The Los Angeles Rams have earned a trip to the Super Bowl and are the second team to host the big game in their home stadium (it’s now happened in back-to-back seasons).
Our Turf Show Times team answered five burning questions on the Rams’ journey to the NFL championship and on the matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals.
1 - Which single individual (player, coach, front office) deserves the most credit for Rams getting to the Super Bowl?
Hard to separate and pick just one, so I’ll pick one from each category.
Player: Cooper Kupp. Aaron Donald is the face of the franchise & Stafford is the franchise QB, but what Cooper Kupp did this year was phenomenal. Cooper Kupp was already a Top 20 NFL WR in his first four seasons. But what he has done this year hasn’t been talked about enough. Think about what he has accomplished: recovered from torn ACL in ‘18. Changed quarterbacks in 2020/2021 off-season. Lost his WR compliment in Robert Woods. If Cooper Kupp doesn’t run block at an elite level and run precise routes - the Rams wouldn’t be in the Super Bowl.
Coach: Sean McVay. He has had coaching turnover every year and still creates a dominant product on the field.
Front Office: Les Snead. He has been a wizard of manipulating cap space and making acquisitions that no one thought possible. He’s the only GM that has ventured down this type of roster building. He should be awarded as GM of the Year.
General Manager Les Snead deserves the most credit for building a Rams roster that’s going to the Super Bowl. Both blockbuster trades for Matthew Stafford and Von Miller polarized those around the NFL landscape. I believe the same could be said about OBJ but to a lesser degree because Snead didn’t have to give up draft capital for him. Stafford has rewarded LA for his strong postseason play after he was apparently supposed to play poorly there given his background with Detroit. Odell has been a welcome addition to the receiving corps since Robert Woods went down. When the Von Miller trade happened, I wasn’t a fan due to all the draft capital given up for an aging superstar, but Miller has stepped up on the biggest stage. That’s why LA gave up so much since they needed an additional defensive closer alongside Donald.
I’ll say Von Miller. The Rams’ pass rush went from good to elite when they made the mid-season trade. Miller has been one of the best defenders in the playoffs. As well as he’s played on the field, it seems he’s also reinvigorated the locker room and has provided leadership and post-season experience to a defense with some fairly young players.
There are a lot of good choices to choose from, but I would argue that Odell Beckham Jr. is the reason the Rams are in the Super Bowl. He has not put up godly stats, but he was not brought to LA to be the number one receiver—he was brought in to be the number three receiver. Robert Wood’s injury was a bigger deal than what most people think and a lot of that has to do with the fact that OBJ has been so good in the offense. He has not been the diva so many people have painted him to be and has played a huge role at the end of the season that has carried into the playoffs. I cant imagine the Rams are in the Super Bowl with just Van Jefferson and Ben Skowronek backing up Cooper Kupp, espicially after watching Skowronek absolutely miss a touchdown grab against the 49ers. The mid-season pickup of OBJ saved the season.
Les Snead and Sean McVay. It’s a partnership.
2 - The biggest strength of this LA team is...
Ability to battle through adversity. I’ve mentioned before I’ve seen this in full throttle since the Cardinals game in Arizona when the team went without Ramsey and Higbee due to COVID. Their resilience against the Bucs in the Divisional Round after Tampa tied the game at 27 was another perfect example. They could’ve folded when they fumbled the ball four times or after they blew a 24-point lead, but it was how they battled back on that final drive that showed the character of a championship-caliber team. Also, can we address how much tight end Kendall Blanton embodied this team’s character by catching a season-high five passes for 57 yards in filling in for Higbee? The playoffs as we know are a survival of the fittest and this Rams team is thriving under all that high pressure.
Their leadership. Watching Aaron Donald fire his guys up on the sidelines against the 49ers was something I had not seen from him since he has been a Ram. After that huddle, the Rams defense did not allow a single point and even sealed the deal with an interception. On the offensive side of the ball, both Andrew Whitworth and Matthew Stafford stand out. Whitworth is a coach who just happens to be in pads on game day and Stafford is well respected in the locker room. His leadership shined against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the divisional round of the playoffs. With his team suddenly imploding on themselves, Stafford put an end to the chaos and drove his team down the field in two plays to set up the game winning field goal.
If we’re really getting into the weeds here, I think every organization’s successes and failures start at ownership. Say what you want about Stan Kroenke, he willed this franchise from being the worst in the NFL when he purchased the Rams to reaching the Super Bowl twice in four years simply by saying, “Your goal is to be exciting, you won’t get interference from me.”
