The 2018 NFL season was alleged to be the 12 months the Los Angeles Rams gained all of it.
All of the items have been in place – reigning coach of the 12 months Sean McVay, contemporary off taking the league by storm as a rookie bench boss one 12 months earlier; offensive and defensive pillars like Todd Gurley and Brandon Cooks, Aaron Donald and Marcus Peters and John Johnson have been of their prime; and younger quarterback Jared Goff had simply been named to his second straight Professional Bowl and was about to return into some huge cash because the positive way forward for this membership.
Sure, this was the 12 months.
After which Tremendous Bowl LIII began. It … didn’t go properly.
Three years later, they’re again within the Tremendous Bowl – and internet hosting the massive sport as well. And we’re again to believing that this 12 months is the 12 months.
Final spring, the membership despatched Goff to Detroit with a pair of first-round picks for a stronger arm in Matthew Stafford. Cooper Kupp gained the lottery with that commerce, whereas the Rams gained the Odell Beckham Jr. sweepstakes mid-season to make the receiving group even scarier. The deep secondary is now led by Jalen Ramsey, Aaron Donald’s received a brand new BFF in Von Miller, and whereas McVay’s teaching workers has been picked aside and rebuilt just a few instances over as groups seek for the following younger offensive thoughts, the brains behind this playbook stay a few of the sport’s brightest.
Sure, that is the 12 months.
THE STORY OF THE SEASON: HOW THE RAMS REACHED SUPER BOWL LVI
Cincinnati’s Cinderella story was made for Hollywood, however L.A.’s was made in Hollywood – full with the brilliant lights, huge stars, and positively some drama in there, too.
Ever since Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hoisted the Lombardi Trophy on house soil final February, the warmth has been on L.A. to do the identical at SoFi. It’s been Tremendous Bowl or bust ever since, and each transfer made – and draft decide dealt – has been accomplished with that sparkly trophy in thoughts.
Touchdown Matthew Stafford in a blockbuster commerce with Detroit was the primary and largest step, and the previous Lion wasted no time answering questions on whether or not or not he might thrive within the highlight. He accomplished 20 of 26 passes for 321 yards and three touchdowns with out an interception in Week 1 and his prime targets that sport — Kupp, Van Jefferson, Tyler Higbee, Robert Woods — all noticed vital motion. MVP buzz was already flying, and McVay was downright giddy. A press release win over Brady and the Buccaneers in Week 3 instructed us these Rams have been for actual, and people MVP conversations shortly began to increase to Kupp, who’d gone from secret weapon to absolute star due to a robust reference to Stafford.
After all, the season was not with out its hiccups. The 12 months began on a low observe with the lack of beginning operating again Cam Akers, who suffered an Achilles damage and left Rams administration scrambling to commerce for Sony Michel from New England.
The month of November ended the group’s honeymoon section, with the Rams going 0-3 and shedding receiver Woods for the rest of the season. However it additionally introduced some highs, within the type of buying and selling for Miller and touchdown Beckham Jr., whose dramatic exit from Cleveland couldn’t have come at a extra good time.
As star-studded a roster as L.A. boasted, although, there had been a way all 12 months this was a group that lacked resilience and couldn’t win these grind-it-out video games each season brings once in a while. That a lot was clear when it got here to conferences with their California divisional rivals in San Francisco, to whom they misplaced twice this 12 months … once more.
May they win when it actually counted? That was the massive query that saved rising. And within the Divisional spherical towards Tampa Bay and the Convention Championship versus these 49er foes, we lastly received our reply. Stafford’s highlight retains on shining.
THREE KEYS TO VICTORY
1. Aaron Donald
There’s no manner you’ve survived a full NFL season and playoff slate with out listening to concerning the porous state of the Bengals’ offensive line, however we’ll add to the refrain right here. Joe Burrow was the most-sacked quarterback within the common season (51) and has been introduced down 12 instances in these playoffs alone. That he nonetheless managed to propel the Bengals to the Tremendous Bowl is a testomony to his expertise and the weapons round him. Whereas Donald is undoubtedly the most important risk to interrupt by means of the road each snap, it’s not simply him. Efficiently cease Donald, and also you’ve left Miller free to wreak havoc. Or Leonard Floyd. We noticed, simply final 12 months, what occurs when a star quarterback is left to run for his life on soccer’s greatest stage and it wasn’t fairly.
2. Sean McVay 2.0
Three years in the past, when McVay was the shiny new teaching crush of the soccer world, he introduced vivid concepts and a inventive offensive strategy to L.A. that took them to the Tremendous Bowl. Now, he’s nonetheless received all that — and he’s received the expertise of shedding, too. Whereas a part of the enjoyable of Cincinnati’s run is their inexpertise, the worth of understanding what to anticipate from the sport’s greatest stage shouldn’t be underestimated. It’s not simply concerning the sport, it’s about every thing main as much as it – the feelings, the heightened stress. Having an skilled coach to information a group by means of that may very well be the distinction between hoisting the trophy and leaving with heartbreak.
3. The Stafford-Kupp connection, and the OBJ conundrum
There’s no doubting the Bengals’ defence has been underestimated all season, and it has actually come to minimize the stretch and into the playoffs. However towards the Rams’ multi-faceted offence, we will anticipate some troubles. Kupp has been an absolute revelation in L.A., gathering triple-crown honours because the league chief in catches, yards, and TDs by means of the air. Decide to double-coverage on him, and also you’ve nonetheless received star receiver Beckham to fret about. Or Higbee. Or the underrated weapon that’s Jefferson. This matchup has elite weapons, and loads of them, on each side of the ball. The Rams’ move defence has struggled all season, rating twenty second, and with the dynamic Ja’Marr Chase coming to city it looks like the important thing to stopping the Bengals might be to maintain up with them — or, higher but, set the tempo.