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Rams vs Cardinals Monday night playoff game is full of historical ‘firsts’

“To play the first Monday night playoff game in NFL history, the first Martin Luther King Jr. Day playoff game in NFL history is a special moment for all of us,” Rams’ COO Kevin Demoff says.

Photo credit: Debbie Emery

The countdown to Super Bowl LVI is officially on. But before Los Angeles hosts the nation’s biggest sporting event, the Rams have a few other firsts to knock off their bucket list as the Arizona Cardinals come to town for the first ever playoff game at SoFi Stadium.

“To win the most competitive division in the NFL division, to be able to host a playoff game against the Cardinals, to be the first Monday night playoff game in NFL history, the first Martin Luther King Jr. Day playoff game in NFL history ... it is a special moment for all of us at the Rams,” Kevin Demoff, the Rams’ chief operating officer, said at the “30 Days Out” from Super Bowl LVI media event last week. “I think it’s a special moment for Los Angeles, we hope to put on a great show and hopefully leave here victorious.”

While there was a lot of talk about the sheer amount of away fans at SoFi for the Week 18 loss against the San Francisco 49ers, Demoff assured us that the Rams’ home field advantage will still play a huge role in the Super Wild Card Weekend Monday night special.

“We’ve had an amazing home field advantage — maybe not as much this past weekend! —but for certainly our first seven games, most markedly the Tampa game,” said Demoff, referring to the 34-24 victory over the Bucs in Week 3, explaining that SoFi is one of the loudest venues in the league. “You start with a stadium that’s 100 feet underground. It’s got earth surrounding it and it’s got a roof on top of it. And then our fans, with their seats being closest to the field than anywhere in the NFL.”

Demoff said there’s a tremendous energy that comes from the Rams’ faithful, who “have been waiting for a permanent home for this team forever.”

“The team first played at the Coliseum, then moved to the Anaheim stadium, had a trip to St. Louis and back to the Coliseum. This is the first stadium ever built by the Rams for Rams fans, designed by Rams fans. I think you feel that home field advantage come to life on a weekly basis — we felt it all year — I know our fans are excited and ready for Monday night as well.”

Photo credit: Debbie Emery

No matter what happens in Monday’s historic matchup, we were assured that — despite rumors that the league was eyeing a last-minute move to Dallas’ AT&T Stadium — Super Bowl LVI will definitely be played at SoFi on Feb. 13.

“It really kind of hits home that this game is getting played in one month,” Demoff said at the countdown kickoff event, as the famous Infinity Screen by Samsung behind him displayed the all important date. “When we first started dreaming about SoFi Stadium years ago, it started with the Super Bowl in mind. We wanted this stadium to be the greatest Super Bowl venue ever — among the NFL venues and really in the world. That starts with building the world’s largest stadium, the world’s most technologically-advanced stadium, the most fan-friendly stadium … all of those things contribute to making it an unbelievable home environment.”

Adam Burke, Katie Keenan, Kathryn Schloessman, Jason Gannon, Kevin Demoff, and A.G. Spanos.
Mark Bella/LA Tourism

While plans were in place for LA to host the Super Bowl long before anyone had ever heard of COVID-19, there’s no denying its inevitable impact on any large-scale event, and sadly SBLVI will not mark the end of the pandemic like many of us had hoped.

“For a long time we talked about this being the first post-pandemic event,” Demoff told the media, while sat on the panel with Adam Burke, President & CEO at Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board; Katie Keenan, NFL Senior Director of Event Operations; Kathryn Schloessman, President & CEO at Los Angeles Sports & Entertainment Commission; Jason Gannon, Managing Director at SoFi Stadium and Hollywood Park, and A.G. Spanos, President of Business Operations at LA Chargers. “That might not hold true anymore as we fight this latest variant, but truly this is about getting people back and making people feel safe. I’m excited that we can be trailblazers in hosting these great events and doing them safely as hopefully we get toward the next stage of the COVID pandemic.”

Demoff also praised the support they’ve gotten from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health in maintaining “an amazing, safe environment all year” by ensuring fans were vaccinated or tested negative, and wore masks inside.

“We’re fortunate because this is an outdoor building ... we had our biggest crowd of the year here on Sunday (Jan. 9) — nearly 75,000 people — we feel this building is very safe. I think people who have come to our games have learned how to be safe, and how to protect themselves.

“I don’t think anybody’s ever wavered on this game [the Super Bowl] to be able to be played here safely. Unfortunately, not only for Los Angeles but for the world, omicron has presented great challenges over the past few months. And hopefully we’ll be able to solve those challenges not just to play the Super Bowl but so we can all continue to grow as a society.

Whether the Rams are actually playing in Super Bowl LVI or not, be sure to look out for some familiar Rams’ legends in the crowd come Feb. 13.

“I think the great thing about the Super Bowl is you get the legacy players throughout the NFL who come back,” Demoff said. “Certainly, there are a lot of great Rams’ moments — this team has been around for 80-plus years, it has tons of Super Bowl experience … not always all positive! So I’m sure you’re going see Kurt Warner, Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt, those members of the Greatest Show on Turf days and the one and only Lombardi Trophy-winning franchise in team history,” he predicted. “Hopefully you’re going see some current Rams’ greats like Aaron Donald, Cooper Kupp, Jalen Ramsey and Matthew Stafford also on the field participating in Super Bowl LVI. The NFL always does a great job of weaving the tradition of the home team (in this case home teams) and the legacy of the Super Bowl throughout the game day — and I can’t wait to see what they bring to life.

“As someone who grew up in Los Angeles and who saw Super Bowls come here, to have been part of a group that helped bring the Super Bowl back to Los Angeles after three decades, to build this stadium and to host the world’s greatest events … I think we all take great pride and feel really fortunate that Stan Kroenke had this vision to build an amazing stadium, to make Los Angeles not only the entertainment capital world, but truly of the sports world right here by building the world’s greatest sports entertainment district in Hollywood Park. I’ve been fortunate to play a very small role in it, but it takes all of Los Angeles County and surrounding counties to make the Super Bowl come to life. I think when we have that kickoff on game day, it’ll be a special moment for everybody who’s been involved.”

In case you forgot, kickoff for Super Bowl LVI in the majestic SoFi Stadium is at 3.30 p.m. PT on Sunday, Feb. 13. But before that, the Rams get to host the Cardinals on Monday night at 5.15 p.m.