It definitely starts there.
It’s the pass rush, hands down.
Seeing the defense rattle Tom Brady and the Bucs puts the wildcard win over the Cardinals in a new light - where it seems the Rams deserve credit more so than Arizona’s own dysfunction. Pressuring Jimmy Garoppolo in the final two minutes forced the big takeaway that ended the 49ers’ season. They will have plenty of opportunities to get after Joe Burrow in the Super Bowl as well.
The coaches’ and players’ resilience. The team hasn’t blinked all season.
3 - If the Rams lose to the Bengals, what is the most significant reason why?
Quarterback play: They didn’t affect Burrow in the pocket all 4 quarters OR Stafford is careless with the football and turns it over.
Being unable to stop Tee Higgins.
I’d expect to see Jalen Ramsey mostly match up with Ja’Marr Chase, and he will slow the rookie down for the most part (see Ramsey versus Justin Jefferson earlier this season). What most worries me is Higgins’ size mismatch, he’s 6-4, over Darious Williams and the Rams’ supporting cast in the secondary. Williams has struggled for the better part of the season, and I’m not sure LA has a way to slow down both Chase and Higgins. It’s a pick your poison scenario.
They don’t stop / shut down Joe Burrow in the fourth quarter.
I think it would be more along the lines of what did the Bengals do right? They have constantly found ways to win in the final moments of the game on some of the biggest stages in football. Do not sleep on Cincinnati, they are here for a reason. Joe Burrow may be young, but there is a confident swagger about him that makes him dangerous against any team.
4 - Are the 2021 LA Rams better than the 2018 team that lost the Super Bowl to New England?
The primary difference between this 2021 team and their 2018 counterparts is that this year’s Rams team is much more multiple and can adjust on the fly. Matthew Stafford and the offense have shown the ability to counterpunch against two-high safety looks. Los Angeles completely switched their defensive approach versus San Francisco and played mostly out of single-high looks. The 2018 team didn’t have those answers and that’s ultimately why they fell short.
One advantage the 2018 team had over the 2021 squad is the strength of the secondary. I think Aqib Talib, Marcus Peters, John Johnson III, Lamarcus Joyner, and Nickell Robey-Coleman were overall better than Ramsey, Williams, Nick Scott, Eric Weddle, and David Long, Jr.
No disrespect intended to 2018, but the 2021 Rams have Matthew Stafford, Von Miller, Odell Beckham, Jr., Leonard Floyd, A’Shawn Robinson, Jalen Ramsey, and this time Cooper Kupp is playing in the Super Bowl. That should override the loss of Robert Woods and the lack of Todd Gurley, Brandin Cooks, etc.
If Todd Gurley was healthy in the Super Bowl, I think this question might be more challenging. The 2021 Rams are absolutely better than the 2018 team and a lot of that is due in part because of their experience. 2018 was Sean McVays first Super Bowl appearance, but now he has the knowledge on how to prepare for NFL’s biggest stage. Aaron Donald is even hungrier after tasting defeat and Stafford instantly makes this team better. Of course, LA did not have Kupp playing in that Super Bowl either.
Yes. The 2018 team didn’t have a consistent run defense. Goff wasn’t an adjuster. The team was missing Kupp. McVay showed he hadn’t been able to solve quarters coverage, so he had less flexibility.
5 - Who will be the MVP of Super Bowl LVI?
Cooper Kupp. He is my MVP pick for the season and he will be the MVP of the Super Bowl. The offense runs through him and there is no way Stafford will not be relying on his safety blanket in the Super Bowl.
LA has played two incredibly stout run defenses in their most recent games, and the Bengals are a big step down in that regard.
I predict that Cam Akers runs for more than 150 yards and has at least two total touchdowns on his way to earning the MVP title for the game. It will be a fitting way to end his emotional return from his off-season Achilles injury.
I have a feeling it’ll be Cooper Kupp. Sure this is more of a quarterback award much like the NFL MVP award, but how could anyone vote against Kupp? I expect him to put up yet another monster performance given that no one has been able to stop him yet this season.
Cooper Kupp. At the conclusion, Kupp will finally get his moment and be awarded MVP on the biggest stage.
I’ll be rooting for Aaron Donald to win Super Bowl MVP.
We will copy the questions in the comments below, so you can share your thoughts ahead of the big game.