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Before taking on the San Francisco 49ers and a pass defense that hadn’t allowed a single 100-yard wide receiver in these NFL playoffs, two members of the Los Angeles Rams rolled into SoFi Stadium with a different mindset in attacking the ‘Niners — and chose this mentality in seizing the opportunity to add another sports championship in L.A.
And this particular attitude seemed fitting at a place next to the Great Western Forum…and where a certain basketball legend began his NBA career in.
Let’s just say: These two Rams embraced their inner “Mamba Mentality.”
Ram Players Honor Late Basketball Legend With Pregame Attire
Cooper Kupp didn’t just walk into SoFi “looking fresh” as the Rams Twitter account called it, but Kupp was wearing a certain jersey to help get locked in on the 49ers: A black and yellow Kobe Bryant throwback L.A. Lakers jersey, with the No. 8 emblazoned in the front.
The 28-year-old Kupp wasn’t the only one channeling his inner-Kobe, though.
Fellow wide receiver Odell Beckham, playing in his first career NFC championship game, had some specialized cleats made ready for the NFC championship game — one that would’ve likely made the late basketball legend proud.
Two years had passed since the tragic death of the five-time NBA champion with the Lakers Bryant and eight others in a helicopter crash near Calabasas. The Rams duo did their part in honoring the L.A. icon and basketball legend beforehand.
But during the game, the two became the latest to provide game-changing moments in the City of Angels, just like Bryant and past L.A. sports heroes before them.
Kupp & OBJ Damage 49ers Secondary Together
To reiterate, no opposing wide receiver — not even Dallas Cowboys 1,000-yard target CeeDee Lamb, his fellow heralded Cowboy teammates Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup, or recently the league’s top route-runner Davante Adams of the Green Bay Packers — cracked the triple digit mark facing the 49ers’ pass defense.
Out of everyone, only Adams was the closest with 90 receiving yards. But he was held out of the end zone during the 49ers’ 13-10 road win at Lambeau Field in the divisional round.
Kupp and Beckham had their work cut out for them. The duo was about to face a red-hot defense featuring a fierce pass rush that has gotten five sacks in each of their last three games and, in the case of OBJ, had never caught more than two passes from Matthew Stafford in both regular season losses to the ‘Niners.
But if Kupp and Beckham were indeed mambas, they led a series of strikes with their big plays representing the venom they unleashed on the 49ers.
The 3 & 10 Connection
Beckham was the first to set the tone for the Ram offense on an early third and 12, catching a 13-yarder for the first long gain of the evening. From there, Beckham took advantage of the real estate the 49ers gave him on defense.
Beckham went from someone who caught two passes for 18 yards in both losses to the ‘Niners to hauling in 9 grabs for 113 yards in taking on his own “Mamba Mentality” under the L.A. lights.
Kupp was equally venomous on the 49ers.
On third down with 13 yards to go for the first down, Kupp and the Rams instead settled for the touchdown as the league’s leading wideout snuck behind two 49er defenders.
Kupp then showed his bully side with taking this screen pass but gaining first down yardage.
But while he ended up with 11 catches for 142 yards (his third 100-yard game against the 49ers) and scored twice, he’s likely going to have this catch played back by Ram fans as the one that eventually helped set up the winning points from Matt Gay:
Here’s another angle:
According to Next Gen Stats, Kupp and OBJ were wide open on more than seven plays.
Both men walked into the “Rams House” instilling an inner-Kobe inside their brain cells. Then provided the game-changing plays with everything on the line, and in a city where Bryant became revered for his “Mamba Mentality.”