Rams Nearly Blow 24-point Lead but Hang on to Beat Buccaneers to NFC Championship Game

Los Angeles Rams’ Matt Gay (8) kicks a 30-yard field goal to defeat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second half of an NFL divisional round playoff football game Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

The Los Angeles Rams beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers30-27, in Sunday’s NFC divisional playoff game at Raymond James Stadium, sending Tom Brady home for the remainder of the playoffs and Matthew Stafford into his first conference championship game.

And what a thriller it ended up.

After Brady and the Buccaneers tied the score with less than a minute left, erasing a 24-point Rams lead, Stafford hit Cooper Kupp on 44- and 20-yard passes in the waning seconds to set up the game-winning kick from Matt Gay, the former Buccaneer who was cut by Tampa Bay and who had missed an attempt midway through the fourth quarter.

The Rams will take on their NFC West rivals, the San Francisco 49ers, next Sunday at SoFi Stadium, the same venue that will host Super Bowl LVI two weeks later. This will be the first time in league history that a team will host a conference championship game in the Super Bowl stadium.

L.A.’s stars showed up to topple Tampa Tom

The Rams’ all-in gamble is close to paying off the way the team’s architects drew it up. This is exactly what they imagined when they traded for Stafford and Von Miller, and signed Odell Beckham Jr. over the past calendar year.

The Rams’ stars came to play. Stafford was hot early, staking L.A. to a three-score lead and beating the mighty Brady, who suffered his first playoff loss as a Buc. Aaron Donald and Miller were in Brady’s face most of the game.

Kupp had a costly second-half fumble but took the top off the Bucs’ defense early in the game with a 70-yard touchdown and atoned late with his two massive catches to set up Gay’s winning kick. Beckham caught six passes for 69 yards, generating four first downs. Kupp finished with nine catches for 183 yards and a score. Stafford threw for 336 yards and two TDs.

And it was good enough, even with some unbelievably tense moments while protecting the lead to keep Brady out of the running for an eighth Super Bowl ring. Amid a flurry of speculation he might consider retiring, Brady missed out on a shot to reach his 15th conference championship game.

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SOURCE: Yahoo! Sports, Eric Edholm