How Matthew Stafford helped lead Rams to Super Bowl LVI in first season with L.A.

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. — A few minutes after the confetti flurried around Matthew Stafford at his new home Sunday night, and it began to sink in that he was going to the Super Bowl, he started thinking of how ridiculous and incredible this situation with the Rams has been. And how lucky he is that he went on vacation in Mexico a year ago.

A year ago, at this very moment.

True story: The trade between the Lions and Rams, spawned when Stafford and Rams coach Sean McVay met (by chance, they both insist) at a resort while vacationing, happened quite literally a year ago this night—the same night Stafford was digesting that he was finally going to play in the game he’d always dreamed of playing.

Agreement to send Stafford from Detroit to the Rams for Jared Goff and picks and money: Jan. 30, 2021, 6:45 p.m. Pacific Time.

Confetti landing on Stafford at Randy Newman’s “I Love LA” blared at SoFi Stadium: Jan. 30, 2022, 6:45 p.m. Pacific Time.

“It’s crazy,” Stafford told me in between hugs with euphoric teammates in a hallway outside the Rams’ locker room. “I mean, crazy. It’s a story that, to this day, I feel like a lot of people still can’t believe.

“Sometimes, still, I can’t believe it. And now this.”

Pause. Stafford is a practiced interviewee, but the weird irony of this moment might make the most programmed person pause.

“I never thought that was ever gonna happen, not in a hundred years.”

That’s the kind of Championship Sunday it was. Not in a hundred years. How about 100 days? Who could have envisioned a Bengals-Rams Super Bowl as the season neared the halfway point in late October? One hundred days ago, who would have predicted:

• Cincinnati, losers to the Jets in Week 8, would be AFC champions?

• Von Miller, languishing in Denver, would be dealt to L.A. at the trade deadline, and end up in the Super Bowl?

• Odell Beckham Jr., scorned in Cleveland, would be dumped by the Browns in November and turn out to be a key piece to the McVay offense, and end up in his first Super Bowl?

• A rookie kicker, Evan McPherson, who missed two field goals in an overtime loss to Green Bay, just a guy in midseason, would go 4-for-4 in all three playoff games and kick Cincinnati to its first Super Bowl in 34 years?

• Football’s current jewel franchise, Kansas City, would flop around at home and lose the AFC title game to a team that hadn’t played in one in three decades, to a team KC’s Frank Clark called “the best team and smartest team” in Arrowhead? The Cincinnati Bengals.

 

It might take a few days for Midwesterners to digest this one: Matthew Stafford is going to the Super Bowl. His quarterbacking foe will be Cincinnati savior Joe Burrow, the quarterback who lost the Ohio State starting quarterback job to Dwayne Haskins less than four years ago.

Yes, this is a weird one. Weird, but quite compelling.


Oddities:

The NFL never had a home Super Bowl team for 54 Super Bowls. Now we’ve seen two in a row: Tampa Bay last year, the Rams this year.

Never has a Super Bowl featured such low seeds. Cincinnati (13-7) and L.A. (15-5) are both four seeds, and this is the first Super Bowl since the NFL went to 12 playoffs teams in 1990 that two teams below the third seed have met. It’s a sign of what this season was like, really. Just as we couldn’t see the Bengals in this game in midseason, we also couldn’t see the Ravens losing their last six, Miami finishing 8-1 and firing its coach, Sean Payton walking away from the creation he built in New Orleans, and Tom Brady verging on retirement. Just an odd year.

The Lead: Rams

Another oddity: Matthew Stafford never won a playoff game in 12 seasons in Detroit. Now he’s won three in 20 days. I am not prescient on reading looks on people’s faces, but when I looked in Stafford’s eyes last night, I am sure I saw relief.

There was so much on the line for the Rams here, and it started one year ago last night, when a Rams delegation (GM Les Snead, COO Kevin Demoff and VP/Football Administration Tony Pastoors) got on a Zoom call with a Lions delegation to work out details of a Goff-for-Stafford trade. Stafford quietly had gone to the Lions begging for his freedom after 12 years of bad teams there, and the Lions quietly acceded to his request, and now it was matter of finding a deal that worked for both teams. McVay and Stafford and partners saw each other at a Mexican resort, and the men started talking football, and the next thing they knew, they wanted to be football-wed.

Was it the truth that it was a coincidental meeting in Mexico? Totally unplanned?

“One hundred percent,” Stafford reiterated Sunday night. All innocent, he meant.

New Lions GM Brad Holmes had other suitors for Stafford—Carolina, Washington, Chicago, New England (sort of), so the offer would have to be good. The Rams made it very good, and the deal got done, and there was a weird feeling of satisfaction and grim relief, because it was clear McVay had lost confidence in Goff.

