Rams takeaways: Matthew Stafford was clutch, but Sean McVay was still confounding

Rams linebacker Von Miller hoists the NFC championship trophy
Rams linebacker Von Miller hoists the NFC championship trophy after L.A. defeated the 49ers at SoFi Stadium on Sunday.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

The Rams advanced to Super Bowl LVI with a 20-17 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC championship game on Sunday at SoFi Stadium.

Here’s what we learned from the Rams’ victory:

Stafford knows how to lead game-winning drives … in the postseason.

We knew Stafford was among the kings of the comebacks and game-winning drives when he was toiling for the Detroit Lions. Let’s be honest: He had a lot of opportunities nearly always playing from behind.


Stafford showed his mettle for the Rams in an early-season victory at Indianapolis and late-season victories at Minnesota and Baltimore.

The Rams spared no expense building a Super Bowl-caliber roster, and the team cashed in on expectations with a win over the 49ers in the NFC title game.

But if you want to be in the conversation with truly elite quarterbacks, you must do that in the playoffs. And Stafford was 0-3 in the postseason when he landed in L.A.

He’s now 3-3.

On Sunday, for the second week in a row, he led a game-winning drive late in the fourth quarter.

The Rams would prefer that another is not required in the Super Bowl against the Bengals. But if they need one, Stafford has demonstrated he is up to the task.

Sean McVay is walking a tightrope with some of his game management decisions

McVay had made some questionable choices in the divisional-round victory over the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but the Rams still emerged with a victory despite four lost fumbles.

On Sunday, Feb. 13, at SoFi Stadium, the Rams will play the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI. Think about that. It’s flat-out unreal.

Against the 49ers, failed challenges by McVay left the Rams with no timeouts with about 10 minutes left. Once again, the Rams escaped.

That’s not a situation the Rams want to repeat in the Super Bowl.

Tight end Kendall Blanton is officially no longer under the radar

Blanton signed with the Rams as an undrafted free agent in 2019 and has spent most of his time on the practice squad.

He caught a touchdown pass against the Buccaneers — and proved that wasn’t a one-off with his performance against the 49ers.

A year to the day of his trade to the Rams, Matthew Stafford advanced his team to the Super Bowl. Thirteen years into his career, he was finally a winner.

With Tyler Higbee sidelined because of a knee injury early in the game, Blanton caught five passes for 57 yards. His 20-yard reception in the third quarter on what played out as kind of a flea-flicker screen pass helped set up a touchdown.

Aaron Donald does not let big moments pass

The Rams, for the first time this season, failed to record a sack.

Photos from the Rams’ 20-17 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC championship game at SoFi Stadium on Sunday.

But there was Donald, during the 49ers’ final possession, dragging quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo toward the turf when Garoppolo desperately tried to flick the ball to a running back. The ball bounced off the receiver’s hands and into the hands of Rams linebacker Travin Howard.

Game over.

Eric Weddle does not take long to get into game shape

Maybe more veteran players should prepare for the season by playing pickup basketball and snowboarding.

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Time lapse of traffic around SoFi Stadium for NFC Championship Game

Weddle, a six-time Pro Bowl safety who came out of retirement to help the Rams’ injury-depleted secondary, played only 19 snaps against the Arizona Cardinals and 61 of 72 snaps against the Buccaneers.

He started against the 49ers, played all 51 snaps and made a team-best nine tackles.