Jan 2, 2022; Seattle, Washington, USA; Seattle Seahawks middle linebacker Bobby Wagner (54) is assisted to the sideline by free safety Quandre Diggs (6) following an injury against the Detroit Lions during the first quarter at Lumen Field. Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) follows behind Wagner and Diggs. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: Rams sign LB Bobby Wagner to 5-year, $50M deal

Free agent linebacker Bobby Wagner agreed to a five-year, $50 million contract with the Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams, ESPN reported Thursday.

The deal, which keeps the longtime Seattle Seahawks star in the NFC West, can be worth up to $65 million with incentives, per the report.

The NFL Network said that Wagner, who acts as his own agent, confirmed the signing.

Wagner was released by the Seahawks on March 9, the same date the franchise agreed to trade Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos

The eight-time Pro Bowl selection and defensive captain spent his entire career with the Seahawks and had a career-high 170 tackles in 2021 despite missing time with a knee injury. The 10-year veteran added one sack, one interception and one forced fumble in 16 starts.

Wagner, who will turn 32 this summer, made his initial voyage into free agency on the heels of suffering MCL and PCL sprains in Week 17 against the Detroit Lions, although he is expected to be healthy for the 2022 regular season.

The Seahawks drafted the Utah State product in the second round in 2012, one round ahead of Wilson, ushering in a successful run of nine straight winning seasons until Seattle fell to 7-10 in 2021.

Wagner flourished as part of the “Legion of Boom” defense in Seattle, leading the league in tackles twice (2016, 2019) and compiling 161 more tackles than any other NFL player over the past 10 seasons.

In his career, Wagner owns 1,383 tackles, 23.5 sacks, 11 interceptions and four defensive touchdowns in 151 games (150 starts).

–Field Level Media

Feb 13, 2022; Inglewood, CA, USA; Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford celebrates with the Lombardi Trophy after defeating the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Rams sign QB Matthew Stafford to 4-year extension

The Los Angeles Rams signed quarterback Matthew Stafford to a four-year extension on Saturday.

The deal, worth a reported $160 million, keeps the Super Bowl LVI champion under contract with the Rams through the 2026 season.

Stafford, 34, set a franchise record with 4,886 passing yards and tied a team mark with 41 touchdown passes in his first season with Los Angeles in 2021.

The team did not disclose the financial details of the extension. NFL Network said it was worth $160 million with $135 million guaranteed.

He was heading into the final season of a five-year, $135 million extension signed with the Detroit Lions in 2017.

Stafford joined the Rams in a March 2021 trade with the Lions, his team for the first 12 seasons of his career.

He has passed for 49,995 yards and 323 touchdowns in 182 career starts since Detroit drafted him No. 1 overall in 2009.

–Field Level Media

Sep 8, 2019; Charlotte, NC, USA; Los Angeles Rams defensive line coach Eric Henderson on the sidelines in the fourth quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Rams sign DL coach Eric Henderson to extension

Aaron Donald’s position coach got a new contract as the Los Angeles Rams signed defensive line coach Eric Henderson to an extension, The Athletic reported Wednesday.

Henderson, whose contract was set to expire, helped the Rams to a 23-20 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in the Super Bowl earlier this month. Donald, from his defensive tackle position, harassed Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow into an incompletion on fourth down in the final minute to seal Los Angeles’ victory.

The Rams still need to add an assistant defensive line coach after Marcus Dixon departed for the Denver Broncos to be their defensive line coach.

Henderson joined the Rams in 2019 and added running-game coordinator duties this past season. He was the assistant defensive line coach for the Los Angeles Chargers in 2017 and 2018. Terms of his extension were not reported.

Henderson, a native of New Orleans and a former defensive end at Georgia Tech, played two games for the Bengals in 2008.

–Field Level Media

Feb 13, 2022; Inglewood, CA, USA; Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford celebrates with the Lombardi Trophy after defeating the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Super Bowl LVI most-watched game in five years

Super Bowl LVI was the most watched television show in five years and averaged 112.3 million viewers across all platforms, the NFL announced Tuesday.

The Los Angeles Rams defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 23-20 in Sunday’s game.

In all, 101.1 million viewers watched the game on NBC and its Spanish-language sister, Telemundo. An additional 11.2 million people streamed the game, primarily on NBC’s Peacock.

The total was the most since a viewership of 113.7 million for Super Bowl LI in 2017, when the New England Patriots defeated the Atlanta Falcons 34-28, the NFL said.

The 2021 Super Bowl between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs drew an average of 96.4 million viewers on television for CBS.

“The Super Bowl once again delivered a massive audience, which included NBC and the unmatched power of broadcast television as well as first-ever presentations on Peacock and Telemundo, and led into our most-watched Olympics coverage in four years,” said Mark Lazarus, chairman of NBCUniversal Television and Streaming said in a news release.