“I mean, it’s two weeks after the season, and it’s totally unexpected,” Demoff said Sunday night. “We’re trading the quarterback who led us to the Super Bowl, the face of our franchise, the first big decision we made after our move to L.A. That night, it started the all-in narrative for us.”

The Rams play the 49ers in the NFC Championships.
Rams coach Sean McVay and Stafford. (Getty Images)

The Rams won a playoff game last year with Goff. Trading him meant they thought they could win more than just a playoff game. They thought they could win it all.

This is a different franchise than the other 31. But it is not a senseless franchise, just because it trades first-round picks the way the rest of us change socks. The outside world sees trading second- and third-round picks for a declining Von Miller, and trading two ones and a three plus Goff, plus money thrown in, for Stafford, who’d never won a playoff game or a division title in 12 Detroit years, and thinks it’s the most live-for-today team in recent football history. It might be, but hear them out.

“We’ve had the second-most draft choices in the league since Sean took over as coach,” Demoff said. “We just haven’t had them in the first round. We draft [Penn State safety] Nick Scott in the seventh round in 2019 as mostly a special teams player. When we draft guys in lower rounds, the goal is not to have them come in right away and play; it’s to train them so at some point they’re more than special-teams guys—they’ve got a chance to be key players.”

Scott’s a perfect example. With Covid and injuries battering the Rams in December, he started to see more playing time at safety, not just in the kicking game. He’s started all three playoff games, and last week in Tampa, he made one of the big plays of the season for the Rams, intercepting Tom Brady on the way to L.A.’s 19-16 win. Another six-tackle day Sunday helped the Rams get to the Super Bowl.

This game was loud, throughout. It looked to be about 55-45 San Francisco fans, but the odd thing was that it seemed the crowds were in competition with each other. Rams fans wanted to out-decibel Niners fans, and vice versa. “We’re going to kick their ass,” one 49ers fans in a BOSA 97 jersey said to me in my hotel lobby Sunday. “I mean, we’re gonna show them what team is taking over this stadium.” Neither team did—it was deafening throughout, by both sides. Such is what happens when fans of a team with Super Bowl tradition, the 49ers, can travel to see a big game at a beautiful new stadium.

McVay did a good job figuring out how to win this game. He knew he’d have to put it in Stafford’s hands, and he was comfortable doing that. It was fitting that the man McVay was dying to get on his team was the guy the coach used to the max in the biggest game of the year. Stafford threw 24 passes in the first half and 21 in the second, and he was more efficient as the game went on.

Cooper Kupp and Odell Beckham Jr., played great games, and the Rams’ decision to go get Beckham in November paid off beautifully here. Kupp has been the dominant receiver in the NFL this year; no player in history, in fact, has had the combined regular- and post-season run that Kupp has had, with 170 catches for 2,333 yards in 20 games. But Beckham (nine catches, 113 yards) was every bit as important as Kupp. Once and for all, Beckham has proven at 29 that he’s not washed up. Whatever happened in Cleveland has stayed in Cleveland, and Beckham is happier than he’s ever been as a pro. “Everything here is done right,” Beckham said after this game.

NFC Championship - San Francisco 49ers v Los Angeles Rams
Rams receiver Odell Beckham and 49ers cornerback Ambry Thomas. (Getty Images)

The Niners looked to be on the way to their seventh straight win over the Rams when they took a 17-7 lead entering the fourth quarter. But then Stafford and his receivers made the plays that ended up winning the game. Finishing up a 75-yard drive with a classic McVay call got the game close. With 13:35 left, McVay called for a formation that lined up three receivers in a triangle-bunch to the left. Kupp, in the lower right, did a classic Kupp thing. He shaked-and-baked against a veteran corner, K’Waun Williams, used the fog of the three-receiver set to create confusion for the secondary, and …

“To be honest with you,” Stafford said, “San Francisco did a great job of masking some coverage there. We got a coverage that we probably didn’t think we were gonna get. But we got it. Cooper and I both recognized the coverage as the ball was snapped. He ran an unbelievable route, getting off his guy right after coming off the line. And when I saw him, that’s just … that’s chemistry. That’s us spending time together. We spend so much time together talking about football, talking about opportunities that might come up in a game. That’s how that play worked.”

