Cooper Kupp of the Los Angeles Rams (right) runs after a catch in the fourth quarter against Jaquiski Tartt and K’Waun Williams of the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game at SoFi Stadium on January 30, 2022 in Inglewood, California. (AFP)

The Los Angeles Rams booked a second Super Bowl appearance in three years on Sunday after staging a fourth rally to outmuscle the San Francisco 49ers 20-17.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford threw for two touchdowns while Matt Gay drilled a 30-yard field goal with 1:46 remaining to ensure th Rams will advance to the February 13 Super Bowl at their own SoFi Stadium.

The Rams will play Cincinnati in next month’s NFL championship showcase after the Bengals upset the Kansas City Chiefs for the AFC title earlier Sunday.

The nail biting NFC Championship showdown between the two Californian rivals effectively ended when 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo gave up an interception on San Francisco’s final possession.

It was the final act of a tense duel at SoFi Stadium which had seen San Francisco’s dogged defense lay the foundation for a 17-7 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

But Stafford found star receiver Cooper Kupp for his second touchdown of the game to make it 17-14 and then Gay nailed two field goals to give the Rams the lead.

“That was an unbelievable performance by our team,” Stafford said afterwards.

“It didn’t start the way we wanted it to, guys battled. I said in the locker room there’s no way we’re not going to win this damn game. Our guys put our minds to it and came out here and did it.”

Stafford was left breathing a huge sigh of relief however after a crucial blunder by 49ers safety Jaquiski Tartt in the fourth quarter.

Under no pressure, Tartt fumbled a gilt-edged interception chance and the Rams avoided a turnover at a moment when they were chasing the game.

Instead, they finished the drive with Gay’s field goal to tie the game at 17-17.

The vaunted Rams defense then came up big with another stop to force a 49ers punt, and the Rams took over once more to set up Gay’s winning field goal.

There was still plenty of time for 49ers quarterback Garoppolo to launch a final drive for a possible game-winning score, but the Rams defense were in no mood to let the advantage slip.

Under pressure on 3rd & 13, Garoppolo desperately shoveled the ball away hoping to avoid a sack but instead it looped into the arms of Travin Howard to effectively end the game.

“I’ve got total trust and confidence in that defense, man, they’ve been unbelievable all year,” Stafford said.

“Way to freakin’ ice the game, I loved it. I’d rather be out there playing but, man, they came through. What a way to end it,” said Stafford, who finished with 337 yards and two touchdowns.

Garoppolo finished with two touchdowns and 232 passing yards.

Source: Manila Bulletin (