Los Angeles Rams: Road to Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta
By Owen Davis
Last Updated: 29/01/19 3:30pm
It has been 17 years since the Rams last reached the Super Bowl. Then playing in St Louis, they fell to a 20-17 to the New England Patriots, losing by a field goal as time expired. Now, they are finally back again, and facing familiar foes.
As everyone knows, that win marked the start of the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady dynasty in New England, the duo ever-present as the Pats have gone on to win another four Vince Lombardi trophies.
But the Rams now have the chance to avenge that defeat, and they have a great chance. With 32-year-old head coach Sean McVay at the helm, the Rams have become one of the league's most formidable teams, and a tough matchup for any team - five Super Bowls or not.
So how did they get here? Watch the video above to track some of their season highs and lows, while we take you through the Rams' journey below...
What went right?
The Rams came flying out of the gate and won their opening eight games, their best start since 1969.
Their Week Nine loss to the New Orleans Saints was a setback, as it eventually denied them the No 1 playoff seed in the NFC, but they continued to impress, the highlight being a stunning 54-51 win over the Kansas City Chiefs in quite possibly the greatest game ever played. They finished with a 13-3 record, tied for the best in the league.
In that time, Sean McVay has established himself as one of the leagues best coaches, building an offense that has turned the franchise around. Veteran defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who won Super Bowl 50 on the Denver Broncos coaching staff, too has done an excellent job, while General Manger Les Snead deserves credit for assembling a star-studded roster. It has been a long project for him, having followed the team from St Louis where he drafted Aaron Donald and Todd Gurley.
The biggest positive has been their playoff success. The Rams looked equally exciting in the regular season last year, but didn't make any impact in the postseason. Their wins over the Dallas Cowboys and on the road in New Orleans have proven that they are ready again for the biggest stage of them all, the Super Bowl.
How to watch Super Bowl LIII
Follow all the action of Super Bowl LIII between the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams with Sky Sports!
What went wrong?
Not much, though there have been some concerns. The first was their record against the top teams, as they suffered that mid-season loss to the Saints, and latterly successive defeats against the Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles. But, ultimately, it's hard to argue with a 13-3 record.
Injuries have also been a worry. The season-ending loss of go-to slot receiver Cooper Kupp - who had scored six touchdowns in eight games - after an ACL tear in Week 11 was massive. His absence sparked a mini offensive slump which was keenly felt in those games against Chicago and Philadelphia.
Even more importantly, Todd Gurley missed the last two regular season games due to a knee injury and looked to be hampered during the NFC Championship game. While C.J. Anderson has been outstanding filling in, the Rams desperately need Gurley at full strength against the Patriots.
Perhaps another question mark is the form of Jared Goff. He was excellent at the start of the year but struggled towards the end of the regular season. He has been reliable in the playoffs, but is he good enough to win a Super Bowl?
While it is tempting to lean towards touchdown machine Todd Gurley (21, leading the league), the often-undervalued Aaron Donald has been the Rams' best player this season.
There is a reason that Donald was given the richest defensive deal in league history last year, a contract to the tune of six years and $135m. The defensive tackle has posted a league-leading 20.5 sacks, a record for his position. Add to that his skills as a run stopper and he has proven himself undoubtedly as the best lineman in football.
It is no wonder Bill Belichick described him as 'unblockable', and his ability to get to Tom Brady will be vital to the Rams' Super Bowl success.
After last year's Wild Card exit, the pressure was on for the Rams to take the next step and win a postseason game. A divisional round clash with the defensively-sound Dallas Cowboys was not an easy proposition, but the Rams were up to the task, with Anderson and Gurley running riot on the ground as they combined for 238 yards and three scores.
The NFC Championship game saw the Rams travel to Louisiana for a rematch with the Saints. Despite injury concerns surrounding Gurley, the Rams showed true championship grit as they fought back from 13-0 down. Goff made some crucial plays, while kicker Greg Zuerlein showed laser accuracy with his field goals.
The Rams did, however, benefit from an extremely controversial no call from officials on a blatant pass interference penalty late in the game which would likely have given the Saints the victory. Instead, the game went to overtime tied up at 20-20.
John Jackson then picked off Drew Brees, and Zuerlein powered a field goal through from 57 yards. The NFC Championship was won.
Super Bowl pedigree
This is the Rams' fourth Super Bowl trip as a franchise. Their first came at Super Bowl XIV after the 1979 season, while also representing the city of Los Angeles, but they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-19 in front of a record crowd of 103,000.
They had to wait a while - 20 years, in fact - for their next trip, though it was successful one. This time representing St Louis, 'The Greatest Show on Turf' won Super Bowl XXXIV in Atlanta, stopping the Tennessee Titans on the last play in what went down in NFL lore as 'One Yard Short'.
Their last appearance was in Super Bowl XXVI in 2002, a classic against the Patriots of all teams. That loss, in which Adam Vinatieri won the game for Patriots with the final kick, heralded a perennial playoff wilderness for the Rams. In the time between that game and this year, they won just one postseason game, while the Patriots have been to seven further Super Bowls, winning four more of them.
A Super Bowl is always sweet, but for the Rams, a revenge win over the Patriots could be the sweetest of all.
Watch Super Bowl LIII between the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams live on Sky Sports USA (channel 407) from 10pm on Sunday, February 3.