Kupp got a step-and-a-half on Williams, and Stafford’s throw to the left side of the end zone was perfect. That made it 17-14. Stafford alternated between Kupp and Beckham on the tying and winning field-goal drives. McVay praised Beckham for his smarts after the game, and his work with Stafford to become a co-favorite receiver alongside the brilliant Kupp for Stafford. But what impressed me in this game was Beckham’s toughness. He took a brutal helmet-to-helmet shot from Niners safety Jimmie Ward while make a great catch along the left sideline with 9:47 left, and he just shook it off and looked unaffected by it. Those things don’t go unnoticed by teammates … or coaches.

So now the Rams stay home for the Super Bowl, and their quarterback gets one more shot to prove this was the smartest trade of the McVay/Snead Era. Of all the storylines entering the season, one huge one was this: Is Stafford as good as the quarterback gurus all say he is, and will he finally prove it with a strong cast around him?

Stafford, after a 3-0 playoff run with one turnover in 12 quarters, is trending in the right direction. And you could tell in the mayhem of the Rams’ postgame thrillride he was loving it.

“Sure, I’ve dreamed about this,” Stafford told me. “I’ve loved football for a long time. Now it’s coming true—and now we’ve got a chance to go out there and win the Super Bowl. It’s a pretty unebelievable thing.”

Read more in Peter King’s full Football Morning in America column

Super Bowl food 2023: Appetizer, entrée, and dessert ideas for Super Bowl LVII inspired by the Eagles and Chiefs

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As the countdown continues toward Super Bowl LVII, the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs are getting their game plans set. But while they go over their plays, the rest of America goes over their menus in preparation for the big day. When it comes to the Super Bowl, everything is always the best — the best teams, the best performers and, of course, the best food.

But how can you impress your party in the kitchen while showing support for your favorite team? Let’s take a look at some iconic food from each of the Super Bowl team cities to prepare for Super Bowl LVII.

RELATED: What to know about Super Bowl LVII: Date, location, how to watch

Philadelphia Super Bowl food

Crabfries

Why have plain old fries when you could have crabfries? That’s exactly what Pete Ciarrocchi, the CEO of the legendary Philadelphia restaurant Chickie and Pete’s, said one day when creating this intriguing concoction.

While the name may be misleading, crabfries do not contain any actual crab, but rather a blend of spices and Old Bay seasoning that allow the dish to take on a subtle seafood flavor. Topped with a creamy, cheesy dipping sauce, the crinkle-cut fries are sure to take your taste buds to the next level.

Cheesesteak sloppy joes

It simply isn’t Philly without a cheesesteak. Keep it casual in your kitchen on Super Bowl Sunday with Katie Lee Biegel’s Philly Cheesesteak sloppy joes, an easy way to rep the Birds.

Can’t get enough of the cheesesteak? Bring some more Philly specials to the table with this cheesesteak dip, the perfect way to amp up your appetizer game and leave party guests feeling like they just took a trip to the City of Brotherly Love.

RELATED: Rob Gronkowski predicts Eagles to win Super Bowl LVII

Water ice

Is the action of the game heating up? Cool down with a classic Philly treat, water ice. First originating in Bensalem, Pennsylvania in 1984, the icy dessert is now sold in over 600 stores nationwide. The original Rita’s Water Ice shop, however, still remains open for business.

You can even show a little extra passion for the Birds by whipping up this green apple variation, sure to leave you refreshed and ready for the Lombardi.

Kansas City Super Bowl food

Cheese slippers

If you’re looking for a classy, yet authentic appetizer to bring to the table, there’s no better fit than the cheese slipper. This ciabatta loaf baked with melty cheeses and topped with seasonal vegetables and herbs has Kansas City natives hooked.

While the bread is typically baked to perfection by local shops, test your own skill level with this gourmet slipper bread recipe that you can complete with the mouth-watering toppings of your choice.

RELATED: How many Super Bowls have the Chiefs been to, won?

BBQ burnt ends

It’s rare to hear the words Kansas City without barbeque following short after. If you’re looking to impress your guests with your Super Bowl food spread, get out to the grill and start showing off.

While many cities in America know how to cook up some excellent BBQ, the combination of the sweet flavors and mouth-watering sauce has made Kansas City a hub for barbeque lovers for decades.

BBQ burnt ends, while a bit time-consuming, are  well worth a little elbow grease. The dish is also one of the few in Kansas City with a distinct origin story. The meal first found its creation at Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque, a legendary African American restaurant in KC. Bryant originally made the burnt ends from the trimmings of pork belly, but since then, BBQ lovers have made incredible bites out of many styles of meat.

And if you’re feeling extra ambitious, try fixing up some classic Kansas City sides to pair with your entrée to perfection.

RELATED: What to know about Rihanna, the Super Bowl LVII halftime performer

Chiefs chocolate chip cookies

While there is no specific dessert that defines the Heart of America, you can still show your Kansas City pride with these ever-colorful Chiefs chocolate chip cookies.

