Matthew Stafford leads Rams to last-second playoff win over Tom Brady and Buccaneers
TAMPA, Fla. — Matthew Stafford had 42 seconds to prove it.
Forty-two seconds to show why the Rams traded for him and made him the centerpiece of a team with a mandate to play in the Super Bowl. Forty-two seconds to knock off Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl-champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Stafford said his heart was racing Sunday when he trotted onto the field with the score tied in the NFC divisional-round playoff at Raymond James Stadium, but the 13th-year pro demonstrated nothing but calm a few plays later while staring down an all-out blitz.
Stafford’s 44-yard pass to Cooper Kupp set up Matt Gay’s game-winning field goal as time expired for a 30-27 victory before a crowd of 65,597 that sent the Rams into the NFC championship game against the San Francisco 49ers.
“I live for those kind of moments,” Stafford said. “I would have loved to have been taking a knee when you’re up by three scores, but it’s a whole lot more fun when you got to make a play like that to win the game and just steal somebody’s soul.”
Photos: Rams defeat Buccaneers in thrilling playoff triumph
The Rams kept their Super Bowl hopes alive Sunday, defeating Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a thrilling, 30-27 victory in the NFC divisional playoffs at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. The Rams will play the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game on Jan. 30.
Here are some of the best photos of the Rams’ win from veteran Los Angeles Times photographers Gina Ferazzi and Robert Gauthier:
And, oh, by the way, The Times’ Gary Klein picked the exact score
(It’s too bad Gary’s editors cut his sentences about Matthew Stafford leading the Rams on a 63-yard drive with 42 seconds left after Leonard Fournette had capped a Bucs comeback from a 27-3 deficit with a game-tying touchdown after Cam Akers fumbled for the second time in the game to give Tom Brady the ball with two minutes remaining.)
‘This game is officially lunacy’: Matt Gay ends the insanity with game-winning kick
Rams 30, Bucs 27 FINAL
Leonard Fournette scores on fourth and inches to tie game at 27
The Buccaneers took advantage of another fumble by Cam Akers, running back Leonard Fournette scoring on an eight-yard touchdown run to tie the score.
The Rams were once ahead, 27-3.
Rams 27, Bucs 27 42 seconds left in fourth quarter
Brady hits Evans on bomb to cut lead to 27-20, Bucs get ball back on Akers fumble
Buccaneers receiver Mike Evans beat Jalen Ransey for a 55-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady to pull the Buccaneers to within a touchdown.
Brady has completed 28 of 50 passes for 315 yards and a touchdown, with an interception.
Evans has eight catches for 119 yards.
Two plays into the next drive, Cam Akers fumbled for the second time in the game to give the Bucs the ball back on the Rams 30.
Rams 27, Bucs 20 3:20 left in fourth quarter
In face of fourth quarter craziness, Rams defense continues to dominate
One play after Tampa Bay forced a Rams three-and-out to start the fourth quarter, Von Miller strip-sacked Tom Brady to force a fumble that was recovered by Los Angeles. On the next play, the Rams sailed a snap past Stafford that was recovered by the Bucs at the L.A. 45. On a fourth and 14 from the Los Angeles 36, Brady threw an incomplete pass to Mike Evans, but Eric Weddle was flagged for a late hit. Because the ball hit the ground before Weddle made contact, however, the Rams received the ball, albeit with a 15-yard penalty.
Got all that?
The Rams drove the ball to the Tampa Bay 29 on the subsequent drive and took nearly six minutes off the clock, but a Matt Gay 46-yard field goal attempt that would have made it a three-score game again fell short.
Rams 27, Bucs 13 6:31 left in fourth quarter
Cooper Kupp fumble sets up Bucs score to close gap to two touchdowns
The Buccaneers forced Rams receiver Cooper Kupp to fumble, and then capitalized to make it a two-score game.
Running back Leonard Fournette scored a touchdown on a one-yard run with 12 seconds left in the third quarter to keep the Buccaneers within striking distance.
Fournette’s touchdown capped a seven-play, 30-yard drive.
Fournette has rushed for 35 yards in 10 carries.
Two plays and nine seconds into the fourth quarter, the Bucs have forced a Rams punt and will start their drive at their own 30.
Rams 27, Bucs 13 14:51 left in the fourth quarter
Big punt return by Brandon Powell sets up Rams touchdown
Tom Brady has engineered some big comebacks – yes, we all remember the Super Bowl against the Atlanta Falcons and the 28-3 deficit – but the Rams are pulling away.
Matthew Stafford sneaked for a one-yard touchdown to cap a six-play, 28-yard drive set up by Brandon Powell’s 33-yard punt return.
It was Stafford’s second rushing touchdown in as many games.
