked the largest fourth-quarter comeback in NFC Championship Game history. It was also the Rams’ first win over the 49ers since 2018.

Matthew Stafford finished the game 31 of 45 for 337 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. His top target, Cooper Kupp, hauled in 11 catches for 142 yards and two scores.

Jimmy Garoppolo had just 232 yards while completing 16 of 30 passes. In the fourth quarter, he was only three-for-nine passing.


Matt Gay boots 30-yard field goal to give Rams lead

Once down by 10, the Rams now have the lead.

With 1:46 to play, Mat Gay made a 30-yard kick, putting the Rams in front, 20-17.

It capped a 10-play, 49-yard drive in which the Rams converted two crucial third downs — including a 25-yard catch-and-run by Copper Kupp that got the Rams into the red zone.

The 49ers, however, still have one timeout as they get the ball back.

Rams 20, 49ers 17 1:46 left in fourth quarter


Matthew Stafford gifted dropped pick, leads Rams on game-tying drive

The Rams tied the game at 17-17 with a 40-yard field from Matt Gay with 6:49 left in regulation. But it was a crucial two-play sequence at the start of the drive that helped the Rams get down the field.

On first and 10 from his own 15, Matthew Stafford threw a deep ball that should have been an easy interception for 49ers safety Jaquiski Tartt, but was dropped.

On the next play, Stafford settled down and found Odell Beckham Jr. for a 29-yard completion. Beckham was also hit late and in the head, resulting in a 15-yard penalty that moved the Rams across midfield.

Rams 17, 49ers 17 6:53 left in fourth quarter


Rams answer 49ers with quick-ish drive that ends with Cooper Kupp’s second TD catch

The Rams began the fourth quarter trailing by 10. Ninety seconds into the final period, however, they found the end zone to get back within three.

On third-and-1 from the 49ers’ 11-yard-line, Matthew Stafford found an open Cooper Kupp for their second touchdown connection of the day, trimming San Francisco’s lead to 17-14.

The 49ers-heavy crowd was playing a factor, forcing the Rams offense into a silent count once they got into the red zone. Nonetheless, Kupp is now up to 93 yards on eight catches, while Stafford has 236 yards passing and has completed 22 of 33 throws.

49ers 17, Rams 14 13:30 left in fourth quarter


After 49ers stuff Stafford on fourth down, extend lead to double digits

After being gifted a short field following the Rams’ failed fourth down (below), the 49ers methodically marched into the end zone, with Jimmy Garoppolo finding star tight end George Kittle for a 16-yard touchdown pass to extend San Francisco’s lead to 17-7.

The 49ers converted two third downs on their 10-play, 58-yard drive, including a great individual effort by receive Jauan Jennings, who dragged a tackler past the sticks on a 3rd-and-10.

Also, the Rams’ time of possession advantage has almost evaporated, with the 49ers controlling the ball for more than 10 minutes already in the second half with 1:59 to play in the third quarter.

49ers 17, Rams 7 1:59 left in third quarter


49ers stuff Rams, Stafford on fourth down to squelch drive

The Rams got a stop to begin the second half, but then saw a fourth-down gamble backfire on them.

On 4th-and-1 from the 49ers’ 43-yard-line, Matthew Stafford tried a QB sneak but was stuffed. The ball was spotted a couple inches short of the sticks.

The Rams tried to challenge, but it was unsuccessful, costing them their first timeout of the second half.

For what it’s worth, that was a spot on the field and situation in which a lot of teams now choose to go for it on fourth-down -- and, according to at least one analytic program, was the right decision, just the wrong result.

49ers 10, Rams 7 7:53 left in third quarter


The Rams won the first-half stat battle, but the 49ers won the score war

The Rams have the advantage in most key halftime stats, including total yards (199 to 156), first downs (14 to 6), plays (42 to 20) and time of possession (20:19 to 9:41).

But, they find themselves trailing because of a couple squandered opportunities — including Matthew Stafford’s first-quarter interception in the end zone, Matt Gay’s missed field goal after a couple key drops — and the 49ers efficiency in the passing game, where quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is averaging 11.4 yards per throw and finding success throwing screens and quick passes to Brandon Aiyuk (three catches, 56 yards) and Deebo Samuel (two catches, 46 yards).

