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Rams vs. Bengals Preview: All in and all on the line for the Rams in Super Bowl LVI

Reflecting on how to best summarize the narrative arc of the 2021 Los Angeles Rams, that phrase kept resurfacing.

Ideally, we could have chosen something different – something novel – found a fresh direction for Super Bowl LVI.

But "All In" seemed inevitable. Unavoidable.

We've heard it on repeat from the moment the Matthew Stafford news broke. Again, it percolated at the acquisition of Sony Michel. And it certainly reached a crescendo by brokering a deal for Von Miller at the deadline and signing Odell Beckham Jr..

Externally, what was commonly accepted as the definition of "All In" was an organization mortgaging its future, chasing stars and headlines at all costs, in a desperate attempt to win now.

While the Rams did make good on their ambition to play in SoFi Stadium's first Super Bowl – and while the talent infusion documented above undoubtedly helped in that pursuit – that conception of "All In" misses the mark.

The Rams roster is one of the most home-grown in the NFL. They rank among the top franchises in all of football in recent draft selections. And they'd be absolutely nowhere without the overachievement of contributors like Nick Scott, Travin Howard, Greg Gaines, David Edwards, Brian Allen, Ben Skowronek, and so many others.

Furthermore, who's ranking the 2022 Los Angeles Rams any lower than top ten in the league? Should they not be considered NFC West favorites going into next season?

The future looks extremely bright.

But even those practicalities detract from what I believe is the true meaning of "All In," and why the Rams are NFC Champions again.

You see, while the Super-Bowl-or-bust expectations pressed down on them, the players and coaches doubled down on their commitment to each other in an unwavering spirit of "We Not Me."

All-star teams don't work. Big personalities don't mix. And there weren't supposed to be enough targets or handoffs or reps to go around.

In the depths of a winless November, this locker room should have fractured. Falling short in Week 18 could have unraveled everything the Rams had worked toward.

Except those aren't the stories that prevailed.

Instead, Miller spoke calmly and confidently about how glad he still was to be with this franchise and their shared, unshaken belief.

We heard Jalen Ramsey pledge to do his part this postseason to cement the legacies of Andrew Whitworth, Sean McVay, Miller, Stafford, and others.

Defensive coordinator Raheem Morris revealed that the whole building in Thousand Oaks wants to win for Aaron Donald.

OBJ's done nothing except buy into the Rams ethos and root fellow receiver Cooper Kupp toward his Triple Crown.

And who among us doesn't want this campaign to finish with a ring for Robert Woods, Jordan Fuller, and others injured along the journey?

From Brandon Powell – who was reading self-improvement books in Florida when his phone rang – to Eric Weddle – called out of retirement after two seasons – more than 70 individuals dressed for a game this season.

Dozens more labored through training camp or on the practice squad to give the depth chart the best possible chance to chase its dream.

And behind the scenes, hundreds of staff members poured into their supporting roles.

You see, over the course of 17 games and three playoff wins, what we learned – what the Rams proved – was that it was never about the picks.

It was always about the people. And their shared purpose.

That's why they're playing this weekend.

That's what the 2021 Los Angeles Rams meant by "All In."

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