The LA Rams entered the NFC Championship game facing an opponent who they have not defeated in three seasons. Six consecutive games where the LA Rams came up short on the scoreboard. There were blowouts. There were buzzer-beating field goals. There was even a game decided in overtime. But however you sliced, diced, or dissected those games, one thing was clear.
In each loss, the LA Rams made mistakes that cost them the game.
That led to the presumption that to beat the San Francisco 49ers, the LA Rams would need to play a nearly perfect game. Well, the team did that, in Week 18. Well, for nearly a full half of the game at least. But in the end, the LA Rams miscommunicated, gaffed, miscued, and made mistakes once more. But the challenge is that Champions are not the teams that do not fall. Rather, Champions are those who keep getting back up.
And so, we made a pretty bold suggestion. Rather than strive for a perfect game, try to embrace the inevitable errors and learn to stand after they happen? In the game, the Rams most certainly made mistakes. Placekicker Matt Gay, almost a sure thing, missed a field goal. Quarterback Matthew Stafford threw an interception.
Rams raged, and Destiny obliged
Even the LA Rams secondary, long thought to be a strength to the team, was giving up big plays and touchdowns to the 49ers’ top receivers. But when the game seemed out of reach, and the LA Rams were down by 10 points with less than 17:00 to go in regulation time, the Rams did not surrender.
These Rams did not go quietly into the night. They raged. Louder than they had raged all season. As the offense found a way to stitch together a touchdown drive on the football field with TE Kendall Blanton, RB Sony Michel, and WR Cooper Kupp, the defense had a come-to-Jesus meeting around Aaron Donald.
As the Rams offense closed the gap to within three points, the defense was reenergized. No player on the defense wanted to be ‘that guy,’ to drop the ball on teammate Aaron Donald. The 49ers’ offense advanced the football to the LA Rams 45-yard line on the next possession, a drive of 36 yards, before they stalled. But they punted the ball, and the Rams were able to move into position for the tying field goal.
They kept getting back up
In the next series, the Rams held the 49ers’ offense to a five-yard loss (penalty) on three downs, and they punted again. Once more, the Rams offense moved into position to kick a field goal, this time to take the lead.
Of course, the 49ers’ offense would get the ball back once more. This time, the defense shut down the Niners for a loss of three yards before Jimmy Garoppolo threw a desperation pass while in the grasp of Aaron Donald. This time, inside linebacker, Travin Howard, ran underneath and pulled it in for the interception.
The Rams win a very competitive game by three points. Curiously, the Rams did not do so by playing flawlessly. Rather, this time the team got knocked down several times. But each time they did so, they got back up and were stronger.