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After Rams Hold Off Stunning Comeback, Now We're Dreaming Of A Hometown Super Bowl

Von Miller #40 wears a blue and yellow jersey and hold his helmet aloft on the football field.
Von Miller of the Los Angeles Rams reacts after defeating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Divisional Playoff game in Tampa.
(Kevin C. Cox
/
Getty Images)
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Next Sunday, the sheepish Rams — relieved to have won after four critical turnovers — play the San Francisco 49ers at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood for a shot at their fifth trip to the Super Bowl, which will also be at SoFi on Feb. 13.

First a quick recap of how we got here.

Not even a stunning 24-point comeback by future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady could turn the Super Bowl dreams of Rams fans into a collective nightmare Sunday in Tampa.

The Rams beat Brady and the defending Super Bowl champion Buccaneers — 30-27— on a 30-yard field goal by kicker Matt Gay as time ran out.

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It came 46 seconds after the Bucs’ Leonard Fournette ran 9 yards on 4th down for a Tampa touchdown. The extra point tied the game and wiped out the 27-3 lead the Rams had held in the middle of the 3rd quarter. But Rams receiver Cooper Kupp then caught two passes from quarterback Matthew Stafford — the second for 44 yards — to set up Gay’s winning field goal.

***

It has been many years since the Super Bowl was last played on the L.A. area. I remember it well because I covered the last Super Bowl held here for National Public Radio.

It was Jan. 31, 1993, at the Rose Bowl: the Dallas Cowboys and the Buffalo Bills on a sunny shirtsleeve Sunday.

Dedicated fans remember the Cowboys thumping the Bills — 52-17. Casual fans remember Michael Jackson in the first of the spectacular Super Bowl halftime shows.

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I remember the crowd — two crowds actually: the 98,374 fans inside the Rose Bowl, but also what seemed like an even bigger crowd of football diehards at the NFL Experience in Brookside Park, plus stadium security, police, looky-loos, ticket scalpers, every T-shirt vendor in Southern California — and media types like me. So many that we couldn’t all fit in the press box. I ended with a pretty good seat in the stands underneath the press box.

I’ve been to the Rose Bowl for New Year’s Day football, UCLA football, high school football, Olympic soccer, even the Frisbee Finals. I’ve never seen so many people inside and outside the stadium in a giant huddle like that Super Bowl Sunday.

Today, negotiating my way through that crowd would trigger pandemic panic. But I was in a panic back then anyway. Can I shove through this mob before kickoff? Did I pack fresh batteries for my recorder? Do I have enough damn tape CASSETTES?

I won’t face any panic this time; someone else has the NPR Super Bowl assignment. But as a fully vaccinated Rams fan, I might have been willing to endure pandemic panic to cover my team in the Super Bowl in our hometown stadium. It would have been a nice reporting bookend after 29 years.

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Then again, I have a big screen TV, cold beer in the fridge, and a good recipe for chili. And I already ran the Super Bowl crowd gauntlet once —so what’s to prove?

What questions do you have about Southern California?