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NFC Championship: Rams Overcome 49ers to Reach Super Bowl


Ken Belson

Credit …Ryan Justin Kang for The New York Times

The Los Angeles Rams are headed to the Super Bowl after they held off their division rivals, the San Francisco 49ers, 20-17, in a hard-hitting NFC championship game Sunday.

The Rams, who overcame a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter, were fueled by quarterback Matthew Stafford and receiver Cooper Kupp, who connected on two touchdowns in the game.

“You can’t write this story any better,” Stafford said.

With the victory, the Rams will return to the Super Bowl for the first time since the 2018 season. The Rams, who lost the first two games against the 49ers this season, will face the Cincinnati Bengals, who won the AFC crown by beating Kansas City earlier on Sunday.

The Rams will have home-field advantage because the Super Bowl will be played in SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif.

Credit …Doug Benc / Associated Press

It will also be the first appearance for Stafford, who joined the Rams after a dozen years with the Detroit Lions, where he never won a playoff game.

After blowing a 24-point lead over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week before escaping with victory, the Rams jumped ahead early. But the 49ers went into the locker room ahead 10-7 at halftime and added a touchdown to go up 17-7 in the third quarter.

In the first half, the Rams held the ball far longer and had the more impressive offensive statistics. But they hurt themselves several times. Stafford was picked off as he tried to reach Kupp in the end zone in the first quarter. Rams kicker Matt Gay missed a field goal in the second.

Stafford connected with Kupp for two scores but could have had a touchdown pass on another drive if Kupp and Ben Skowronek had not dropped passes.

In the third quarter, Stafford fell short on a quarterback sneak on fourth-and-1.

Credit …Christian Petersen / Getty Images

The 49ers took advantage on the next drive, which ended with the 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo hitting tight end George Kittle for a 16-yard score and a 17-7 lead with two minutes left in the quarter.

Stafford rallied the Rams on a fast-moving drive that ended with Stafford hitting Kupp for their second touchdown, which cut the deficit to 17-14.

The 49ers made their own missteps. Safety Jaquiski Tart dropped a sure interception of Stafford in the fourth quarter. The Rams ultimately drove downfield and added a field goal to tie the score.