The Los Angeles Rams faced a lot of adversity this season. From doubters holding out on Matthew Stafford, to a mid-season losing streak to be forgotten, to limping into the playoffs after losing to the San Francisco 49ers, the Rams have had a season that ran the gamut. However, when they needed a win the most, they were able to deliver. As a result, they are the last team standing in the NFC. That said, some players had a night that hurt, despite being a part of history. Here are the winners and losers of the NFC Championship game.
Los Angeles Rams Winners And Losers: NFC Conference Championship
Granted, Matthew Stafford’s goal-line interception was far from inspiring. However, once he got that one out of his system, he was exactly the player he was expected to be in place of Jared Goff. Whereas Goff likely would have thrown the early interception and played down to the 49ers for the rest of the contest, Stafford clawed his way back into the game in a way he failed to do so against the 49ers at the end of the season. This grants evidence that the quarterback will continue to grow in Sean McVay’s system. Remember, this is the first year for Stafford in this system. Next season, he will be even more comfortable. However, before next season begins, he has to finish this one. With the win, Stafford is one-for-one in Super Bowl appearances per season under Sean McVay.
Cooper Kupp has more yards in a single season than any other wide receiver in NFL history if one includes the regular season and postseason. Despite setting the record last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Kupp has kept his foot to the floor. The wide receiver caught 11 more passes for 142 more yards and two touchdowns. With yet another game to play, Kupp could put the record out of reach for a long time, based on how he is annihilating the old record.
He currently has earned 2,333 yards in 20 games, 366 more yards than the next closest receiver. According to Stat Muse, Larry Fitzgerald earned 1,977 yards in 20 games. With another game, Kupp is in the range of 2,500 total receiving yards. To reach that total, he needs 167 yards. Last week, Kupp had a game that eclipsed that, so history shows it is in range.
Von Miller’s last time in a Super Bowl was at the end of 2015 when he faced Cam Newton. A lot has happened since then and not many expected Miller to get back to the big dance ever again. Of course, one trade to the correct team changed that. Miller is back in the Super Bowl. Will he put on a performance reminiscent of what he did against Cam Newton? If the Rams win and Miller has a big game, he will have an opportunity to walk away on top like his old quarterback Peyton Manning did. Would Miller go through with that? Von is only 32, so highly unlikely. No matter what he decides, he needs to get through this game first.
Odell Beckham Jr.
Within the last month, Odell Beckham Jr. has had his fair share of highs and lows. However, the wide receiver put on arguably his best game of the season against the San Francisco 49ers. Against the 49ers, Beckham had nine receptions for 113 yards, averaging 12.6 yards per catch. To beat the Cincinnati Bengals, the Rams will need him to put on a similar performance. Joe Burrow has beaten the doubters to this point, and a Philadelphia Eagles-style underdog run has materialized. As such, Burrow could follow in Nick Foles‘ footsteps and put on a clinic through the air in the Super Bowl. If this happens, it will be up to Beckham to pick up any slack to keep the Rams in the game.
In terms of total offense, Tyler Higbee was a non-factor in this game, but this was primarily due to an early exit with an injury. Adam Schefter reported it being an MCL injury on Twitter. Of course, Tom Brady was famous for playing through such an injury last season all the way to the Super Bowl. Higbee could be attempting to do the same. Having two weeks to recover will be a crucial factor helping his chances. If he can overcome the injury and put together a surprisingly explosive game, he could erase a rather forgettable game in the championship in which he caught just two passes for 18 yards.
Another pass-catching player that was effectively minimized was Van Jefferson. This year, the wide receiver has been essentially a trivia question for the entire playoffs. Aside from a 41-yard completion way back in the wide card, Jefferson has struggled in the playoffs this season, which is the biggest black eye on what has otherwise been an encouraging second season. Against the 49ers, he caught two of five targets for nine yards. Put simply, he needs to do better.