The game was not tight for most of the day: the Rams hit a field goal to take a 3-0 lead on their first drive, rapidly expanded the advantage to 10-0, and were ahead 20-3 at halftime. When the score was 27-3 in the third quarter, there appeared to be little doubt that the Rams would win.
Surprisingly, the Buccaneers rallied and tied the game at 27-27. Unfortunately for them, a career-defining drive by Matthew Stafford put the Rams in field-goal range.
In the closing moments, Stafford connected with Cooper Kupp with a long ball, setting up a game-winning field goal, and the Rams triumphed 30-27.
Last defining moments from Stafford
Stafford passed for 366 yards and two touchdowns without a mistake, and the Rams’ greatest offseason addition set up Matt Gay’s 30-yard field goal as the clock expired with a pair of long completions to NFL receiving leader Cooper Kupp.
“Man, I’m still trying to process everything. That was a crazy game,” linebacker Von Miller stated shortly after the win over the defending Super Bowl champions.
Cooper Kupp today:
That’s the most receiving yards by a Rams player in a playoff game since the Super Bowl era. pic.twitter.com/eQzIjbWvCc
— StatMuse (@statmuse) January 23, 2022
“I knew it was going to come down to the end. All the times that I’ve played Tom Brady, it always comes down to the end. No lead that we had was safe. I’m so proud of these guys. Everybody’s name was called and everybody answered the bell,” he added.
Brady pulled the Bucs from a 27-3 second-half hole with the help of three of the Rams’ four fumbles, tying the game with 42 seconds left on Leonard Fournette’s 9-yard run on fourth-and-inches.
Earlier in the second quarter, Stafford found Kupp wide open behind the Bucs secondary on a 70-yard scoring play that put Los Angeles up 17-3.
Stafford’s quarterback sneak helped the Rams extend their advantage to 27-3, with the Buccaneers making some unusual mistakes along the way.
Matthew Stafford on leading a game-winning drive:
"Steal somebody's soul. That's what it feels like sometimes where they're sitting there going, 'Man, we just had this great comeback,' and you get to reach in there and take it from them. That's a whole lot of fun."
— Stu Jackson (@StuJRams) January 24, 2022
Unsportsmanlike conduct penalties were issued to defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh for taunting, as well as Brady, who was flagged while unsuccessfully appealing for what he felt should have been a penalty on the Rams for a hit that seemed to bloody his lip.
Stafford, acquired in a trade that brought Jared Goff to Detroit in the summer, led the Rams downfield after the subsequent kickoff, completing passes of 20 and 44 yards to Kupp to set up Gay’s third field goal of the day.
“What an interesting game, what an amazing sign of resilience,” Rams coach Sean McVay stated. “A lot of things didn’t go our way in the second half, but guys kept battling and found a way.”
A last-second field goal decided the game for the third time in three games this weekend. And it’s the Rams who are on their way to the NFC Championship Game this time.