Los Angeles went more than two decades without an NFL team. Now, it has one playing for a championship.
The Rams never led in regulation, but with a 57-yard field goal by Greg Zuerlein in overtime, Los Angeles has advanced to Super Bowl LIII with a 26-23 win, shocking the Saints in the NFC title game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans on Sunday. The Rams will face the winner of the AFC championship game, which also is Sunday, in which the New England Patriots face the Kansas City Chiefs.
It didn’t start off well for the visitors, as the Saints jumped out to a 13-0 lead and had the throaty Superdome crowd on their side. The noise the fans made was so thunderous that reporters could feel and see the stadium quaking.
According to Julie Boudwin with NOLA.com, it appeared that part of the ceiling fell near the media workroom after Saints linebacker Demario Davis intercepted Rams quarterback Jared Goff in the first quarter.
Nick Underhill of the New Orleans Advocate posted video to Twitter showing bottles of water shaking in the press box because of the crowd.
“The press box desk I’m working on is physically moving because the crowd is going so wild here at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome,” NFL Network reporter Jane Slater said in a tweet. “Unreal.”
But the Rams adjusted, and a 6-yard touchdown run from Todd Gurley II made it 13-10 just before halftime. The teams traded touchdowns in the third quarter to make it 20-17. A Los Angeles field goal by Zuerlein with 5:03 remaining tied it at 20.
There was plenty of time for Saints quarterback Drew Brees to orchestrate a final drive. But it stalled with a controversial no-call from officials on an incomplete pass to Saints wide receiver Tommylee Lewis. The crowd wanted a flag for either pass interference or helmet-to-helmet contact on a defenseless receiver by Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman. It wasn’t thrown.
The Saints settled on a 31-yard field goal by Wil Lutz with 1:41 remaining. The Rams tied it up with 15 seconds left in regulation with a 48-yarder by Zuerlein to make it 23-23.
In overtime, Brees was intercepted by safety John Johnson III, which led to Zuerlein’s game-winning kick.
The Rams’ franchise, which originated in Cleveland in 1937, played in Los Angeles from 1946-1994 before leaving for St. Louis for 21 seasons. During that stretch, they reached two Super Bowls, winning Super Bowl XXXIV against the Tennessee Titans in Atlanta at the now-demolished Georgia Dome.
The location of this season’s title game on February 3 happens to be where the Rams last won: Atlanta. And while it’s not at the same site, the venue, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, is right next door to where the Dome once stood.
Since returning to Los Angeles in 2016, the Rams have now reached the playoffs twice.
The Rams’ last Super Bowl appearance was the 2001 season, when they lost Super Bowl XXXVI to the Patriots, giving a young quarterback named Tom Brady his first title with head coach Bill Belichick.