Stafford has completed 23 of 30 passes for 284 yards and two touchdowns.
Brady quickly took Tampa Bay downfield on the following drive, but the series stalled at the Rams’ 13. Rather than go for it on 4th and 11, Bucs coach Bruce Arians opted for a 31-yard Ryan Succop field goa to cap a 10-play, 62-yard drive.
Brady has completed 15 of 31 passes for 175 yards, with an interception.
Rams 27, Bucs 6 3:02 left in third quarter
Rams add field goal to boost lead to 20-3, squander chance to add to lead
Matt Gay kicked his second field goal of the game, this one from 40 yards, to increase the Rams’ lead to 17 points. The 12-play drive ate up nearly seven minutes.
Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford has completed 18 of 24 passes for 229 yards and two touchdowns.
Receiver Cooper Kupp has four catches for 102 yards and a touchdown.
On the second play of the Bucs’ subsequent drive, Nick Scott, better known for his play on special teams, picked off a Tom Brady pass at the Tampa Bay 31.
The Rams, however, squandered an opportunity to increase the lead when Cam Akers fumbled at the Bucs’ 1 in the final 20 seconds. The play was initially ruled down by contact, but the call was overturned upon review.
Los Angeles will get the ball to open the second half.
Rams 20, Bucs 3, Halftime
Blown coverage leads to Matthew Stafford to Cooper Kupp 70-yard TD, Rams rolling
Matthew Stafford connected with All-Pro receiver Cooper Kupp for a 70-yard touchdown pass play to put the Rams up by two touchdowns.
On third-and-20, the wide-open Kupp caught the ball at the Tampa Bay 35-yard line and sprinted into the end zone.
Stafford has completed nine of 12 passes for 176 yards and two touchdowns.
Meanwhile, the Rams defense continues to excel, forcing a second three-and-out in four Tampa Bay drives. On their fifth drive, the Bucs were driving but Ryan Succop missed a 48-yard field goal attempt. The drive was slowed by the first unsportsmanlike conduct penalty of Tom Brady’s career. Brady was upset by a Von Miller hit that bloodied the quarterback’s lip and appeared to be a shot to the head.
Rams 17, Bucs 3 9:04 left in second quarter
Rams continue to drive efficiently, this time punch it in on Kendall Blanton TD
It’s getting spicy in Tampa.
With the help of a taunting penalty against Ndamukong Suh, the Rams drove 71 yards and scored on a seven-yard touchdown pass from Matthew Stafford to reserve tight end Kendall Blanton.
Suh, a former Detroit Lions teammate of Stafford’s, was penalized after Stafford was pressured into an incomplete pass. “You see he kicked me?” Suh was heard saying on the ref’s mic.
Stafford has completed eight of 11 passes for 106 yards and a touchdown.
After starting the game 0-for-4, Tom Brady connected on three of four passes for 47 yards before the subsequent drive stalled at the Rams’ 27. Ryan Succop kicked a 45-yard field goal to cut the lead to 10-3.
Rams 10, Bucs 0 End of first quarter
Matthew Stafford sharp early, Rams take 3-0 lead on their opening drive
Matt Gay kicked a 26-yard field goal to give the Rams the early lead.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford completed five of seven passes for 81 yards during a nine-play, 72-yard drive. He completed his first five passes, but his last two, both inside the Tampa Bay 10, fell incomplete.
Stafford had a 17-yard strike to Cooper Kupp, a 20-yard catch-and-run to Odell Beckham Jr. (video below) and a 29-yard pass to tight end Tyler Higbee.
Tom Brady, meanwhile, is 0-for-4 on his first two drives.
Rams 3, Bucs 0 8:01 left in first quarter
Jalen Ramsey says Rams must have everything covered against Tom Brady, Buccaneers
Jalen Ramsey has faced Tom Brady only once in the postseason, and it was a game Ramsey chose to put out of his mind.
In the 2017 playoffs, Brady led the New England Patriots to victory over Ramsey’s Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC championship game at Gillette Stadium.
“That game was disappointing, so I just tried to forget about it as much as I could,” Ramsey, the Rams star cornerback, said Thursday during a video conference with reporters.
Ramsey and Brady have changed teams since that playoff matchup.
On Sunday, Ramsey gets another postseason shot at neutralizing the most successful quarterback in NFL history when the Rams play Brady and the defending Super Bowl-champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in an NFC divisional-round game at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla.
Andrew Whitworth headlines list of Rams’ inactives; Tristan Wirfs out for Bucs
Questions for Gary, who’s onsite in Tampa with Bill Plaschke and Sam Farmer? Hit him up on Twitter:
Inactives for Sunday’s showdown between Rams and Bucs
Here are the players who will not be suiting up for Sunday’s NFC divisional playoff game between the Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium.
