Rams eager to ‘finish this deal’ and win Super Bowl on home turf vs. Bengals

Rams coach Sean McVay stands on the field before a win over the Minnesota Vikings on Dec. 26.
Rams coach Sean McVay stands on the field before a win over the Minnesota Vikings on Dec. 26. McVay is looking to guide the Rams to their first Super Bowl win in L.A. on Sunday.
(Bruce Kluckhohn / Associated Press)

There could not be a more perfect scenario for the star-studded Rams.

Six years after returning from St. Louis, they fulfilled a mandate to play in Super Bowl LVI at owner Stan Kroenke’s $5-billion SoFi Stadium. Coach Sean McVay and his team have spent two weeks preparing at their own practice facility — and sleeping in their own beds.

On Sunday, they will play the AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals with an opportunity to celebrate a victory on their home turf.


All they must do is complete the final step and win.

“Just like any other Sunday — it just happens to be a Super Bowl and the biggest game of our lives,” Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald said, adding, “One last game to let everything hang out and find a way to win …. Couldn’t write it no better.”

The Rams began plotting for this day in January 2021 when they traded for star quarterback Matthew Stafford, adding him to a roster that included All-Pro players such as Donald and cornerback Jalen Ramsey. During the season they traded for star linebacker Von Miller and signed star receiver Odell Beckham Jr., and then topped it off by signing retired star safety Eric Weddle before the playoffs.

“Hey, we got one more game to go,” general manager Les Snead said. “We know the opportunity we have.”

Said McVay: “We know we’ve got one more thing we want to be able to do.”

This is the second Super Bowl for McVay, who admitted he got outcoached by Bill Belichick three years ago in a 13-3 loss to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LIII.

Now, the 36-year-old McVay is the sage veteran in a matchup against Zac Taylor, 38, a former Rams assistant who was hired by the Bengals after the Rams’ Super Bowl defeat.


“There’s no added, ‘Oh, I want to beat this guy,’” Taylor said of McVay. “No. It’s the Bengals playing the Rams for the Super Bowl.”

Stafford and Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow are playing in the Super Bowl for the first time.

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford looks to pass against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC title game on Jan. 30.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Stafford, 34, is in his 13th NFL season; Burrow, 25, is in his second.

“I’m sure on Sunday I’m going to be as excited as I’ve ever been to play in a football game, there’s no question about that,” Stafford said. “Understanding the magnitude and all that, but at the same time, once the ball is snapped it’s a football game, so go out there, have fun and enjoy the moment with my teammates.”

Stafford passed for 41 touchdowns, with 17 interceptions, while leading the Rams to a 12-5 record and the NFC West title this season. In playoff victories over the Arizona Cardinals, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and San Francisco 49ers, he passed for six touchdowns, with one interception.

Stafford is at his best when he’s “enjoying the moment, playing cool, calm, collected and being that great competitor and bringing people with him,” McVay said.


Lost in all the Super Bowl week histrionics is the fact that everything the Bengals do, the Rams do better, and have done better this season.

Feb. 12, 2022

“I’m not worried about him,” McVay said. “I just want to make sure we’re on the same page and he feels good about everything we’re asking him to do.

“And just let it go, let it rip.”

Burrow, the top pick in the 2020 NFL draft, came back from a knee injury suffered during his rookie season to pass for 34 touchdowns, with 14 interceptions this season. He led the Bengals to a 10-7 record, the AFC North title and their first playoff victory in 31 years.

The Bengals defeated the Las Vegas Raiders and the Tennessee Titans before playing the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC title game at Arrowhead Stadium, where Burrow rallied his team from a 21-3 deficit to win 27-24 and propel the Bengals to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1989.

“You’ve got to take advantage of your opportunities when you get there,” said Burrow, who has passed for four touchdowns, with two interceptions, in the playoffs. “You see guys go their entire career without ever getting to the Super Bowl.”

The poised Burrow has lifted his teammates, Taylor said.

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow passes in practice Thursday.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

“When you believe that your quarterback can take you the distance, it allows everybody just to play that 1% better because they know on the other side that triggerman is capable of doing some really special things,” Taylor said. “He’s helped take us to these heights.”


Last Tuesday, the Bengals escaped the cold of Ohio and arrived in Southern California.

Meanwhile, the Rams have not left town since returning from their Jan. 23 victory over the Buccaneers.

“It is nice to have some of the comforts of home,” Stafford said, “but we’ve still got to go out there and play the game. Got to go out there and earn it.”

Miller was named most valuable player of Super Bowl 50 when he played for the Denver Broncos. The 11th-year pro said 31 NFL teams go into the offseason unhappy, while only one “can be happy and excited and feel like they achieved anything.”

Super Bowl quarterbacks Kurt Warner and Boomer Esiason remember how playing in the game felt, and warn the Rams’ Matthew Stafford and Bengals’ Joe Burrow of pitfalls in the big game.

Feb. 12, 2022

“We want to be that team,” Miller said. “The perfect scenario is to get to the game on Sunday and have success.”

McVay said he would like for players such as Donald, Stafford, Weddle, Ramsey and 40-year-old offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth to be rewarded for years of effort.

A Super Bowl victory would do that.

“You want to see all these guys that are so great for our team be able to achieve that success,” McVay said, “and be able to finish this deal.”