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.
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.
The Rams made all moves possible for a chance to get to Super Bowl LVI in their stadium, while the Bengals were just looking for improvement after a four-win season.
“It feels amazing. It feels amazing,” Rams defensive back Jalen Ramsey said. “I ain’t going to lie to you. That’s really the only word I can think of. It feels amazing.”
Amazing? It’s flat-out nuts. It will be only the second time in NFL history — and the second time in two years — the league’s title bout will be played at the home field of one of the participants.
“To be able to play at home in this house that [Stan] Kroenke built, this iconic venue, is really unique,” Rams coach Sean McVay said.
Photos from the Rams’ 20-17 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC championship game at SoFi Stadium on Sunday.
The celebration began with a giant hugging party on the field Sunday and will continue for the next two weeks. The Super Bowl is the biggest sports event in the United States, and the Rams will be its center of attention, and the buzz will be overwhelming.
Home Super home.
“Unbelievable. ... Fantastic,” Kroenke, the Rams’ owner, said from the field during Sunday’s postgame trophy ceremony. “You look around here ... whose house?”
Kroenke spent $5 billion to build this stadium on the dream that his team would play in the Super Bowl here. The Rams’ front office hired the game’s brightest young coach and acquired a bevy of star players in hopes of making that happen.
On a raucous stage amid constant deafening cheers from a crowd of split loyalties, it all came together.
“It’s a great sign of the stars shining the brightest when they needed to,” McVay said.
The Rams not only overcame a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter against a team that had beaten them six consecutive times, but they also did it with the players collected for just this occasion.
“You go down 17-7, it doesn’t look good, but the guys just stayed in the moment,” McVay said.
And what moments they were, perfect passes and lunging tackles and fans so charged up that afterward they pounded on the walls of the postgame interview room.
The Los Angeles Rams have never won a Super Bowl and have been in only two previous Super Bowls, most recently a loss to the New England Patriots after the 2018 season.
They have shown great promise since their return to Southern California six years ago after a 22-year absence. But in a long history that included a 48-year stay before they left town, that promise is yet to have been fulfilled. The noise that continued long after the end of the game was for the frustration of missed chances, and the hope that this time, playing the biggest of games in their own backyard, things will finally be different.
“This is for everybody,” quarterback Matthew Stafford said.
Stafford, acquired in a trade last offseason, brilliantly led the Rams on three fourth-quarter scoring drives that included an 11-yard touchdown pass to Cooper Kupp and a perfect five-for-five performance on the game-winning drive that ended with Matt Gay’s 30-yard field goal.
“This is a whole lot better than I thought it was gonna be like,” Stafford said. “This is an unbelievable team, an unbelievable atmosphere.”
Odell Beckham Jr., a petulant wide receiver signed during the regular season, caught three passes for 42 yards on those final three drives — nine passes for 113 yards overall — and was basically impossible to cover.
“He’s so smart, so talented, so gifted,” McVay said of Beckham. “And he’s brought such a charisma and a presence, really a swag to our team.”
Von Miller, an aging outside linebacker acquired in a midseason trade, helped lead a defense that held the 49ers to 28 yards and recorded an interception on San Francisco’s last three possessions.
“There’s something about the bright lights that make you sweat,” Miller said. “There’s something about the bright lights that bring the most out of you.”
The lights finally went out on the 49ers with 1:09 left when quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was grabbed by Rams star defensive lineman Aaron Donald and flipped a desperation pass that bounced off the fingers of running back JaMycal Hasty and into the arms of linebacker Travin Howard for a game-clinching interception.
Donald earlier had gathered the defense together for a combination scolding and pep talk. The defense listened, then answered.
“It was something about how bad do we want it,” Ramsey said of Donald’s talk. “Like, we’re right here. We got to do more. We got to give a little bit extra. We got to give more. We just went out there and did that, really.”
Even more will be required against an upstart Bengals team that earned its way here by rebounding from an 18-point deficit to defeat the mighty Kansas City Chiefs 27-24 in overtime Sunday. The Rams will be about four-point favorites and should win the game, but the Bengals and second-year star quarterback Joe Burrow have nothing to lose, making them wildly dangerous. Adding to the intrigue, their coach, Zac Taylor, is a former Rams quarterbacks coach under McVay.
“Great, resilient team. It didn’t look good for them, and they’ve just continued to show why they’re a mentally tough outfit,” McVay said of the Bengals. “I think that’s reflected by their head coach. I know what a great coach he is. ... 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.”
The Rams nearly finished themselves off early in Sunday’s game, stumbling and bumbling while the 49ers’ faithful — about 60% of the crowd — kept chanting, “Beat L.A.”
Joe Burrow and the Bengals equal the biggest comeback in AFC championship game history as Cincinnati wins 27-24 in overtime over the Kansas City Chiefs.
In the first half alone, Stafford threw an interception in the end zone, his receivers dropped one potential touchdown pass and one sure touchdown pass, and Gay shanked a 54-yard field-goal try.
At the end of the half, Ramsey jumped into the face of kicker Robbie Gould and they had to be separated. Ramsey then threw his helmet into the bench in frustration.
The Rams legitimately should have been leading at least 21-7 at the half, but instead they trailed 10-7, a margin that became 10 points before that stunning fourth-quarter domination. It was a domination that was helped early in the quarter when safety Jaquiski Tartt dropped a sure interception from Stafford.
“We just had to lock in a little bit more,” Ramsey said.
Now they’re locked in for the next two weeks, headed toward history while going nowhere.
“That’s dope,” Ramsey said of the Rams’ Super Bowl home-field advantage. “How they do that? Like NFC, AFC. Who’s the home team technically? Y’all know? I don’t know. Doesn’t matter. We’re going to be swagged out.”
For the record, the Bengals will be the home team.
But you know whose house it is.
Go beyond the scoreboard
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