Make sure to have your food dye handy, because the red and yellow hue of these cookies are sure to show everyone whose side you are on.

Or, if you’re feeling artistic, design an eye-catching Chiefs jersey out of the fan-favorite rice krispie treats. Whether you make Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce or Chris Jones, you’ll have the tastiest Super Bowl jerseys around.

How to watch the Super Bowl 2023 – Philadelphia Eagles vs Kansas City Chiefs:

Check out ProFootballTalk for more on the 2023 NFL Playoffs as well as game previews, picks, recaps, news, rumors and more. 

How to watch Super Bowl 2023: TV channel, live stream info, start time, halftime show, and more

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Super Bowl 2023 takes place on Sunday, February 12 at 6:30 PM ET at State Farm Stadium–home of the Arizona Cardinals–in Glendale, Arizona as Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia Eagles will look to win their second Lombardi Trophy in franchise history and Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs make their third Super Bowl appearance in the last four seasons.

Not only will the match up feature two top seeds for the first time since 2017, but Super Bowl 2023 will be especially monumental because this is the first time that two Black quarterbacks will face each other in the league’s biggest game of the year.

RELATED: What to know about the 2023 Pro Bowl –  Dates, how to watch/live stream info, AFC, NFC coaches, competition schedule

Super Bowl 2023 will be nothing short of exciting, see below for additional information on how to watch/live stream the game as well as answers to all your frequently asked questions.

How to Watch Super Bowl 2023 – Philadelphia Eagles vs Kansas City Chiefs

  • Date: Sunday, February 12
  • Where: State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona
  • Time: 6:30 p.m. ET
  • TV Network: Fox

Who is playing in Super Bowl 2023?

The Philadelphia Eagles and the Kansas City Chiefs.

RELATED: What to know about Super Bowl 2023 – Date, location, halftime performance info, and much more

Who is the home team in Super Bowl 2023 and how is it determined?

The Philadelphia Eagles are the home team in Super Bowl 2023. The designated home team alternates each year between the NFC and AFC champions. If it is as odd-numbered Super Bowl, the NFC team is the designated home team. If it as even-numbered Super Bowl, the AFC team is the designated home team.

Which teams have been eliminated from the 2023 NFL Playoffs?

The Seattle Seahawks, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, Los Angeles Chargers, Baltimore Ravens, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Giants, Buffalo Bills, Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers and Cincinnati Bengals have all been eliminated from the 2023 NFL playoffs.

RELATED: 2023 NFL Playoffs scores: Final bracket, recaps, results for every AFC and NFC postseason game

Who is performing the halftime show at Super Bowl 2023?

It was announced in September, that international popstar, entrepreneur, and philanthropist Rihanna will headline the halftime show at Super Bowl 2023.

RELATED: Super Bowl 2023 – What to know about national anthem, pregame performers ahead of Super Bowl LVII

Why does the NFL use Roman numerals?

AFL and Chiefs founder Lamar Hunt proposed using Roman numerals for each Super Bowl to add pomp and gravitas to the game. Roman numerals were, unsurprisingly, used in ancient Rome as a number system. I stands for 1, V for 5, X for 10, L for 50 and C for 100. That’s right: In 2066, get ready for Super Bowl C.

Super Bowl V was the first to use Roman numerals. They were retroactively added to the Super Bowl II to IV logos and have been used each year since⁠ until 2016. For Super Bowl L, or 50, the NFL tried out 73 different logos before breaking down and using a plain old “50.”

The Roman numerals for this year’s big game, Super Bowl 57, are LVII.

RELATED: Super Bowl halftime shows – Ranking the 10 best Super Bowl halftime show performances in NFL history

How many Super Bowls have the Eagles won in franchise history?

The Eagles have won just one Super Bowl title in franchise history, however, Super Bowl LVII will be their fourth Super Bowl appearance in franchise history.

RELATED: Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl History

How many Super Bowls have the Chiefs won in franchise history?

The Chiefs have won two Super Bowls in franchise history (1969 and 2019). Super Bowl LVII will be the franchise’s fifth Super Bowl appearance.

RELATED: Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl History

Who was the first Black quarterback to play in a Super Bowl?

Doug Williams was the first Black quarterback to start and win a Super Bowl. Williams, a product of Grambling State–a historically Black university–achieved the milestone on January 31, 1988 in Super Bowl XXII as the QB for Washington.

RELATED: FMIA Conference Championships – Eagles rout Niners, Chiefs outlast Bengals to set Super Bowl LVII stage

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