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Rams 2022 NFC Playoffs: Winners and Losers as L.A. runs through conference to SoFi Super Bowl

What a 3-0 run it has been for Sean McVay, Matthew Stafford, OBJ, Von Miller, Aaron Donald and company

Los Angeles Rams defeat the San Francisco 49ers 20-17 during a NFC championship football game at SoFi Stadium. Photo by Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images

The Los Angeles Rams are not going to the Super Bowl ... they’re already there!

By beating the 49ers 20-17 in the NFC Championship at SoFi Stadium, the Rams complete a 3-0 trip through the NFC postseason and will play “road” to the “home” Cincinnati Bengals at SoFi Stadium in two weeks.

There are many people to thank but the work isn’t over. The Rams must beat one more team for the victories to feel all the sweeter after 20 games and a 15-5 record to get to this point. These are the winners and the people/teams not in fortunate situations (“losers” only in the form of words we use for articles like this) from the LA Rams’ 2022 postseason run.

Winners

Stan Kroenke

It’s so hard to believe that the Rams were “for sale” in 2010, that soon after creating such a dominant and fascinating near-dynasty around Kurt Warner just a decade earlier. Kroenke had a vision for what an NFL team could be on a worldwide scale, he bought a franchise that went 1-15 the year before and an all-time worst 6-42 over the previous three seasons combined, and now the Rams are going to the Super Bowl for the second time in four years.

Kroenke has taken about as much criticism as any owner in the NFL—especially and including from most of the rest of the NFL owners—and he has had an interesting year after the league settled with the city of St. Louis over the move. But today he’s owner of the NFC Champions and the city of Los Angeles is one win away from their first Super Bowl victory since the 1983 L.A. Raiders and what would be only the second of all-time.

Matthew Stafford

At the beginning of the season, I was considering writing a weekly retrospective on how Stafford would re-write his professional career after toiling with the Detroit Lions for 12 seasons. It’s just fascinating to see a quarterback go from top recruit in the nation to top freshman in the nation to top pick in the NFL Draft to...”Yeah, he’s not a bust, but really what is he if he can’t win a playoff game?”

Of course, to write that story as it was happening would’ve been a risk. I did fully believe that the Rams made the best move of the year when they traded for Stafford and that it could absolutely result in a 3-0 trip through the NFC playoffs. But there were times during the season and postseason when it didn’t seem as though L.A. would make it this far and every time they came close to the edge—good Stafford was there.

If Matthew Stafford wins his next playoff game, he will go from 0-3 to over .500 in the postseason.

2021 playoff stats: 72/100, 72%, 905 yards, 6 TD, 1 INT, 9.1 Y/A, 115.6 rating, 2 rush TD

Stafford asked for a better situation than what the Lions could give him. He got it.

Cooper Kupp

He’s been at least as dominant in the playoffs as he was in the regular season, which is saying a lot for a wide receiver who is in consideration as 2021 MVP. Kupp has caught 25-of-32 targets (78%) for 386 yards and four touchdowns in three games.

Kupp has over 2,300 yards and 20 touchdowns on the season! Nobody has ever come close to this, not even Calvin Johnson.

Odell Beckham Jr and Von Miller

They followed suit from Stafford and asked for better situations than what they were toiling in. They then followed Stafford to the Rams—though Miller didn’t have as much of a say in the matter, he clearly had influence to wind up with a team that could win their conference and now he’s playing in the Super Bowl for the third time.

Miller and Jalen Ramsey worked hard to convince OBJ to then sign with the Rams and he helped take over the NFC Championship against the 49ers. He’ll be in his first Super Bowl.

Browns media can be as mad as it wants to, OBJ has a lot of fans inside the league and watching from home. Beckham has 19 catches on 23 targets for 236 yards in the playoffs. Miller has 12 tackles, four tackles for a loss, one forced fumble/recovery, and two sacks.

Andrew Whitworth

The 40-year-old left tackle fought back to be here and is playing in a Super Bowl some two years after people were saying he’d retire. He’s as good of a choice for “ultimate ironman” as any player in football history.

Whitworth called out Joe Staley for trolling his wife, then beat Staley’s team on Sunday—even though Whitworth is three years older than the retired tackle who hasn’t played in two years.

Les Snead

He won the trade. Doesn’t matter what trade you are referring to.

Sean McVay

Even with Matthew Stafford on the team and plenty of folks just chomping at the bit to criticize the quarterback for any little mistake he could make in the playoffs, I don’t think anyone has endured as much heat as Sean McVay. That continued on Sunday as the Rams wasted a timeout in the third quarter and then also lost two challenges—the final of which seemed apparent and definitely not worth it.

Say what you will about his clock management—though LA did dominate time of possession—McVay is going to two Super Bowls in four years. Unprecedented in Rams history. Rare for any coach in NFL history. Rarer still for a coach who even today is younger than the vast majority of NFL head coaches, coordinators, and people responsible for making eight-figure contract decisions.

