Like two out-of-state tourists taking in the Los Angeles County beach rays of Santa Monica or Malibu, time was well spent between Cooper Kupp and Matthew Stafford from when the sun rose on the 2021 NFL season to its sunset on Sunday, February 13.
The moment they became teammates on the Los Angeles Rams this season, they spent a lot of time working on what would become the “9 to 10” connection in the City of Angels. Too much time, as Kupp unveiled after Super Bowl 56 to reporters.
But their chemistry, and extra time well spent, eventually led to the 23-20 Super Bowl win over the Cincinnati Bengals with both men responsible for the game’s final touchdown.
In fact, the man who went from consecutive 90-catch wideout with Jared Goff to the league’s triple crown leader in every major receiving category with Stafford gave an approximate tally of the total extra hours he and Stafford put in. Let’s just say, it wasn’t 40 hours total…or even 100.
The Approximate Hours Kupp and Stafford put in
Kupp himself was giving an estimate on the hours he was around his new quarterback.
“Stafford and I spent a ton of time together. I think I was actually adding it up in the car on the way over here. I think the extra time outside of the obligatory time was north of 500 hours this season,” Kupp said via Greg Beacham of the Associated Press. “We’ve spent that much time together to talk football and talk about the preparation and the time you had to focus on that kind of stuff. You get into those moments, it just becomes second nature.”
The chemistry was instant on the field between Kupp and Stafford the moment the latter played his first game with the Rams.
The “9 to 10” connection was born while in the modern throwback white, blue and sol “yellow” uniforms on September 12, 2021 when Kupp became the recipient of 7 catches, 108 yards and one touchdown in the 34-13 romp of the Chicago Bears.
Perhaps it’s only fitting that the Rams wore the same attire when Kupp and Stafford had their debut together for Super Bowl night, and for one last connection.
Kupp, Stafford and Rams Stayed the Course During Game, Plus Before That
There was a brief moment when the Rams were struggling to get any momentum going against a Bengals team scratching and clawing for the city’s first-ever Super Bowl title.
The Rams saw a 13-3 lead evaporate. Then found themselves down 20-13. Here’s one reason why the Bengals swung the momentum their way:
And another reason via the right arm of Joe Mixon, their prized running back:
Kupp, though, was reminded of the period when the Rams endured a three-game slide during the regular season since he was asked that question, plus how it correlated to that stagnant period that also saw the Rams without injured star Odell Beckham. Kupp gave this response:
“There’s no panic when you get to that place,” Kupp told reporters. “Football is a game of ebbs and flows. There’s mountains and valleys through a full season, through a game, through a quarter, through a practice week. There’s adversity. It’s inevitable. You’re going to face it. I think the belief that we have is that you’re a different team at the end of the season than when you start. We want to continue to climb. We want to be a better team.”
And, with Beckham sidelined with his knee injury, plus less than 6:30 left down 20-16, the “9 to 10” connection used their chemistry they built in those near-500 hours to deliver one memorable moment for the league’s biggest game — plus for a city that’s seen its share of championship-defining moments.
Including a handoff, Kupp was fed the ball five times on that last drive. But the ending saw a scenario that Kupp and Stafford likely discussed in their private meetings: Winning the one-on-one battle.
Stafford threw the end zone lob to the man he spent all that extra time with to bring another championship to L.A., but the first for Kupp, Stafford and several other Rams who were searching for a ring. And the final play proved their time together was time well spent, from sunrise to sundown of the ’21 season.