After going all-in, Rams deliver with Super Bowl title

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The newly crowned champions doused Sean McVay with a bucket of ice water. The Rams logo flashed up on the scoreboard under the words “Super Bowl Champions.” The familiar scene in the end was comforting to the Rams and their fans as Randy Newman’s “I Love L.A.” blared over the speakers.

It was an emotional moment for Odell Beckham Jr., who broke down and wept as he watched this all unfold. It was also impossible not to notice the tears streaming down the face of Aaron Donald as he met with NBC reporter Michelle Tafoya.

The blue and gold confetti fluttered from above SoFi Stadium and covered the field. The players and coaches were donning their championship T-Shirts and hats and came together on a custom-built stage at midfield. The Vince Lombardi Trophy, bestowed and presented to the winners, was handed to Stan Kroenke. The owner stood beside his players, lifted the big, shiny silver prize and spoke in front of a home crowd.

On a warm and nice Sunday night, and with the cuddly, cute Cincinnati Bengals in town for the big game, the Rams won their first title since 1999, defeating the Bengals 23-20 in Super Bowl LVI. Twenty-three years was a long time, but they have finally raised another banner, their first here in L.A. There has been no greater triumph. There might never be.

On the biggest stage, during the most monumental moment that defined their night, the Rams continually came up with timely, game-changing plays, won the battle in the trenches and retook the lead near the end of regulation. It was mesmerizing, captivating and, more impressively, fun to watch. The furious comeback was emblematic of the Rams’ winning mentality. A star-studded roster filled with homegrown talents and big-name stars at every position on both sides of the football created an atmosphere of drama and excitement in a city that craves the perfect Hollywood ending.

It was a hard-fought game and a night packed with high-wattage star power. The energy shift was apparent in the fourth quarter, when the team showed a certain resilience in the final minutes. They’re the Rams who had a newfound spirit. They’re the Rams who had a lot of fight in them. They’re the famished Rams who were hungry, hadn’t eaten anything and will now enjoy a champion’s breakfast.

Wheeties?

In what became the most defining game of Matthew Stafford’s career to date, he pushed his team 79 yards downfield, he made big plays down the stretch and spearheaded one of the most iconic finishes in NFL history. For a third consecutive playoff game, the Rams, who trailed by four points in the game, needed Stafford to lead them from behind.

The quarterback engineered a 15-play, game-winning drive that culminated in a one-yard touchdown pass to Cooper Kupp with 1:25 remaining. This wasn’t his best outing, but Stafford found a way to deliver a pivotal win. And while he was intercepted twice, his ill-advised or forced throws would not define his night.

Everybody got to know the real Stafford, who is more like a boom than a bust. In only his first season with the team, he earned his first Super Bowl ring. He was a made-for-Hollywood success story, moving from Michigan to California, and carving out a new path for himself. Stafford’s steady arm and ability to lead drives was exactly what this team needed in a veteran quarterback. The trade for Stafford, though it had plenty of skeptics, was the last puzzle piece the Rams needed to realize their championship dream.

A player that was under the radar, written off or was doubted by the masses has suddenly become a proven winner. He arrived, the team won the NFC West crown and then went ahead and won three more playoff games en route to winning Super Bowl LVI. These Rams got everything they hoped for from Stafford, who went from a perennial loser to a Super Bowl champion. He is coming off a career-best season. Finally.

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With 43 seconds to play and L.A. up three, the Rams needed one more great play from the NFL’s most dominant defensive tackle. In his final act of the season, Donald made the game-deciding play on 4th and 1, sacking quarterback Joe Burrow to dash the Bengals’ hopes of being champions. He sprinted downfield in celebration, removing his helmet and raising it over his head.

There is no mistaking Donald’s toughness as one of the most feared pass rushers in the NFL. That’s who he was all night long against the Bengals. A beast in every sense of the word, Donald satisfied his big appetite for success and his relentless desire to etch his name into the Rams’ annals. For him, it was personal. He had just played not only the best game of his career, but also the most important. He’s one of the best, if not the best, at getting after the quarterback. And having been here before, he knew what it felt like to get to the Super Bowl. This time, he wanted to get his hands on that trophy.

The Super Bowl MVP went to Kupp, who had four receptions for 39 yards, and that 7-yard run on fourth-and-1 from the Rams 30 on the championship drive. After providing countless thrilling moments and proving capable of much more all season long, Kupp captured the NFL’s receiving triple crown by leading the league in receptions, yards and receiving touchdowns.

The Rams’ offense was quiet and lifeless, gaining just 58 yards and scoring just three points on their first five drives of the second half. Their offense skidded off course, when Beckham left the game during the second quarter with a knee injury and didn’t return. The receiver turned to catch the ball, he then hit the deck after landing awkwardly on his left leg and dropped the pass. He grabbed his left knee, screaming in pain.

Just deflating.

They contended — and with good reason — that a referee should have blown the whistle and tossed the yellow flag. It was the easiest to see and the most obvious missed call when Tee Higgins grabbed Jalen Ramsey’s facemask that led to the Bengals’ go-ahead touchdown on the first play of the second half.

Just unfortunate.

The Rams couldn’t play solid football through four quarters. But for their final drive, they executed, showed enough spark and energy to recapture what they had to get here. The stingy defense swallowed up Burrow, harassing him into a Super Bowl record-tying seven sacks. He was bullied, beaten and slammed to the ground.

It wasn’t a given that the Rams would go on to win the whole thing, even after making bold moves that not only gave them obvious strengths. It was no guarantee that this would be their year, even after pulling off some surprising and splashy trades that made it easy to tab them as the favorites to win.

The boom-or-bust, winning all-in strategy for this year’s team paid off in a big way. It’s not going to matter now to this organization that it gave up everything to solidify itself as the best team in the NFC. This is how the Rams go about doing business. And while people, at times, dismissed this year’s aggressive all-in approach, a little boldness turned out to be a good thing and led them to the promised land. Getting to the Super Bowl is insanely difficult, but the Rams had all they needed to put themselves over the top. It was a can’t-miss opportunity for the home team to live up to its lofty expectations.

In sending away years of valuable draft picks, general manager Les Sneed mortgaged a big chunk of their future in order to win now. It had been surmised that the Rams wouldn’t fall short of that goal. Betting big on proven, veteran players who delivered a championship worked out very well.

It was the kind of moves that cultivated a winning culture and led to instant success in just one season. This was the way their season had to end. So much had to go right, and all of it did.

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