You want Sean McVay to do more “analytics” and follow the rules set forth by Twitter? McVay wants to win the Super Bowl. He’s now one win away from doing that because of the entirety of what he brings to the Rams organization seven days a week, not just some generally frustrating choices on Sunday.

Add on top of that the he gets to see his former assistant wide receivers/quarterbacks coach head to the Super Bowl this year and McVay has all sides covered.

Jalen Ramsey

I know he would’ve liked to have had a more obvious case for Defensive Player of the Year in 2021. Ramsey finished with a career-high 77 tackles, tied his career-high with four interceptions, and took responsibility for a secondary that lacked impact starters around him—Darious Williams struggled, David Long Jr. was thrust into a role he doesn’t seem ready for, Jordan Fuller was injured, Taylor Rapp was consistently inconsistent, Eric Weddle is ON THE RAMS RIGHT NOW—but Ramsey was the best cornerback in the NFL in 2021 and he’s going to his first Super Bowl.

The Bucs tested Ramsey in the divisional round and it is true he gave up a long touchdown to Mike Evans. It is also true that L.A. traded two first round picks for him for key moments like these, that he mostly has shutdown everyone across from him including Evans for most of the game, and that the Rams have a much better chance against Ja’Marr Chase because of him.

SoFi Stadium

No homefield advantage? 2-0 in the postseason and the home of the Rams next Super Bowl. The NFL wanted to showcase its $5 billion complex as much as possible and this postseason run has helped a lot.

More Rams fans are coming. A lot are already here that weren’t here one year ago or even one month ago. Don’t turn them away. Don’t call them “bandwagoners”. Let them enjoy the ride because this is already one of the most fun and entertaining teams of the era.

Cam Akers

Welcome back, you made it just in time!

A’Shawn Robinson

One of the forgotten men, Robinson has stood up in the postseason as one of the top defensive linemen in the NFC. The Rams were criticized for signing Robinson in 2020 when they already had Michael Brockers, then they went a long time without him in the season and had to renegotiate his deal just to assure he’d still be on the team in 2021.

Thankfully that happened and Robinson has 16 tackles in three playoff games for one of the most intimidating units in the 2022 playoffs: Aaron Donald, Robinson, Greg Gaines, Von Miller, etc.

L.A. has a huge decision ahead with Robinson’s 2022 contract but there’s more football left to play.

Matt Gay

He’s not been perfect—he’s been as perfect as the Rams have needed to get to the Super Bowl though.

Matt Gay, released by the Buccaneers in 2019 and on a practice squad in 2020, is 7-of-9 in the postseason on field goals, 9-of-9 on extra points, and he made both kicks necessary to get the L.A. Rams wins over the Bucs and 49ers.

And to think, I worked so hard to memorize how to spell Lirim Hajrullahu.

Unfortunate Situations (not Losers)

Robert Woods

We wish Woods could be here for this, we’re hopeful he rebounds from ACL surgery to be the same player in 2022 that he was prior to the injury.

Tyler Higbee

A key player for Stafford in the first two playoff games, to say the least, Higbee left with a first quarter knee injury and did not return. It appears no major damage was done, but Higbee’s status for the Super Bowl is, to put it one way, questionable.

The Cardinals, Bucs, and 49ers

Here’s the new “0-3” to talk about.

DeSean Jackson

He didn’t want to be a part of this.

Brycen Hopkins

When Higbee went down, the Rams only had Kendall Blanton left at tight end. Blanton is no doubt a winner for the NFC Championship, but L.A. has depth issues at tight end following the midseason injury to Johnny Mundt. And the lack of development from Brycen Hopkins to make the 2020 fourth round pick anything other than a healthy scratch every week.

If Higbee can’t go in two weeks, Hopkins may need to step up anyway.

Ben Skowronek

You’re only a rookie, don’t sweat it. Cooper Kupp once dropped a pass as a high school sophomore and he worked so hard that night that his dad said his arm was going numb from throwing passes. Some people get smacked with that moment in the face early and it changes them on a fundamental level. Skowronek wasn’t targeted again following his touchdown drop against the 49ers.

What would have been the case if he caught it?

The Rams may need Skowronek in the Super Bowl too, so this is a growing opportunity; Kupp dropped a pass against the Niners too after all.

Darrell Henderson

It’s crazy to think that Henderson started 21 games in the last two years, including 10 in 2021, but the Rams are now looking at a backfield duo of Akers and Sony Michel, even if Henderson were healthy. With another year left on his rookie deal, Henderson should return in 2022, but what place will he have in the backfield?

Panthers, Broncos, Giants, Football Team, Eagles, Saints, 49ers, Raiders, Colts, Browns, Dolphins, Patriots...

What, you didn’t want Matthew Stafford that badly?