The Super Bowl halftime show, starring Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige and Kendrick Lamar, averaged 103.4 million viewers.

Among local markets, Cincinnati led the way in viewership with a 46.1 rating/84 share. That means 46.1 percent of all households in the market had the game turned on, and 84 percent of the people who were watching television at the time were watching the game.

Los Angeles had a 36.7/77 market share.

No. 2 on the list was Detroit, where Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford spent 12 seasons before an offseason trade sent him west. Detroit had a 45.9/79 share.

Two other metro areas in Ohio were in the ratings top 10 — Columbus and Cleveland.

–Field Level Media

Feb 13, 2022; Inglewood, CA, USA; Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp (10) celebrates after defeating the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Cooper Kupp caps record-breaking year with Super Bowl MVP award

Cooper Kupp struggled to put his feelings into words as he looked out over a confetti-covered field Sunday night in Inglewood, Calif.

Moments earlier, Kupp had been named MVP of Super Bowl LVI. He caught eight passes for 92 yards and two touchdowns, including the go-ahead score late in the fourth quarter, as the Rams rallied for a 23-20 win over the Cincinnati Bengals to win their first title in Los Angeles.

It marked the best moment of an early but already exhilarating career for Kupp, 28, who entered the league in 2017 as a relatively anonymous wideout from Eastern Washington.

“I don’t feel deserving of this,” Kupp said. “God is just so good.”

Kupp shined throughout the season, finishing with a career-high 145 catches for 1,947 yards and 16 touchdowns. He led the league in all three categories, earning him the fourth-ever receiving “triple crown.” He averaged 13.4 yards per catch, 114.5 yards per game and converted a whopping 89 first downs in 17 games.

As the Super Bowl started, however, it appeared that Odell Beckham Jr. would take center stage as the Rams’ top receiver. He quickly amassed two catches for 52 yards and a touchdown and seemed to be headed for a big performance against the Bengals’ secondary.

A knee injury to Beckham in the second quarter thinned out the Rams receiving corps — and prompted Los Angeles to turn more toward Kupp, even though the Bengals paid close attention to him throughout the contest.

That was never more evident than the Rams’ final drive, when Kupp hauled in four passes for 39 yards and a touchdown despite tight coverage.

“I’m just so thankful for everyone that’s been in my life, that’s pushed me, that’s encouraged me every step of the way,” Kupp said. “These guys that are standing out here, they challenged me, they pushed me, they made it so much fun to come to work every day.”

Kupp set an NFL record for the most catches during a single postseason with 33. He also joined Larry Fitzgerald in 2008 as the only wideouts to catch a touchdown pass in four games during the same postseason.

–Field Level Media

Jan 9, 2022; Inglewood, California, USA;  San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) sets to pass the ball in the first half of the game against the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

49ers streak into NFC Championship Game vs. Rams

The San Francisco 49ers have won six straight games against the Los Angeles Rams and seek to maintain that mastery in the postseason when they travel to Inglewood, Calif., to face the fourth-seeded Rams in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game.

Sixth-seeded San Francisco recorded wins of 31-10 at home and 27-24 in overtime on the road in this season’s two regular-season meetings with the Rams. The latter meeting, in Week 18, saw the 49ers overcome a 17-0 deficit to clinch a playoff spot at SoFi Stadium.

The stakes are higher now with San Francisco in its fifth NFC title game in the past 11 seasons and Los Angeles in its second in the past four.

The Rams reached the title game despite blowing a 24-point lead against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the divisional round. Matthew Stafford’s crucial 44-yard pass to Cooper Kupp led to Matt Gay’s decisive 30-yard game-ending field goal in a 30-27 victory.

The 49ers beat the Green Bay Packers 13-10 in the divisional round Saturday without scoring an offensive touchdown, and Robbie Gould’s game-ending 45-yard field goal elevated San Francisco.

As for the Rams’ issues with the 49ers, Kupp said it will be a non-factor on Sunday.

“The Niners have done a great job against us the past few years,” Kupp said after Wednesday’s practice. “You learn from the past and you have to be ready to move forward. We don’t live in a world where we need past motivations.”

San Francisco quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo doesn’t see the streak giving his team an advantage.

“Every game’s different,” Garoppolo said. “So the feel of it, the flow of it, last time we played the Rams when we were down (and) it didn’t feel like we were in control of that one. So I think each one has its own flavor to it.”

Stafford is aiming to give the Rams a better showing after throwing two interceptions in each of the losses to the 49ers.

Stafford was picked off eight times over the Rams’ final four regular-season contests. He has turned that around in the postseason by not tossing any during wins over the Arizona Cardinals and Bucs.

