Sean McVay had seen it before. It had actually taken place just two weeks prior at the end of the NFC Championship Game. With his team protecting a 20-17 lead, McVay watched as defensive tackle Aaron Donald bull-rushed his way in the 49ers’ backfield. Donald’s pressure of Jimmy Garoppolo led to an errant throw that was intercepted while securing the Rams’ victory and berth in Super Bowl LVI.
On Sunday night, with the Rams protecting a 23-20 lead, McVay had a feeling that Donald was going to make a similar play on fourth-and-1 with 49 seconds to play.
“For the world championship right here,” McVay said. “Aaron Donald’s going to make a play.”
McVay was right. Donald, who had already recorded two sacks of Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow, was able to get to him again on fourth down. Burrow was able to get the throw away, but the pass fell harmlessly to the turf, securing the Rams’ first championship since 1999.
“I knew it!” McVay yelled at Donald afterwords. “I knew that you would make that play!”
Donald and McVay have been two of the main driving forces behind the Rams’ success since the franchise moved back to Los Angeles. Since McVay’s arrival in 2017, the Rams have never had a losing season while advancing to the playoffs four times. Los Angeles made it to the Super Bowl 2018, only to fall to Tom Brady’s Patriots in the lowest-scoring Super Bowl ever.
It took three years, but Donald, McVay and the Rams made it back to the big game this season. And while the Bengals made them work for it, the Rams were on the winning end of Sunday’s final score.