All-Star Rams have their eyes on the Lombardi Trophy

Los Angeles Rams defensive end Aaron Donald is eager to win a Super Bowl. (AP Photo/Jed Jacobsohn)

Credit: AP Photo/Jed Jacobsohn

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Los Angeles Rams defensive end Aaron Donald is eager to win a Super Bowl. (AP Photo/Jed Jacobsohn)

Credit: AP Photo/Jed Jacobsohn

The Rams have blown up the old “build through the draft” NFL axiom.

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Making blockbuster deals for proven NFL stars has landed the Rams in the Super Bowl on Sunday. While they don’t have a first-round pick until 2024, they are living in the present, and if getting to the Super Bowl is the goal, they’ve already won, as they’ve built an All-Star team like the New York Yankees used to do under George Steinbrenner.

Over the offseason, the Rams traded for quarterback Matthew Stafford. In the season, they added defensive end Von Miller and wide receiver Odell Beckham. Between them, they’ve been to 11 Pro Bowls, and Miller has been named All-Pro three times.

Couple those moves with a 2019 trade for perhaps the top cornerback in the league in Jalen Ramsey and an already-talented roster that included defensive tackle Aaron Donald and wide receiver Cooper Kupp and you have a new NFC champion.

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Also, the addition of former Georgia Bulldogs standout Leonard Floyd, who was a washout in Chicago, has helped.

“Yeah, so I think the consistent thing with all those guys, is that they love football,” Rams coach Sean McVay said Monday. “They’re extremely intelligent players, and they want to win. That’s the most important thing.”

By contrast, the Bengals built through the draft, with a few select signings in free agency, the more traditional NFL approach.

The Rams are four-point favorites on and the over/under is 48.5 points.

“They present a lot of challenges,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said. “There’s no wonder why they’re in the Super Bowl. Our guys are excited for the opportunity, you know to prove ourselves once again that we belong here and we can win this game.”

Stafford, after 12 seasons, wanted out of Detroit and requested a trade. A former Georgia standout who was the No. 1 player taken overall in the 2009 draft, Stafford passed for a lot of yards (45,109) but never won a playoff game with the Lions. The Rams sent quarterback Jared Goff, first- and third-round picks in 2022 and 2023 drafts to the forever-rebuilding Lions.

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Stafford looks at the Rams as a bunch of blue-collar construction workers.

“You know, as far as a superstar-heavy team, I think that’s kind of what the outside world probably thinks of us,” Stafford said. “But for us, we just come into work every single day. We’ve got nothing but guys that want to come in here and work hard from the top down.”

Stafford said that Donald (eight-time Pro Bowler, seven-time All-Pro) sets the tone.

“I mean, that guy is an unbelievable worker, and his ability to push and drive our defense is second to none,” Stafford said. “Jalen Ramsey is the same. Von Miller has come in and just fit right in.”

Taylor is aware of how Miller, who helped the Broncos win a Super Bowl over the Panthers and won the MVP award, can take over games.

“I was with Von at Texas A&M and was a part of one of the most special seasons in 2010,” Taylor said. “Von took over games that season and helped us beat the likes of Oklahoma, Nebraska and Texas and all those teams. So, I’ve always been very fond of Von. I’m very aware of his capabilities and how he can take over a game. I’ve seen it too many times to let that one sort of slip by us.”

Left tackle Andrew Whitworth, who’s 40, keeps the offense from getting cocky.

“Big Whit has been doing this for a long time,” Stafford said. “He sets the tone for us on offense and does an unbelievable job leading the guys up front.”

Stafford has taken to his new surroundings.

“For me, getting to work with Cooper and Odell has been a blast,” Stafford said. “Obviously, I’ve gotten a full year with Cooper and his greatness and his ability to affect the game both with the football and without the football.”

The Rams scooped up Beckham after he was run out of Cleveland for being a malcontent. He was released Nov. 8.

Beckham has been a model citizen with the Rams and has resurrected his once-promising career.

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“Then with Odell, he’s come in since Day 1, with his ability to grasp what we’re asking him to do midseason with no OTAs, no training camp, it was really, really impressive,” Stafford said.

Beckham’s 19 catches on 22 targets for 236 yards in the playoffs has helped to balance the field opposite the dynamic Kupp. Cleveland’s loss clearly has been Los Angeles’ gain.

“He had big games for us in the last couple games that have really propelled us to the position that we are in today,” Stafford said. “We’re going to need more of the same from him. But it’s really been a blast working with those guys, really everybody on this team.”

To say Stafford is happy to be out of the Motor City would be a grand understatement.

“I just pinch myself sometimes thinking about the opportunity,” Stafford said. “I’m getting to play this game, in the Super Bowl with a bunch of great teammates and a bunch of great coaches.”

McVay and his staff have been charged with getting all of the talent to play together.

“As long as there’s a shared ownership you provide a ‘why’ whether it’s the challenge to Aaron Donald (or someone else),” McVay said. “That has been a huge part of why this team’s been special. Yes, you have a lot of guys that have established themselves as big-time players in this league. But one of the things that’s common about all those guys is that they are great competitors, and they want to win a championship.”

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