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Rams win late thriller over Bucs after nearly blowing it

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The Los Angeles Rams beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 30-27, in Sunday’s divisional playoff game at Raymond James Stadium, sending Tom Brady home for the remainder of the playoffs and Matthew Stafford into his first conference championship game.

And what a thriller it was.

The Rams will take on their rivals, the San Francisco 49ers, next Sunday at SoFi Stadium — the same stadium that will host Super Bowl LVI two weeks later. This will be the first time in league history that a team will host a conference championship game in the Super Bowl stadium.

The Rams’ all-in gamble is close to paying off the way the team’s architects drew it up. This is exactly what they imagined when they traded for Matthew Stafford and Von Miller and signed Odell Beckham Jr. over the past calendar year.

The Rams’ stars came to play.

Stafford was hot early, staking the Rams to a three-score lead and beating the mighty Brady, who suffered his first playoff loss as a member of the Bucs. Aaron Donald and Miller were in Brady’s face most of the game. Cooper Kupp had a costly late fumble but took the top off the Bucs’ defense early with a 70-yard touchdown and atoned late with two massive catches near the end of regulation. Beckham caught six passes for 69 yards, generating four first downs.

And it was good enough — even with some unbelievably tense moments while protecting the lead — to keep Brady out of the running for an eighth Super Bowl ring. Amid a flurry of rumors he might consider retiring, Brady missed out on a shot to reach his 15th conference championship game.

Brady kept the Bucs in the game after they fell behind 27-3. The comeback king cut the lead to 27-20 with just over three minutes remaining and tied the game with less than a minute left. But it was not enough as Matt Gay’s game-winning field goal ended it.

TAMPA, FLORIDA - JANUARY 23: Matthew Stafford #9 of the Los Angeles Rams reacts in the third quarter of the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Divisional Playoff game at Raymond James Stadium on January 23, 2022 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

TAMPA, FLORIDA – JANUARY 23: Matthew Stafford #9 of the Los Angeles Rams reacts in the third quarter of the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Divisional Playoff game at Raymond James Stadium on January 23, 2022 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

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