This Sunday, the Los Angeles Rams will march into Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta to take on Tom Brady and the big, bad New England Patriots.
While Bill Belichick’s squad has been the class of the NFL for the past two decades — entering its ninth Super Bowl with a fist-full of championship rings — Sean McVay and co. represent quite the opposite.
Of the 53 players on the Rams’ roster, four have played in the Big Game. Multiply that by nine and you’d get the number of players on the Patriots’ roster who have been there before.
If Los Angeles wins, McVay, 33, will become the youngest coach to ever win a Super Bowl. If the Patriots win, Belichick will become the oldest at 66. Additionally, the 17 years between Brady and the Rams’ Jared Goff is the largest age disparity ever between starting quarterbacks in a Super Bowl.
The difference in experience between the two teams is overwhelming. Yet despite the Rams’ youth, the stage won’t be too big. They won’t crack under pressure, and they certainly won’t be intimidated by the Patriots’ past dominance.
While most teams might fold in the face of the task ahead, the Rams won’t. They’re creative, fireproof, resilient, battle-tested and even lucky when they need to be.
Creative? Most definitely.
When Stan Kroenke moved his team from St. Louis back to its rightful home before the 2016 season, it was welcomed back with a honeymoon phase. Fans flocked to see professional football in the historic LA Memorial Coliseum for the first time in 20 years.
However, in the City of Angels, no one cares about you if you’re not winning. People stopped coming and seats were left empty. The following offseason, Rams’ General Manager Les Snead hired the youngest coach in NFL history in McVay, a creative move that was a huge leap forward toward success.
Fireproof and resilient? Without a doubt.
In November, when large wildfires broke out near the Rams practice facility in Thousand Oaks, the team was forced to prepare elsewhere for its scheduled Mexico City game against Kansas City. Then, just five days before the contest, the NFL moved it to Los Angeles. At the same time, players and staff mourned with their community, which had just witnessed the horrors of the Borderline Bar mass shooting.
The Rams seized this extra home game as an opportunity to pay homage to their city as many residents suffered in the wake of these tragedies. Employing the slogan “LA Together,” they dedicated the game to first responders and victims of the nightclub shooting, and in poetic fashion, came away with a nailbiter win in what was arguably the best game of the NFL regular season.
Battle-tested and just a bit lucky? For sure.
Just under two weeks ago, the Rams escaped with a win in New Orleans in one of the closest NFC Championship games in recent memory. Down 13-0 after the first quarter, facing off against not only the Saints’ skilled team, but also their hostile crowd, the Rams rallied back to bring their deficit to just a mere three points as the first half ended.
Then, after trailing by 10 in the second half, they found a way to tie the score twice in the final six minutes of regulation and send the game to overtime. In the extra period, Saints quarterback Drew Brees threw a costly interception, which ultimately set up Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein to knock down his fourth field goal of the game, a 57-yard bomb that sent LA to the Super Bowl.
So where does the luck fit in? Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman was fortunate that the refs missed an obvious pass interference call that likely would’ve allowed the Saints to run out the clock and kick a game-winning field goal in regulation.
Though the team was certainly lucky to get away with that penalty, the Rams’ win was no fluke. They still had to find a way to tie the game with little time remaining, and indisputably earned the victory in OT with an interception and deep kick to seal the deal. Dare I mention the missed calls that hurt the Rams late in regulation, including a botched facemask call near the goal line that likely cost LA four late-game points?
Sure, when picking a winner for Sunday’s title bout, the Patriots’ experience and past dominance is appealing, but there’s just something about these Rams. Who would’ve thought they’d be one win away from an NFL championship after that 4-12 season two years ago?
If the story of the Rams’ revival and spectacular season is evidence enough, they’ll be leaving Atlanta with their second franchise Super Bowl title.
Here’s to hoping for a championship parade in the streets of L.A. next week.