The Rams have a history that is unlike any other NFL team. The franchise started in Cleveland, where it won an NFL title in 1945. A year later, the team relocated to Los Angeles, where during the 1950s it competed in four NFL title games that included the franchise’s second title in 1951.
Despite fielding the “Fearsome Foursome” — one of the greatest defensive lines in NFL history — the Rams did not add to their trophy case during the 1960s. The Rams were even better in the 1970s but were denied a trip to the Super Bowl in the NFC title game four times over a five-year span. Two of those losses came against Bud Grant’s Minnesota Vikings, while the other two losses came at the hands of Tom Landry’s Dallas Cowboys.
Rams fans were finally rewarded with a trip to the Super Bowl in 1979, which is where we begin our review of the franchise’s history in the big game.
Super Bowl XIV
- Steelers 31, Rams 19 (Jan. 20, 1980)
- MVP: Terry Bradshaw — 14 of 21, 309 yards, 2 TD, 3 INT
The game was much closer than the final score would indicate. The Rams, a double-digit underdog against the defending champion Steelers, were 9-7 during the regular season. They upset the Cowboys and Buccaneers in the NFC playoffs despite playing without starting quarterback Pat Haden. Los Angeles went 4-1 with backup Vince Ferragamo during the regular season. Ferragamo threw three touchdowns in the Rams’ playoff win over the Cowboys, while Los Angeles’ defense shut out the Buccaneers in the NFC title game.
Ferragamo and the Rams took a surprising 13-10 halftime lead over the Steelers. The two teams then traded big completions in the third quarter; Terry Bradshaw’s 47-yard touchdown pass to Lynn Swann gave Pittsburgh a 17-13 lead, while Ferragamo countered with a 50-yard completion to Billy Waddy that set up halfback Lawrence McCutchen’s touchdown pass to Rod Smith. The Rams’ defense picked off Bradshaw two times during the quarter while getting inspired play from defensive end Jack Youngblood, who played the entire game with a broken leg that was injured against the Cowboys three weeks earlier.
Ahead 19-17 entering the fourth quarter, the Rams gave up the lead when Bradshaw hit John Stallworth on a 73-yard touchdown on a third-and-long play. Undeterred, Los Angeles drove into Pittsburgh territory before Ferragamo was intercepted by Steelers linebacker Jack Lambert. The Steelers quickly went for the kill, as Bradshaw’s 45-yard completion to Stallworth set up Franco Harris’ game-clinching touchdown run. The Rams won respect for their gritty performance, while the Steelers claimed the franchise’s fourth Super Bowl title in a six-year span.
Super Bowl XXXIV
- Rams 23, Titans 16 (Jan. 30, 2000)
- MVP: Kurt Warner — 24 of 45, 414 yards, 2 TD
Despite winning just nine games the previous two seasons, there was some optimism in St. Louis heading into the ’99 season. The team had traded for Pro Bowl running back Marshall Faulk, acquired former Washington quarterback Trent Green and drafted receiver Torry Holt. That optimism came crashing down, however, when Green suffered a season-ending injury during the preseason. The injury led to the improbable rise of Kurt Warner, who took the league by storm that season while leading the Rams to a 13-3 record.
Warner and the Rams jumped out to a 16-0 lead over the Titans in Super Bowl XXXIV. But the Titans, led by quarterback Steve McNair and running back Eddie George, rallied to tie the score with 3:08 remaining. The score was tied for less than a minute, however, as Warner hit Isaac Bruce downfield for a 73-yard touchdown. The touchdown set the stage for an epic finish, as McNair led the Titans from their own 12-yard line to the Rams’ 10-yard line in the game’s final two minutes. On the game’s final play, McNair threw a slant pass to Kevin Dyson, who was tackled from behind by Rams linebacker Mike Jones just short of the goal line. The tackle secured the first Super Bowl victory for the Rams and head coach Dick Vermeil, who returned to the Super Bowl 19 years after leading the Eagles‘ to the franchise’s first Super Bowl.
Super Bowl XXXVI
One of the most shocking upsets in Super Bowl history. A 14-point favorite, the Rams defeated the Patriots in a tightly contested game during the regular season. Ironically, Bill Belichick named Tom Brady his starter moving forward following New England’s 24-17 loss to St. Louis that dropped them to 5-5. Brady, who replaced an injured Drew Bledsoe two games into the 2001 season, responded by not losing another game that season.
Despite their winning streak, the Patriots were not expected to challenge the Rams, who boasted the league’s top-ranked scoring offense and seventh-ranked scoring defense during the regular season. But New England’s hard-hitting defense disrupted the Rams’ fast-paced offense, as Belichick laid out a similar game plan to the one he used to slow down the Bills‘ high-scoring offense as the Giants‘ defensive coordinator in Super Bowl XXV.
The Patriots’ defense outscored the Rams’ offense for the game’s first 50 minutes. Down 17-3, the Rams’ offense put together two late scoring drives, as Warner’s 26-yard touchdown pass to Ricky Proehl tied the score with 1:30 left. The game appeared to be headed for overtime before three short Brady completions to running back J.R. Redmond moved the ball to New England’s 41-yard line with 41 seconds left. Brady then got the Patriots into field goal range with a 23-yard lob to Troy Brown and a 6-yard strike to Jermaine Wiggins. That set the stage for Adam Vinatieri, whose 47-yard field goal as time expired gave New England its first world championship.
Super Bowl LIII
- Patriots 13, Rams 3 (Feb. 3, 2019)
- MVP: Julian Edelman — 10 catches, 141 yards
The Rams advanced to their first Super Bowl since moving back to Los Angeles in 2017. In the process, Sean McVay made history by becoming the youngest head coach in Super Bowl history. The then-33-year-old McVay was unable to crack Belichick’s defense, however, as the Rams joined the 1971 Dolphins as the only teams to not score a touchdown in the Super Bowl. Down 10-3, the Rams nearly tied the score when Jared Goff found Brandin Cooks open in the back of the end zone. But Patriots defensive back Stephon Gilmore was able to knock the ball out of Cooks’ grasp at the last second. Goff was intercepted by Gilmore on the next play, and the Patriots iced the game after runs of 26 yards by Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead set up Stephen Gostkowski’s 41-yard field goal with 1:16 left.
In a defensive-dominated game, Super Bowl LIII’s best offensive player was Edelman, whose catches of 13 and 29 yards helped set up the game’s only touchdown. Brady also had success getting the ball to Rob Gronkowski, who caught six passes for 87 yards. The Patriots’ defense sacked Goff four times while holding him to just 19 of 38 passing. New England was able to mostly contain Aaron Donald, who that season was named an All-Pro for the fourth consecutive time.