Matthew Stafford, meanwhile, is averaging only five yards per attempt, currently 14 for 24 with 130 yards. He’s also been sacked once and taken a couple big hits after throws.

Something else to keep in mind: The 49ers get the ball to start the second half. When these teams met in Week 18, San Francisco was able to overcome a halftime deficit. This time, the Rams will have to in order to reach the Super Bowl.

49ers 10, Rams 7 Halftime


49ers take 10-7 lead into locker room with late first-half drive

The 49ers had an injury scare after Deebo Samuel got crushed by Rams safety Nick Scott while trying to catch a pass over the middle. A flag was initially thrown but then picked up, with officials ruling it a clean hit.

Samuel was able to run off the field under his own power before returning two plays later. The 49ers offense, meanwhile, didn’t miss a beat, executing a two-minute drill to get a 38-yard field goal from Robbie Gould as time expired in the second quarter.

49ers 10, Rams 7 Halftime


Deebo Samuel’s spectacular 44-yard catch-and-run ties game 7-7

It didn’t take long for the 49ers to respond.

Less than three minutes after the Rams took the lead, San Francisco leveled the score with an explosive 44-yard catch and run touchdown by Deebo Samuel, tying the score at 7-7 with 6:10 in the second quarter.

On 2nd-and-12 from the Rams’ 44, Samuel caught a screen pass, avoided a couple tacklers in traffic, then sped to the end zone, stretching the ball over the pylon before Jalen Ramsey could push him out of bounds. It was Samuel’s 11th touchdown in his last 11 games.

The 49ers’ Deebo Samuel is mostly a wide receiver, but also plays running back. However the ball gets in his hands, he’s a touchdown maker and the Rams defense must be prepared.

Jan. 28, 2022

Matthew Stafford continued to drive the ball with relative ease on the following drive, but was done in by dropped passes by Cooper Kupp and Ben Showronek, the latter of which was in the end zone. Matt Gay then missed a 54-yard field goal to give the Niners good field position.

Rams 7, 49ers 7 6:10 left in second quarter


Matthew Stafford connects with Cooper Kupp to complete 97-yard scoring drive

Despite starting from their own 3-yard-line, the Rams marched the ball all the way down the field on their third possession for a touchdown to break the scoreless tie.

The drive was capped by a perfect 16-yard throw from Matthew Stafford to Cooper Kupp in the right corner of the end zone on a 3rd-and-13. Stafford is now 12 of 18 for 108 yards, while Kupp has four grabs for 55 yards. He is the first player with 2,000 yards receiving in a single season, regular season and playoffs combined.

The 18 plays, 97 yards and 9:33 time of possession on the drive were all season highs for the Rams, who lead 7-0 midway through the second quarter.

Rams 7, 49ers 0 8:46 left in second quarter


Rams defense picks up where it left off; scoreless at end of first quarter

The Rams defense is off to a strong start, forcing the 49ers to punt following the Matthew Stafford interception.

As a scoreless first quarter comes to an end, the Rams have held the 49ers to just 40 total yards. Importantly, they’ve been stout against the run so far, as well, limiting San Francisco to just 10 yards on five carries.

In the team’s two regular-season meetings, the 49ers had success running the ball, eclipsing 130 yards both times.

Some injury news, meanwhile: Rams tight end Tyler Higbee left the game with a knee injury and is questionable to return. Running back Cam Akers suffered a shoulder injury and is also questionable.

Rams 0, 49ers 0 11:32 left in second quarter


Jimmie Ward picks off Matthew Stafford in end zone to thwart Rams threat

After both teams punted on their opening drives, the Rams found a rhythm on their second possession — only to throw an interception in the end zone.

After Matthew Stafford hit Cooper Kupp, Tyler Higbee and Odell Beckham Jr. for first-down passes, Cam Akers ran for another first down to set the Rams up inside the 10.

