THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – In a postseason of firsts, Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford's approach remains unchanged.
That includes for NFC Championship week this week.
"Obviously excited about the opportunity," Stafford said during a video conference Wednesday. "Going about it kind of as a normal week. It's the first normal week we've had a little bit, obviously, playing the first playoff game on a Monday, the second one on a short week. So this one just feels like a normal week during the season, obviously a lot at stake. We know that. Playing a really good opponent that's playing as good of football as anybody in the NFL right now. So it'll be a big challenge for us, but we're excited about the opportunity."
Seeing how the first two playoff games have gone, it's hard to argue with a different mindset being necessary.
Heading into Sunday's NFC Championship game against the 49ers, Stafford has completed 41 of 55 pass attempts for 568 yards and four touchdowns. He's coming off a Divisional Round performance that included three total touchdowns, 28 of 38 passing for 366 yards, and leading his 43rd game-winning of his 13-year career.
"In terms of his confidence, in terms of his preparation, nothing's changed," Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp said during a video conference Wednesday. "He believes in himself, he believes in the player that he is and the people that we have on this team. That mindset's never really changed, and I think that's a great quality to have as a quarterback. Through the highs and the lows, having a continual belief in yourself and the people around you. He embodies that."
Kupp said Stafford has gotten better in the Rams offense as the season has progressed, and that the even-keeled demeanor he carries himself with has served them well. It will be important on Sunday against a 49ers pass rush that has consistently pressured the quarterback through each of its first two playoff games as well and tied with the Dolphins for the fifth-most sacks in the regular season with 48.
"There aren't a ton of varied looks," Stafford said. "They do a great job stunting their defensive line and moving guys after the snap. But as far as what you see as the quarterback before the snap, there are some intricacies, but a lot of it is pretty straightforward. They are going to let their guys go out there and play fast. That's their M-O. Their guys attack up front. They attack on the back end. (They) do a great job against the run and have done a great job this season keeping the pass game in front of them as well. So it's about execution for us, guys doing the right thing play in and play out, and when we're getting the opportunities to hit big plays, we have to hit them."
There's been plenty of celebrating throughout this postseason journey, but the job is not finished. Stafford remains focused on the task at hand.
"Yeah, I have that. Buddies saying good luck and all that kind of stuff," Stafford said. "But when I'm in between these walls, all I care about is what we're trying to do and what we're trying to achieve. So, in that respect it is a normal week for me. I am just trying to go about my business, prepare to play at a high level, and help our team win."