One year ago today, the Detroit Lions and Matthew Stafford agreed to part ways after 12 seasons together. Shortly thereafter, the LA Rams swooped in at the last minute to acquire Stafford in exchange for Jared Goff, two first round picks, and a third. The move was met with surprise—how did the Rams manage to unload Goff’s contract so soon, why did they feel more desperate for a quarterback upgrade than even the Broncos or Panthers, and how do the Rams have so many first round picks to trade among the questions—and skepticism.
Stafford had played 12 years in the NFL and never won a playoff game. He wanted to go to a team that would give him better opportunities to win playoff games. And less than a year after he was traded, Stafford has two playoff wins and is headed for a home game in the NFC Championship.
The L.A. Rams held off a comeback by Tom Brady and beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30-27 on Sunday, advancing to the NFC Championship in spite of losing four fumbles and nearly giving the game away in the fourth quarter. In one of the wildest playoff games in history, the Rams blew a 27-3 lead and allowed Brady and company a chance to tie the score with :42 seconds remaining.
But Stafford gained 20 yards on a throw to Cooper Kupp, then another 44 on the next play. That helped the Rams get into easy chip shot range for Matt Gay and he sent his old team packing with a 30-yard field goal to send L.A. back to the NFC Championship game.
This will be the Rams’ 11th appearance in the NFC Championship in the Super Bowl era and the second under Sean McVay. L.A. last defeated the New Orleans Saints in another playoff classic three years ago and this time the opponent standing in between the Rams and the Super Bowl will be one of their most familiar foes: the 49ers.
San Francisco has won three straight road upsets, defeating the Rams in Week 18, the Dallas Cowboys in the wild card round, and the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round. This will be the 49ers’ second NFC Championship appearance under Kyle Shanahan and their 17th overall appearance in the Super Bowl era.
The Niners have also beaten the Rams on six straight occasions, but history is history and the NFC Championship game is next Sunday at SoFi Stadium. The winner goes to SoFi Stadium one more time. Will the Rams have two more home games to go?
The NFC Championship game is Sunday, January 30th, at 3:40 PM PT. It will be broadcast on Fox.