On third-and-goal from the 3, however, Stafford tried to force a throw to Kupp. The ball was deflected and then picked off by Jimmie Ward. He returned it to the 23-yard-line, giving the 49ers the first big momentum swing of the game.

It was Stafford’s first interception of these playoffs, bit third interception into the hands of Ward this season.

The Niners subsequently drove the ball inside Rams territory before being forced to punt. The Rams will take over inside their own 5.

Rams 0 , 49ers 0 3:19 left in first quarter


Live look-in at SoFi: both teams go three-and-out on opening drives

Michael Buffer does his ‘Let’s get ready to rumble’ thing and we are underway at SoFi. Niners won the flip, defer. Rams go three-and-out on their opening drive when Matthew Stafford throws behind an open Odell Beckham Jr. on 3rd-and-3. Niners go three-and-out when Jimmy Garoppolo overthrows an open George Kittle deep over the middle on 3rd-and-long.


The view from SoFi after the Bengals’ game-winning field goal


The Bengals are going to the Super Bowl

One ticket has been punched to Super Bowl LVI.

For the first time since the 1988 season, the Cincinnati Bengals have won the AFC Championship, clinching a trip to Los Angeles with a dramatic 27-24 win in overtime against the Kansas City Chiefs.

After being down 21-3 in the first half, the Joe Burrow-led Bengals took a three-point lead in the fourth quarter, held the Chiefs out of the end zone at the end of regulation, then turned a Patrick Mahomes interception in overtime into a game-winning kick from Evan McPherson.

It will be the Bengals’ third time playing in the Super Bowl. Their opponent in the previous two (which were both losses): The San Francisco 49ers.

They’ll know by the end of the night whether they will get a rematch with the 49ers, or if they’ll be taking on the Rams in their home stadium in two weeks.


The Rams might need to resort to the silent count again

Fans of the Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers matched up Sunday outside SoFi stadium before the NFC championship game.

We don’t have the hard data and we’re still nearly an hour until kickoff, but the anecdotal evidence suggests that Niners fans have again breached the SoFi perimeter en masse. Video props to Jessica Q. Chen, Mark Potts and Steve Saldivar.


Rams and Niners announce inactives; one hour till kickoff

The Rams will be without safety Taylor Rapp once again for Sunday’s NFC Championship Game.

Rapp suffered a concussion in the team’s regular-season finale three weeks ago and missed the first two rounds of the playoffs. He was listed as questionable this week, but was listed on the inactive list pregame.

Offensive lineman Joe Noteboom is also inactive as he battles a chest injury. He was considered doubtful.

The Rams did get some good pregame injury news, as receiver Van Jefferson has been listed as active after being questionable with a knee injury. Linebacker Ernest Jones is also active after coming off injured reserve on Saturday.

Here is the Rams’ full list of inactives:

On the 49ers side, All-Pro offensive tackle Trent Williams will be active. He had been questionable with an ankle injury.

Here is San Francisco’s list of inactives:


Rams, 49ers have met once in the playoffs, the 1989 NFC championship — it went terribly

Tight end Pete Holohan of the Los Angeles Rams gets tackled by safety Ronnie Lott.
Rams tight end Pete Holohan (81) is tackled by 49ers safety Ronnie Lott (42) and linebacker Mike Walter (99) in the 1989 NFC Championship game at Candlestick Park.
(George Rose / Getty Images)

Old grudges die hard, and the one that former Rams tackle Jackie Slater has held against the San Francisco 49ers for 45 years shows no signs of subsiding.

Slater is 67 and decades removed from a 20-year NFL career with the Rams, but his disdain for the 49ers is as strong today as it was when he was trying to fend off San Francisco sack-masters Charles Haley and Fred Dean in the days of yore.

“Oh man, I hate the 49ers with a passion,” Slater said this week when asked if he still feels the intensity of the rivalry, which resumes with Sunday’s NFC championship game, in his bones. “Are you kidding me?”

Slater’s career included seven Pro-Bowl selections, a Hall-of-Fame induction and zero championships, the latter void in large part because of the 49ers, who often stood between Slater and a diamond-encrusted ring.

