Rams are one game away from Super Bowl

(News4usonline) – Two plays. That’s all Matthew Stafford needed to show why the Los Angeles Rams traded for him in the offseason. Stafford then had the audacity to do it against Tom Brady of all people. He was not afraid of the moment. That moment came for Stafford with 42 seconds left in the Rams’ NFC divisional round playoff game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The first time the Rams played against Brady and the Buccaneers, the seven-time Super Bowl champion threw the ball 55 times. This time around, Brady slung the ball around the football field 54 times. Stafford would not allow Brady the opportunity to hit that 55 mark as he did during the regular season matchup between the two ballclubs.

That’s because Stafford, who threw for 366 yards on 28 of 28 passes, delivered in the crunch when it mattered most. After having blown a 20-3 halftime lead and being outplayed in the third and fourth quarters, thanks to a bundle of mishaps and fumbles, with 42 seconds left in the game, Stafford proved why he is that guy the Rams went out and got for their Super Bowl aspirations.

Tom Brady, who passed for 329 yards and a touchdown, had just led Tampa Bay down the field to tie the ballgame at 27-27 with less than a minute left in the game. With the momentum clearly riding on their side, Brady and the Buccaneers faithful were thinking no less than overtime after being able to come back to knot the game at 27.

And so what does Stafford do on first down after getting the ball with 42 ticks left in the game? He gets sacked. Now there are 35 seconds left. That’s not a whole lot of time to do anything, let alone drive the length of the field to get in place for a potential game-winning field goal.

No sweat for Stafford. On second and 11, Stafford hit wide receiver Cooper Kupp for 20 yards and a first down. Now there are only 28 seconds left on the scoreboard. The only way for the Rams to win this game before the contest went into overtime was to get a big play. Now.

Everyone that packed themselves into Raymond James Stadium and for those watching the game on TV or their smartphone knew the Rams had no option but to come up with some sort of magical play to avoid the extra period. Stafford gave them one, hitting Kupp on a 44-yard pass play that put the Rams in field goal position at the 12-yard line.

With four seconds left, placekicker Matt Gay came on and nailed a 30-yarder for the winning margin and the Rams had officially punched their ticket to the NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers. And just like that, with two slings of his right arm, Stafford answered the bell.

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“I’ll tell you what, he certainly delivered in a big win today,” Rams head coach Sean McVay said. “That’s why you go get him. [I] always had a lot of confidence in Matthew. That never wavered. It never wavered, the confidence he had in himself, the teammates, the coaches. He had a look in his eye – what an awesome thing to see him clock that, and he basically knew Matt was going to come in and finish this thing off.”

On that 44-yard pass to Kupp, Stafford said that the play developed into what it was with Tampa Bay bringing an all-out blitz.

“The route that Cooper is running there is – we describe it a lot of times in our meetings is a ‘Love of the Game’ route,” remarked Stafford. “You’re really never getting the ball. You’re just clearing out some area, working for some other routes. They decided to bring everybody and that’s really the best option at that point. I felt it after the snap, kind of recognized it was going to be an all-out pressure and was able to put it to a good spot. Coop made a great catch.”

Tampa Bay head coach Brue Arians said his team’s all-out blitz did not fully materialize because there was some sort of mix-up on the play.

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“The last play? Some guys didn’t blitz,” Arians said. “I don’t know if we didn’t get the call, but it was an all-out blitz that we should had a ton of pressure.”

Kupp, who had 9 receptions for 183 yards and a touchdown during the game, gave his props to Stafford for finding him on their final hookup on the afternoon.

“Matthew did a great job of just buying time, putting the ball up and letting me run underneath it,” Kupp said. “I’m not sure how he knew exactly where I was going to end so quickly, but it’s a great, great job of hitting me in stride. It’s one of the ones where you…all you can do is just dig, dig out your route, look up for the ball, and hope it’s floating up there. It’s just a great play by Matthew putting the ball where it needed to be.”

Featured Image Caption: Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) has led the team to the NFC Championship Game. Photo by Mark Hammond/News4usonline