Blythe Hastings ’23
The Los Angeles Rams snapped their six-game losing streak to the San Francisco 49ers at the right time, earning their way to Super Bowl 56 with a 20-17 victory in the NFC Championship Game. These types of games are the reason Los Angeles traded for Matthew Stafford and it was clear in a tight, fourth-quarter contest that the Rams had the advantage at the game’s most important position. The San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo put up an unimpressive 1-of-6 for -3 yards and an interception on the game’s final two drives with San Francisco’s season on the line, ending the 49ers’ season with fans disappointed and disheartened.
The 49ers held a 17-7 lead early in the fourth quarter but couldn’t make the plays they needed down the stretch, allowing the Rams to score 13 unanswered points to take a 20-17 lead with less than two minutes to play. Jimmy Garoppolo tossed an interception on the 49ers’ final possession of the game, sending the Rams to an NFC title and the Super Bowl, which will be held in their home stadium. Matthew Stafford threw for 337 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception on 31-of-45 passing, completing 11 passes to wide receiver Cooper Kupp for 142 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, in what might be his last game with the 49ers, completed 16-of-30 passes for 232 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception.
The Rams defied the odds by making a daunting second-half comeback seem easy after trailing by 10 points heading into the half. The Rams shut the 49ers out in the second half, scoring 13 unanswered points. A pick-off Jimmy Garoppolo sealed the deal for the Rams with just over a minute remaining in the game. Cooper Kupp (142) and Odell Beckham Jr. (113) both finished with over 100 receiving yards. This is the first time two Rams players have finished with at least 100 receiving yards this season.
The last time the Rams did this in the playoffs was during the 2004 wild-card game when they were the St. Louis Rams. Kupp scored the Rams’ only two touchdowns of the night. Deebo Samuel scored the longest touchdown of the night, though, with a 44-yard scoring play in the second quarter. Samuel finishes his season with an average of 10 yards per catch, which leads wide receivers in the league this season. George Kittle scored the 49ers’ other touchdown of the game. The Los Angeles Rams have the advantage, playing at their home field, in front of their home fans, but the Bengals are hungry for more. After beating one of the most challenging teams in the AFC to play at home, Bengals fans are looking for another upset, but this time, to win it all.