Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford throws a pass under pressure from the Cincinnati Bengals
Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford throws a pass under pressure from the Cincinnati Bengals during the third quarter of Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium on Sunday.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Recreation & Sports

Rams rally to beat Bengals for first L.A. Super Bowl title, California’s first since Niners in ’95

The Rams overcame a deficit in the final minutes after leading for most of the game to win 23-20 on their home field, the franchise’s first Super Bowl title in Los Angeles.

Throughout their all-in, boom-or-bust season, Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay and his players stuck with a common refrain.

During winning and losing streaks, after comeback victories and embarrassing defeats, they opined that they were authoring their own story, and they intended to finish with a flourish.

On Sunday in Super Bowl LVI, they penned the final chapter. And it was a pulsating finish.

The Rams defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 23-20 before 70,048 at SoFi Stadium to win their first Super Bowl title in Los Angeles. It was the first NFL championship for a California team since the 49ers defeated the San Diego Chargers to win Super Bowl XXIX on Jan. 29, 1995.

The Rams defeated the 49ers on Jan. 30 to win the NFC championship and advance to the Super Bowl.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford passed for three touchdowns and a defense led by Aaron Donald and Von Miller sacked Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow seven times as the Rams became the second consecutive team to win the Super Bowl in their home stadium. Stafford connected on a one-yard touchdown pass to Cooper Kupp with 1:25 left in the fourth quarter for the go-ahead score and the eventual win.

Next season, the Rams will have a chance to become the first team to win consecutive Super Bowl titles since the New England Patriots in 2004 and 2005.

The family of a San Francisco 49ers fan who remains in a coma after being assaulted at SoFi Stadium during last Sunday’s...

But they will savor this championship run, which now establishes the Rams as a force in a Los Angeles sports landscape that includes the Lakers and Dodgers, franchises that have won multiple titles and are embedded in local sports fans psyche.

Six years after returning from St. Louis, a franchise that played its first game in Los Angeles in 1946 won the NFL title. And three years after he was schooled by New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick in Super Bowl LIII, Rams coach Sean McVay cemented himself in history by leading his team to a win over Bengals coach Zac Taylor, a former Rams assistant.

The star-studded Rams began the season with a mandate to play in a Super Bowl that was played in owner Stan Kroenke’s $5 billion stadium. General manager Les Snead and McVay assembled a roster full of All-Pros and future Hall of Famers.

The foundation was there — with stars such as Donald drafted in 2014, lineman Andrew Whitworth and injured receiver Robert Woods signed shortly after McVay was hired in 2017, receiver Cooper Kupp drafted in 2017, and a 2019 trade for star cornerback Jalen Ramsey.

But with the biggest spectacle in American sports coming to Kroenke’s gleaming new palace, Snead and McVay went into overdrive. They traded for Stafford before the season, traded for Miller and signed Beckham during the season and signed star safety Eric Weddle out of retirement before the playoffs.

All played key roles Sunday, as did less-heralded players such as linebacker Ernest Jones, tight end Brycen Hopkins and defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson.

Stafford, who toiled for 12 seasons in Detroit and never won a playoff game, answered all the questions about his ability to win when it counted most. He led the Rams to playoff wins over the Arizona Cardinals, the defending Super Bowl-champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers and, on the one-year anniversary of the blockbuster deal that brought him to the Rams, the rival San Francisco 49ers.

He was especially clutch against the Buccaneers, engineering a game-winning drive in the final 42 seconds to out-Brady Tom Brady, beat the Buccaneers and send Brady into retirement with a defeat.

Stafford completed 26 of 40 passes for 283 yards and three touchdowns, with two interceptions.

Kupp caught eight passes for 92 yards and two touchdowns.

Burrow completed 22 of 33 passes for yards and one touchdown.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.