INGLEWOOD, Calif. (Reuters) – Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford said the team’s rollercoaster Super Bowl victory mirrored his team’s turbulent season, in which they were forced to overcome adversity every step of the way.
The Rams entered the playoffs as the fourth seed after losing at home in the final game of the regular season, and survived close calls in the playoffs against San Francisco and Tampa Bay before needing a late drive to beat Cincinnati on Sunday.
“That game today is the story of our season,” Stafford said. “It’s up and down, it’s tough. But we’re a freaking tough team who showed up late and got it done.”
The Rams got off to a hot start on Sunday but momentum shifted after wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. left the game in the second quarter with a knee injury.
The Rams fell behind by seven points in the third quarter but rallied as Stafford led a 15-play, 72-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard touchdown pass to Cooper Kupp with less than two minutes remaining for the 23-20 victory.
“That last drive was a special drive, one I’ll never forget,” said Stafford, who completed 26 passes on 40 attempts for 283 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. “So many great plays by so many great players. I’m just so happy to get it done and, I don’t know, I’m speechless.”
Stafford admitted he could not bear to watch the Bengals’ final drive, in which quarterback Joe Burrow had the chance to put the team in field goal range and send it to overtime or win outright with a touchdown.
Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald forced Burrow into throwing an incompletion on fourth down to end the game.
“I couldn’t watch,” Stafford said. “After that fourth-down play, I kind of peeked up, I didn’t know even know it was fourth down to be honest with you.”
The victory is sweet relief for the 34-year-old Stafford, who never won a playoff game in his 12 seasons in Detroit and shouldered the pressure of joining a Rams team desperate for a Super Bowl title last offseason.
(Editing by Gerry Doyle)