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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Rams went all-in for a title, and it paid off

The+logo+of+the+LA+Rams.+Used+for+identification+purposes.
The logo of the LA Rams. Used for identification purposes. Protected copyright of the LA Rams.

Halfway through the third quarter of Super Bowl LVI, it looked like the Los Angeles Rams were headed to a stinging defeat. They gave up the lead on a 75-yard touchdown to begin the second half. One of their most important offensive players, wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., was lost to a devastating knee injury, later revealed to be a torn ACL. Despite MVP-caliber performances from defensive stalwarts Aaron Donald and Von Miller, they were still trailing the Cincinnati Bengals in the fourth quarter.
But when the rubber hit the road, quarterback Matthew Stafford, the erstwhile Detroit Lion who had to endure over a decade of disappointment in the Motor City, along with his running mate Cooper Kupp, the best all-around wide receiver in the league, came to the rescue. In a drive that may go down in NFL history as one of the greatest ever, the Rams converted a fourth-and-one with an end-around handoff to Kupp, drew some crucial penalties in the red zone, and hit Kupp for the go-ahead touchdown in the end zone. On the Bengals’ ensuing drive, on another fourth-and-one, Donald hounded Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow, forcing the incompletion that sealed the game and the title for the Rams.
After leaving Los Angeles in the mid-’90s to go to St. Louis, where they won a championship in 1999, the Rams returned to Tinseltown in 2016. Their first act back in L.A. did go well. They went 4–12, leading to the firing of head coach Jeff Fisher. To replace Fisher, the Rams hired 30-year-old Sean McVay, a former assistant with the Washington Football Team. In McVay’s first season as coach, the Rams made the playoffs. In his second season, they made it all the way to the Super Bowl, but lost to New England, scoring only three points. After missing the playoffs in 2019 and losing in the divisional round in 2020, the Rams made one of the most daring trades in NFL history: They sent their then-starting quarterback, Jared Goff, two first-round picks, and a third to get Stafford out of Detroit. But it wasn’t the only big deal they made. They sent two first-rounders to the Jacksonville Jaguars in October 2019 to get Jalen Ramsey, arguably the best cornerback in football. In November 2021, they sent a second-and third-round pick to the Denver Broncos to get Miller, the former All-Pro edge rusher. And they weren’t done. After an acrimonious departure from the Cleveland Browns, Beckham signed as an in-season free agent with the Rams. They made it clear they were going all-in to win a Super Bowl.
The Rams began their playoff push with a home thumping of the Arizona Cardinals in the wild-card round. For the divisional round, they had to go to Tampa to take on the defending champion Buccaneers. They were up 27–3 at one point, but let the Bucs come back to tie the game with only a few minutes left in the fourth quarter. In the closing seconds, Stafford hit Kupp for a huge gain that put the Rams in field goal range with mere seconds to go. Stafford got up to the line, spiked the ball to stop the clock, and let Matt Gay kick the field goal to send the Rams into the National Football Conference Championship game. In the NFC title game, the Rams took their division and upstate rival San Francisco 49ers, who had beaten them in six straight meetings. The Rams trailed in that game as well, but mounted a comeback thanks to—who else—Stafford and Kupp. Aaron Donald got the pressure on 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who threw a desperation pass that was intercepted by Rams linebacker Travin Howard, sending the Rams to the Super Bowl at their home field, SoFi, in Inglewood, Calif.
The Rams’ daring, bold and ultimately successful approach to winning is sure to have imitators. Should a team bide its time, try to accumulate draft picks, and hope they pay off? Or should they just put all their chips on the table and go for it? Whatever the answer may be, I’ll quote pro wrestling legend Gorilla Monsoon for your consideration: “If you’re not in this business to be champion, you’re in the wrong business.”

About the Contributor
Jack sherman, Sports Writer