While Slater’s Rams reached the Super Bowl once and won five NFC West titles from 1976-95, the Joe Montana-led 49ers built a dynasty in that time, the franchise winning five Super Bowls and 12 division titles.

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Bill Plaschke and Dylan Hernández set the scene at SoFi. Join the conversation.

Red Wedding. Sea of Red. Red Alert. Images of red flying everywhere; onsite staffers from The Times and the San Francisco Chronicle have gathered on Twitter Spaces to set the scene for today’s NFC Championship Game. Join the conversation here.


Rams vs. 49ers will end like Dodgers vs. Giants — with an L.A. triumph

Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp runs off the field after a playoff win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Jan. 23.
(Jason Behnken / Associated Press)

One team is known for its grit, its resilience, a hearty group of regular dudes who have been scrapping and shocking.

The other team is known for its glamour, its glitz, a stately collection of renowned stars that have been swaggering and steamrolling.

Three months ago, this described the playoff duel between the San Francisco Giants and Dodgers.

Today, it describes Sunday’s NFC championship game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Rams.

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‘Wide-back’ Deebo Samuel is 49ers’ ultimate weapon, Rams killer

San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel runs with the ball during a win over the Rams on Jan. 9.
(Kyusung Gong / Associated Press)

He’s the ultimate plug-in hybrid, a player so versatile and dynamic, so explosive and electric, that he can’t be defined by traditional NFL labels and roles.

“Wide-back,” Deebo Samuel said with a laugh, when asked to name his position with the San Francisco 49ers. “A wide receiver playing running back.”

The 6-foot, 215-pound Samuel, a third-year pro out of South Carolina, hasn’t revolutionized the game — there are plenty of wideouts who have taken handoffs in the backfield and running backs who have flexed out to the slot or wideout to catch passes.

But his rare combination of speed, power, agility, acceleration and vice-grip-like hands — which helped Samuel rack up 1,770 yards from scrimmage this season, third-most in the NFL — have pushed the limits of what is possible on an NFL field.

“There’s not another receiver in this league who plays like me and can do the things I do,” Samuel said Friday during a videoconference, answering why he doesn’t spend much time analyzing other NFL wideouts. “So I don’t see the need to watch anybody who doesn’t do the things I do.”

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One step from Super Bowl, Rams can celebrate anniversary of Matthew Stafford trade

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford passes against the San Francisco 49ers on Jan. 9.
(Joe Scarnici / Getty Images)

If the Rams defeat the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday in the NFC championship game at SoFi Stadium, it will become another important date of celebration in Rams history.

But Jan. 30 already has significance for this Rams team: It’s the one-year anniversary of the trade that brought quarterback Matthew Stafford to Los Angeles.

On Jan. 30, 2021, two weeks after they lost a divisional-round playoff game at Green Bay, Rams general manager Les Snead and coach Sean McVay sent quarterback Jared Goff, two first-round draft picks and a third-round pick to the Detroit Lions for Stafford, a 12-year veteran with no playoff victories.

The strong-armed Stafford has led the Rams to the NFC championship game for the first time since 2018.

“I don’t necessarily know if you look at it as an all-in, or ‘Hey, this is what we felt like was the best chance to be able to upgrade our football team,’ ” McVay said Friday during a videoconference with reporters. “And he’s done a great job getting us into this position.”

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Rams’ Von Miller uses Kobe Bryant’s ‘Mamba Mentality’ as inspiration to be great

Rams outside linebacker Von Miller celebrates with defensive lineman Aaron Donald.
Rams outside linebacker Von Miller (40) celebrates with defensive lineman Aaron Donald (99) after Miller sacked Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady and caused a fumble during a Rams playoff win on Jan. 23.
(Jason Behnken / Associated Press)

He was already an eight-time Pro Bowl player, a Super Bowl MVP and a future Hall of Famer.

But Rams linebacker Von Miller found newfound inspiration a few years ago when he read, “The Mamba Mentality: How I Play,” the late Kobe Bryant’s 2018 book about his process and perspective.

On Wednesday, the two-year anniversary of Bryant’s death, Miller paid homage to the Lakers star. He said that reading Bryant’s book and viewing documentaries about the five-time NBA champion helped him hone and appreciate his own craft.

