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The Los Angeles Rams ended the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ hopes of back-to-back Super Bowl wins with a stunning victory in the NFL play-offs.
The Rams led 27-3 in the third quarter before seven-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady led a thrilling fightback.
The defending champions levelled with 42 seconds left but a field goal saw the Rams win it 30-27 at the death.
The first three games of the divisional round have all been won by the visitors with a field goal as time expired.
The Rams will now host the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game next Sunday.
Last year the Bucs became the first team to play in a Super Bowl in their own stadium, and the Rams are now one win from repeating the feat as Super Bowl 56 will be staged at SoFi Stadium on 13 February.
Touchdowns by Kendall Blanton and Cooper Kupp helped the Rams charge into a 20-3 lead at half-time, before Matthew Stafford scored with a quarterback sneak.
The Rams’ star-studded defence pressured Brady throughout but a touchdown by fit-again running back Leonard Fournette gave the Bucs hope as they trailed 27-13 heading into what proved to be a pulsating final quarter.
That hope looked to have gone when Von Miller recovered a strip sack on Brady, only for the Rams to give possession straight back to the Bucs with a snap that flew past Stafford.
Tampa Bay were unable to score on that possession but Brady later made a 55-yard touchdown pass to Mike Evans, and just two plays after that, Ndamukong Suh hooked the ball from Cam Akers’ grasp to get the ball back with 2:32 left.
Fournette, nicknamed ‘Play-off Lenny’, ran in his eighth touchdown in seven post-season games before the Bucs kicked the extra point to tie the score.
There was still time for the Rams but they almost turned the ball over again on the first play of the drive, with Stafford having to recover his own fumble.
But Stafford then made two huge plays to Kupp, the league’s leading receiver this season, before spiking the ball to give Matt Gay the chance to redeem himself with a 30-yard field goal after missing from 47 yards just six minutes earlier.
What now for Brady?
Stafford’s late heroics prevented Brady extending his record of 35 wins in the play-offs alone. To put that into context, 49ers legend Joe Montana is the next best quarterback with 16.
Widely regarded as the NFL’s greatest player of all time, Brady has a year remaining on his contract and has previously talked about playing beyond his 45th birthday, which is a month before the start of next season.
It has been reported that the three-time MVP now plans to take at least a month before deciding if he will return for 2022 or retire, but Sunday’s game showed that, even now, no NFL quarterback is feared more than Brady.
Every time a team now takes a big lead against a Brady team, Super Bowl 51 is mentioned. The New England Patriots trailed the Atlanta Falcons 28-3 in the third quarter but Brady engineered the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history, as the Pats levelled at 28-28 before winning 34-28 in overtime.
It keeps getting mentioned because Brady continues to prove he can lead a team downfield like no-one else. He almost pulled off another rescue mission here, and that came after leading the league for both passing yards and touchdowns this season. Brady threw for a career-high 5,316 yards and only once before has he had more than the 43 TDs he managed in the regular season.
Despite his brilliance against the Rams and his stunning regular-season numbers, is he willing to commit to a 23rd year in the NFL?
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