Armando Salguero: Rams’ Big Stars Bond Quickly To Form A Championship Team

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Someone had already draped an NFC Champions shirt over Matthew Stafford’s shoulder and he’d already finished an on-field interview when he spotted his wife Kelly closing the distance between them at SoFi Stadium Sunday night.

Soon Kelly Stafford’s legs were locked around her quarterback husband’s hips, and the two were embracing in celebration and emotion.

The Los Angeles Rams had beaten the San Francisco 49ers, 20-17, so this was a moment of joy but also, no doubt, a moment to release accumulated pain and heartache from years of troubles.

The couple has seen a lot, with Kelly surviving a brain tumor and him overcoming a dozen mostly frustrating seasons with the Detroit Lions.

“Yeah, you know, she was fired up,” Stafford said later. “I couldn’t have done it without her. She’s an unbelievable part of my life. I’m so lucky to be with her and to have the children that I have and the family that I have. It’s the best part of my life. This is great, but that’s so much better.

“To share that moment with her is so cool. She’s been through a lot of that with me. We’ve leaned on each other at separate times to help ourselves get through. She’s special to me, and I’m so happy to spend that time with her.”

This was a huge football game to decide a conference championship. But it was also a referendum on the careers of several stars who came to the Rams seeking success they hadn’t previously enjoyed.

So it was important Stafford passed for 337 yards and two touchdowns.

It was important that over there, across the field, receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was also in a loving embrace with his mother after catching nine passes for 113 yards.

The man who burst onto the national scene with that one-handed catch as a rookie in 2014 is finally going to his first Super Bowl. So all the years when he was described as a diva or worse, all the times he didn’t quite mesh with his quarterback or other teams, all those seemed to fade amid the outcome of this game.

“He had key and critical catches,” Rams coach Sean McVay said. “He’s a special player. He’s so smart, so talented and so gifted, and he’s brought such charisma and a presence and really a swag to our team. Love Odell. Really, just happy for him.”

Beckham came to the Rams much the same way many of their “stars” arrived — with big names and reputations for losing.

Stafford? Acquired from a losing team.

Jalen Ramsey? Acquired from a losing team.

Von Miller? He won a Super Bowl in 2015, but when the Rams traded for him at midseason, he was acquired from a losing team.

And yet here they all were Sunday night. Winners.


“Man, I remember when everything was going down and I was getting the phone call from Von and Jalen like, ‘Come and play here’ every day. I was like, ‘I don’t know, man, I don’t know.’ And then it was just on my heart, and I felt like this was the right place,” Beckham said.

“And I just can’t say enough about God and staying down [on my knees] and staying in faith. Just truly an amazing moment.”

How does this happen? How does a talented player such as Beckham fall out at other places and production drops, but suddenly he’s, well, a star again?

“It’s been everything from McVay, Stafford, [Cooper Kupp], being integrated into the plan, taking me in, just pushing me for excellence, the weight room, everything about this place is right and is done right,” Beckham said. “And it’s just been an incredible opportunity that I’m trying to make the most of. “

“And here we are, playing in the Super Bowl, one game away from our dreams and … keep going.”

All these big names from disparate experiences (and teams) have somehow come together and formed a bond. They’ve accepted, for example, that Aaron Donald has been on the team longer and is a great player and so he’s their leader.

That was clear when TV cameras caught the Rams’ greatest homegrown talent in the middle of a huddle, imploring his defensive teammates to up their game. No one else spoke.

“We had to lock in a little bit more,” Ramsey said, explaining the message from Donald. “We had to get more.”

Well, the message resonated. With everyone.

“The Super Bowl is all he needs,” Miller said. “He could walk off into the sunset, and I’m going to do everything in my power to make that happen for him.”

Miller has been here before. He’s won and been a team leader and the guy others gather around. He’s not that with the Rams because he’s decided fitting in, after a trade from Denver, is quite comfortable, thanks.

“The coaching here is amazing,” Miller said. “We didn’t have anything to do with that. I think it just comes from the top down, Coach McVay, the leaders on this team, Aaron Donald, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, these guys have built something special.

“And it’s an honor and privilege to be a part of it. And to join at midseason and for them to accept us with open arms and for it to be a smooth transition and for them to motivate us and us motivate them and to be in a city like Los Angeles. It’s crazy, man.”

Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

Written by Armando Salguero

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