“I realized that I wasn’t doing all that I possibly could to be the best,” Miller said during a video conference with reporters. “I thought I was … but I wasn’t committing all of me to the game. But after seeing the way Kobe did, and you see what came from it, I realized I wasn’t doing what Kobe was doing to be the best.”

Miller, acquired by the Rams in a trade-deadline deal with the Denver Broncos, was in top form last Sunday in a divisional-round victory over the defending Super Bowl-champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers that advanced the Rams to the NFC championship game against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday at SoFi Stadium.

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Rams great Aaron Donald close to achieving Super Bowl absolution

VIDEO | 09:40
Who wins: Rams or 49ers? L.A. Times and San Francisco Chronicle columnists weigh in

Aaron Donald sounded more like a Japanese baseball player than a Rams defensive tackle. His postgame news conference at Super Bowl LIII was a master class in self-flagellation.

Downplaying the part he played in slowing down the New England Patriots in the lowest-scoring Super Bowl in history, Donald tackle keyed in on what he didn’t do in the 13-3 defeat.

He mentioned how only one blocker was assigned to him on Tom Brady’s 29-yard pass to Rob Gronkowski that set up Sony Michel’s two-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

“I didn’t win my one-on-one clean,” Donald said. “He was sitting back there, had time to make a good pass and he made a good play.”

He blamed himself for a clock-burning 31-yard run by Michel in the final minutes.

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Rams determined to punch Super Bowl ticket and end losing streak vs. rival 49ers

Los Angeles, California January 17, 2022: Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford takes the field before a wild card.
Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford takes the field before a playoff win over the Arizona Cardinals on Jan. 17.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

The Rams have done nearly everything to fulfill their mandate to play in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium.

Before the season they traded for star quarterback Matthew Stafford and running back Sony Michel. At midseason they traded for star linebacker Von Miller and signed star receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who helped the Rams win the NFC West.

Last week, they defeated Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl-champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Now, here they are, in the NFC championship game.

All that stands in the way of the Rams playing in the Super Bowl is the San Francisco 49ers, a team that has beaten the Rams twice this season and six times in a row dating to 2018.

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NFC championship matchups, 49ers at Rams: Who has the edge?

Rams running back Cam Akers carries the ball during a win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Jan. 23.
(Alex Menendez / Associated Press)

How the Rams and San Francisco 49ers match up Sunday in the NFC championship game for the chance to play in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium:

Rams pass offense vs. 49ers pass defense

Quarterback Matthew Stafford has not had a pass intercepted in two playoff games — a streak the Rams need to continue against a defense that forced four turnovers by Stafford during the season. Receivers Cooper Kupp, Odell Beckham Jr., Van Jefferson and tight end Tyler Higbee are Stafford’s main targets, but running back Cam Akers also is a threat. The 49ers secondary includes cornerbacks Emmanuel Moseley and Ambry Thomas and safeties Jaquiski Tartt and Jimmie Ward, who came up big last week in Green Bay and returned an interception for a score against the Rams during the regular season. The 49ers pass rush, led by ends Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead, produced five sacks in each of the last three games, including a 27-24 overtime defeat of the Rams. Protection will be a key.

EDGE: Rams

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Rams vs. San Francisco 49ers: Betting lines, odds and how to watch

San Francisco 49ers at Rams (-3½, 46), 3:30 p.m. PST, FOX

The game will be played at SoFi Stadium, but it may sound more like Levi’s Stadium South once again Sunday. Fans of the 49ers flooded Inglewood and basically took over the Rams’ home field in Week 18, forcing Matthew Stafford and the offense to use silent snap counts to communicate. Based on what has been seen and said so far, Sunday’s game may not be any different.

The Rams don’t care if that part is different or not, but they should care about doing something differently. Sean McVay has not had much luck against Kyle Shanahan and has lost six straight head-to-head meetings with the 49ers. Given that only this season’s two meetings have been with Stafford and the current personnel, those are the ones that deserve more attention, but those two games did not go well.

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