- QB Bryce Perkins
- S Taylor Rapp
- RB Buddy Howell
- OLB Chris Garrett
- OLB Terrell Lewis
- OL Tremayne Anchrum Jr.
- OL Andrew Whitworth
- QB Kyle Trask
- QB Ryan Griffin
- WR Cyril Grayson Jr.
- WR Breshad Perriman
- RB Ronald Jones II
- CB Pierre Desir
- T Tristan Wirfs
Odell Beckham Jr.’s inspired play has caught the attention of fellow Rams
The pass Odell Beckham Jr. dropped into Cam Akers’ hands last week was as revealing as it was decisive.
Notice the affection in the voices of the Rams players when they talked about Beckham converting the trick play.
“He could probably do it left-handed too,” Matthew Stafford said.
Observe the joy on their faces.
“Should have led me a little bit,” Akers said with a mischievous smile.
Their body language conveyed what they didn’t say explicitly: They adore Beckham.
This is what Rams envisioned: Matthew Stafford vs. Tom Brady
A season of firsts continues for Matthew Stafford.
For the last 12 years, when the NFL playoffs moved to divisional-round games, Stafford was relegated to interested observer. The Rams quarterback rooted for friends and former Detroit Lions teammates on teams trying to advance to NFC or AFC championship games and beyond.
“I’ve made a bunch of relationships in this business,” Stafford said Wednesday during a video conference with reporters. “So, I’m always paying attention, no matter what. Just trying to pull for the guys I know.”
On Sunday, for the first time since he was selected with the No. 1 pick in the 2009 draft, Stafford will be a participant, not a fan, for an NFC divisional-round game when the Rams play the defending Super Bowl-champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
Stafford earned the opportunity by leading the Rams to a 34-11 victory over the Arizona Cardinals in a wild-card game at SoFi Stadium. It was Stafford’s first playoff win after losing three wild-card games with the Lions.
Matthew Stafford under pressure to beat Tom Brady and put Rams on cusp of Super Bowl
TAMPA — Home-field advantage for the Super Bowl.
Last season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers enjoyed the rare luxury and became the first team in NFL history to win a Super Bowl in its home stadium.
The Rams thereafter aimed, traded and spent to position themselves to repeat the feat in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium next month.
So, it’s perhaps fitting that for the Rams to take a step toward fulfilling that mandate, they must defeat Tom Brady and the defending-champion Buccaneers in an NFC divisional-round playoff game Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.
Rams vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers matchups, start time and how to watch
Breaking down how the Rams (13-5) and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (14-4) match up heading into their NFC divisional-round playoff game at noon PST on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. The game will be shown on NBC (Channel 4 in the L.A. area).
When Rams have the ball: Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford was a model of efficiency in an NFC wild-card victory over the Arizona Cardinals, and his team probably will need a similar performance to defeat the Buccaneers. Stafford completed 13 of 17 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns. He did not commit a turnover for the first time in five games.
Stafford will be operating behind a line that will include left tackle Joe Noteboom starting in place of Andrew Whitworth, who suffered knee and ankle injuries against the Cardinals. After getting limited opportunities in the season-finale against the San Francisco 49ers, running back Cam Akers rushed for 55 yards in a team-high 17 carries against the Cardinals. Akers will rotate with Sony Michel, who keyed the Rams’ five-game winning streak late in the season.
Receiver Cooper Kupp is Stafford’s top target, but Odell Beckham Jr. has consistently made plays. Against the Cardinals, Beckham caught a touchdown pass and also completed a long pass to Akers. Receiver Van Jefferson and tight end Tyler Higbee also are threats.
Tackles Vita Vea and Ndamukong Suh, and linebackers Shaquil Barrett, Devin White, Lavonte David, and Jason Pierre-Paul lead the Buccaneers defense.
Rams vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: NFL betting odds, lines and how to watch
Rams at Buccaneers (-3, 48½), 12:05 p.m. PST Sunday, NBC
When these two teams met at SoFi Stadium in Week 3, the Rams came away with a 34-24 win as the smallest of underdogs with a line of +1. Interestingly, the total for that game was 55 and the game did go over that, with a lot of yardage and some points left on the field. Games tend to tighten up in the postseason and we’ve certainly seen an adjustment to the total here.
We’ve also seen an adjustment to Sean McVay’s mindset on offense. Game state had a lot to do with why Matthew Stafford only had 17 pass attempts last week, but it was a continuation of the run-focused offense we’ve seen recently from McVay. Over Stafford ’s first 12 games, he averaged 36.5 pass attempts per game. Over the last six games, Stafford has exceeded that total just once.