Rams already making history as NFC championship vs. 49ers comes to SoFi Stadium

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TAMPA BAY, FL- JANUARY 23, 2022: Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) gives the victory sign.
Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) gives the victory sign as he leaves the field in Tampa. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

The Super Bowl is almost three weeks away and already the Rams have made NFL history.

For the first time, the league is staging a conference championship game in the stadium that will host the Super Bowl. The Rams will play the San Francisco 49ers at SoFi Stadium on Sunday in the NFC championship game for the right to play in Super Bowl LVI.

Cincinnati will play at Kansas City on Sunday in the AFC title game.

When the Rams played host to Arizona in the wild-card round, it was just the sixth time a playoff game took place on the same field where that year’s Super Bowl would take place. That’s five wild-card games and one divisional game.

This time it’s for all the marbles.

That might be a mere trivial curiosity except that it’s a huge logistical challenge for the NFL, which begins building the Super Bowl infrastructure months in advance.

So holding a championship game and Super Bowl in the same place is basically like simultaneously planning a Presidential inauguration and a royal wedding.

“It’s a high-class problem to have, and we’re up to the challenge,” said Kathy Schloessman, chief executive of the Los Angeles Super Bowl Host Committee.

The Rams have lost six in a row to the 49ers and haven’t beaten them since 2018, when Los Angeles made it to the Super Bowl.

The clubs have met once in the postseason, however, when San Francisco posted a 30-3 victory in the 1989 NFC Championship.

Sunday marks the fourth conference championship game held in Los Angeles, with the previous three taking place at the Coliseum: the Rams hosting in 1975 and ’78, and the Raiders in ’83.

Fans of the 49ers turned SoFi red in the regular-season finale, but the Rams and owner Stan Kroenke are hoping fans of their team hold on to their tickets and create more of a home-field advantage this time.

“I can’t wait to see the fans show up in Mr. Kroenke’s house that he built,” Rams coach Sean McVay said. “To be able to do this in the first year that fans are here, it’s going to be a special opportunity to go put together a good performance, a great week of preparation, and then go watch our guys shine against a great opponent next week.”

As for the Chiefs, they have an opportunity to reach the Super Bowl for a third consecutive year. In a wild shootout Sunday, they beat Buffalo in overtime, 42-36.

According to ESPN Stats & Info, the 25 points scored in the last two minutes of regulation between the Bills and Chiefs were the most in NFL postseason history. That topped the 17 scored by the New York Jets and New England Patriots in the 2010 divisional round.

Kansas City is the first team to host the AFC title game four years in a row.

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes celebrates after beating the Buffalo Bills.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes celebrates after beating the Buffalo Bills in overtime. (Reed Hoffmann / Associated Press)

A week after collecting its first playoff victory in 31 years, Cincinnati advanced to the AFC championship with an upset victory at Tennessee.

In Week 17, Cincinnati beat Kansas City, 34-31, at Paul Brown Stadium.

Representatives from all four surviving teams will visit L.A. on Monday or Tuesday and tour what could be their Super Bowl practice facilities, see their potential team hotels and overflow hotels, and get all their various logistical questions answered. That’s a routine process.

Already, various SoFi parking lots have been closed and crews have been building Super Bowl-related infrastructure around the stadium.

“It will be an intense two weeks leading up to the game,” said Katie Keenan, the NFL’s senior director of live event operations. “Long hours for our construction crews. But we have every confidence in the world we’ll get it done, and the fan showing up to the game will be none the wiser.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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