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Opinion: Rams' grand vision for playing in Super Bowl at home is almost complete

USA TODAY SPORTS logo USA TODAY SPORTS 1/27/2022 Jarrett Bell, USA TODAY
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This is just about as good as Stan Kroenke could have planned it. Build a swanky stadium that screams L.A. sizzle. Book a Super Bowl that really christens the NFL’s return to La-La Land. Beat Tom Brady to earn the right to host the NFC title game. Win one more game with your souped-up team and you’ve got a Roman Numeral home game at SoFi Stadium.

"I don’t know if you can plan for all of that," Kroenke, the Los Angeles Rams owner, told USA TODAY Sports. "But you try to do what you can for your organization, so that you might be able to achieve that.

"It’s great for L.A."

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Kroenke’s nerves were tossed and tested on Sunday in Tampa, when the Rams blew a 24-point lead and had to sweat to the finish as they committed one self-inflicted blunder after another. By then, Kroenke had done his part. He bankrolled the big contracts and gave the green light to GM Les Snead and coach Sean McVay to aggressively add high-impact players through trades and free agency – see newcomers Matthew Stafford, Von Miller and Odell Beckham Jr., who all showed up big in the divisional playoff win – that reflected an "all-in" approach.

Then Kroenke bit his nails and watched the drama unfold like everybody else.

"These games are all hard," Kroenke said. "You don’t get to play. You don’t get to coach. You can’t do anything. So, you’ve got to have confidence in them."

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Still, Kroenke had to have vision in the first place, as much as people in the abandoned St. Louis market would detest. The Rams swung for the fences to land Stafford from Detroit in a blockbuster trade in early 2021. They’ve mortgaged so much of their draft future – and not just with the Stafford trade. They dealt away premium picks to land All-Pro corner Jalen Ramsey from Jacksonville in 2019, and to move up to No. 1 overall in 2016 to pick Jared Goff, who in turn was dealt to Detroit in the Stafford package. Add to that the deal get Miller from Denver and to lure OBJ as a free agent, and the Rams have made a lot of aggressive moves to get here.

"It’s a little bit different type of strategy," Kroenke said. "You have to start with these players that make a difference."

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Kroenke went on to hail Beckham as a great fit who needed a fresh start. He got nostalgic remembering Miller’s MVP performance in Super Bowl 50. And he’s mindful of the can’t-win-the-big-one rap that came with Stafford, whose vital 44-yard completion to Cooper Kupp in the final seconds on Sunday set up the game-winning field goal.

"And who spends the most time together, coming in at 5:30 in the morning?" Kroenke said. "Matthew and Cooper."

See, the designs are paying off.

The timing of this setup, though, is weird in another sense. The Super Bowl was originally pegged for L.A. after last season, but early in construction of the $5.5 billion palace – the most expensive stadium ever built – unusually heavy rain in Southern California caused a delay that pushed the timeline for opening the stadium to 2020, and then ultimately to hosting a Super Bowl to this year.

As for the NFC title game, no one could have expected a team that entered the playoffs as the fourth seed would get a shot for a home game – which for the Rams is gift-wrapped in the home postseason losses suffered by the top-seeded Packers, third-seeded Cowboys and, of course, the second-seeded defending champs that Los Angeles took care of last weekend.

So, yeah, some of this stuff was off-script.

I mean, look who looms as the serious threat to foil L.A. grand plan?

The 49ers. The dreaded NFC West rival from the North. The Kyle Shanahan-coached team that has had McVay’s number to the tune of six consecutive victories.

To host that Super Bowl, it seems fitting that the Rams must first prove that they can defeat the tough-as-nails team from San Francisco.

"Hopefully, it’s one of those games where we come out and it’s heavy blue and yellow, and we have a nice live, loud crowd that makes it tough on them," Stafford said. "So, we will see."

His desires about the type of crowd in the stadium are so legit … even with the Rams poised to have this advantage as a perk to their grand design. Not only have the 49ers won each game these rivals have played since 2018, they have a tendency to bring the 49er Faithful with them. When the teams met at SoFi on Jan. 9, it was such a pro-49ers crowd that Stafford sometimes had to use a silent snap count – in his home stadium.

"In certain parts of the field it was really noisy," McVay said of the Week 18 matchup the was decided in overtime. "It was really difficult to operate."

It’s no wonder that McVay and others with the Rams have urged "loyal" fans this week not to sell their tickets to 49ers fans. It’s apparently of such serious concern that the Rams have prevented taking credit card orders for tickets to buyers outside of the L.A. market.

This, too, part of the evolving L.A. plan.

As McVay plainly put it, "Don’t sell those tickets!"

Follow USA TODAY Sports' Jarrett Bell on Twitter @JarrettBell.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Opinion: Rams' grand vision for playing in Super Bowl at home is almost complete

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