TAMPA, Fla. – It took overcoming a chaotic fourth quarter and a game-winning field goal by kicker Matt Gay, but the Rams earned a 30-27 win over the No. 2-seed Buccaneers on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium to advance to the NFC Championship game.
The Rams led 27-13 late in the fourth quarter when Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady fired a 55-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Mike Evans to reduce the Rams' lead to seven with 3:20 remaining.
Tampa Bay then recovered a fumble by running back Cam Akers at the Los Angeles 30 on the ensuing possession, giving it a chance to tie the game. It reached the Los Angeles 9-yard line, facing a 4th and 1 with 46 seconds left, and converted with a 9-yard touchdown run by running back Leonard Fournette, tying the game 27-27 with 42 seconds left.
With 35 seconds to go, Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford fired a 20-yard completion to wide receiver Cooper Kupp, then connected with Kupp again for 44 yards to put the Rams at the Tampa Bay 12 with three seconds left. From there, Gay drained the game-winning, 30-yard field goal as time expired, sending the Rams to the NFC Championship.
Stafford completed 28 of 38 pass attempts for 366 yards and two touchdowns, also rushing for another touchdown, while Kupp hauled in nine receptions for 183 yards and one touchdown.
Here is the complete game recap, presented by Audi:
After the Rams forced the Buccaneers to punt following a third-down pass breakup by cornerback Darious Williams, the Rams used a pair of explosive plays – a 20-yard completion from Stafford to Beckham, followed by a 29-yard completion from Stafford to Higbee – to get on the board first with a 26-yard field goal by Gay for an early 3-0 lead.
That lead expanded to 10-0 with 3:28 left in the second quarter when Stafford connected with tight end Kendall Blanton for a 7-yard touchdown pass, the first touchdown of Blanton's NFL career.
The Bucs answered with their first points of the contest on the ensuing possession via a 45-yard field goal by kicker Ryan Succop to reduce the Rams' lead to seven.
The Rams responded with a 70-yard touchdown pass from Stafford to Kupp to go up 17-3 early in the second quarter.
Following Succop's missed 48-yard field goal attempt, the Rams added a 40-yard field goal from Gay to go up 20-3 with 2:19 left in the first half.
A Nick Scott interception 19 seconds later gave the Rams another chance to build on that lead, but they were unable to capitalize due to Akers' fumble at the Bucs 1-yard line which was forced and recovered by safety Antoine Winfield. However, the Bucs chose to run out he remaining 19 seconds, leaving the halftime score 20-3.
Wide receiver Brandon Powell's 33-yard punt return once again gave the Rams advantageous field position, and they capitalized on the ensuing possession via a 1-yard touchdown run by Stafford to expand their lead to 27-3 midway through the third quarter.
The Bucs added a 31-yard field goal by Succop late in the third quarter to make it 27-6. A fumble by Kupp on the ensuing possession gave the ball back to Tampa Bay at the Los Angeles 30, and, with a 4th-and-9 conversion keeping the drive alive, Tampa Bay cut further into the L.A. lead with a one-yard touchdown run by Fournette late in the third quarter.
Rams outside linebacker Von Miller recovered his own forced fumble on a strip-sack of Brady, giving the Rams the ball at the Bucs 25 early in the third quarter.
However, after the Rams took over, the first snap went over Stafford's head and was recovered by the Buccaneers and returned five yards to the Rams 45-yard line.The Buccaneers went for it on 4th and 14 from the Rams 36, but were unable to convert, resulting in a turnover on downs giving the ball back to the Rams.
The Rams had a chance to increase their lead to 30-13 on the ensuing possession, but Gay's 47-yard field goal missed short, keeping it a two-possession game with 6:36 remaining.
The Bucs reached the Rams 31 after the change of possession following the missed field goal, but gave the ball back to the Rams after failing to convert on 4th and 9 from there.
Brady connected with Evans on a 55-yard touchdown pass with 3:20 left, cutting the Rams' lead to 27-20. On the ensuing possession, the Bucs recovered a fumble by Akers at the Rams' 30.
Fournette's 9-yard touchdown run tied the game 27-27, but still left plenty of time for the Rams to get the win with 46 seconds remaining. All Stafford needed was two completions totaling 64 yards to Kupp to put the Rams and Gay in position to win.
Gay delivered, putting the Rams into the NFC Championship game.