Stafford engineered his 43rd career winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime of his 13-year career against Tampa Bay, but it was his first in the postseason. He went 0-3 in the playoffs with the Detroit Lions before being dealt to the Rams last offseason.

“It means a lot,” Stafford said of the game-winning drive that began with 42 seconds remaining. “That’s a lot of hard work for a lot of years going into a short amount of time. A lot of hard work this year, too, with some great teammates.

“That’s the thing I’ve loved, and I’ve really appreciated in being a part of this team is how many guys we have pulling the rope in the right direction, doing everything they can to be prepared for those moments.”

Kupp has put together a wide receiver season for the ages. He led the NFL in receptions (145), receiving yardage (1,947) and touchdown receptions (16) and has tacked on 14 catches for 244 yards and two scores in the playoffs.

But San Francisco star defensive end Nick Bosa and his mates shut down Aaron Rodgers and the Packers last weekend after beating the Dallas Cowboys in the opening round of the playoffs.

The 49ers also have top-level confidence after recovering from a shaky 3-5 start, while observing the manner Garoppolo handled things when there were calls for him to be replaced by rookie Trey Lance.

“Jimmy G, you can’t say enough about that guy,” San Francisco tight end George Kittle said. “The (bleep) that he takes, excuse my language, consistently, people just try to pull him down, and all he does is try to deliver. He leads this team, he has a sense of calm in the huddle, he has a sense of calm in the storm, and he allows us to play football at a high level.”

Garoppolo is still dealing with a thumb injury on his throwing (right) hand, but 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said his QB’s previous shoulder injury is no longer an issue. Left tackle Trent Williams (ankle) and running back Elijah Mitchell (knee) were among the players who missed practice on Wednesday.

For Los Angeles, safety Taylor Rapp (concussion) and left tackle Andrew Whitworth (knee) were limited practice participants. Rapp has missed both postseason games and Whitworth sat out versus the Buccaneers, but both appear in line to play Sunday.

The teams have met in the NFC title game once before when the Joe Montana-led 49ers routed the Rams 30-3 in the 1989 conference championship game at San Francisco.

–Field Level Media

Jan 23, 2022; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) walks off the field following the win against the Buffalo Bills in overtime in the AFC Divisional playoff football game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Odds favor Chiefs, Rams in NFL championship games

Early betting odds favor the home teams in the upcoming NFL championship games.

Following a thrilling victory in overtime against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, the Kansas City Chiefs are a touchdown favorite to defeat their next playoff opponent, the Cincinnati Bengals, in the AFC Championship game on Jan. 30.

The Los Angeles Rams, who defeated Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the other divisional game on Sunday, opened as 3.5 point favorites over the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game, also on Jan. 30.

Caesars Sportsbook opened with the Chiefs a 6.5 point favorite over the Bengals. At several sportsbooks around the country, the line subsequently changed to Kansas City -7. The AFC game will be played at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., and the NFC game will be played at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif.

Caesars Sportsbook also listed the Rams-49ers over/under at 46.5 points and the over/under for Chiefs-Bengals at 53.5 points.

Both games are rematches from earlier in the season. The Bengals defeated the Chiefs 34-31 in Week 17. The 49ers beat the Rams twice during the regular season, 31-10 in Week 10 and 27-24 in OT in Week 18.

Looking ahead, Kansas City is favored to win the Super Bowl, at +130, according to Caesars. Los Angeles follows at +210, with the 49ers at +450 and the Bengals at +750.

-Field Level Media

Dec 13, 2021; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Los Angeles Rams offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth (77) against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Rams without OT Andrew Whitworth, S Taylor Rapp vs. Bucs

The Los Angeles Rams will be without a key piece on each side of the ball as offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth and safety Taylor Rapp will not play in Sunday’s NFC divisional-round road game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Whitworth sustained his knee injury when he was rolled up on from behind in Monday night’s wild card-round victory over the Arizona Cardinals. Rapp has not played since the regular-season finale because of a concussion.

In addition, running back Darrell Henderson (knee), defensive lineman Sebastian Joseph-Day (pectoral) and defensive back Robert Rochell (chest) will not be activated from injured reserve. All three had been designated for a return.

Whitworth’s absence means the Rams will put a greater reliance on Joseph Noteboom to provide protection for quarterback Matthew Stafford. Without Rapp and fellow safety Jordan Fuller, who is out for the playoffs with an ankle injury, Los Angeles signed retired safety Eric Weddle, who played Monday for the first time in two seasons.

Whitworth, who is in his 16th season at age 40, played in 15 of the Rams’ 17 games this season. Rapp, 24, had 94 tackles in 17 games with four interceptions and a fumble recovery.

–Field Level Media

Dec 13, 2021; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Los Angeles Rams offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth (77) against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Rams place LT Andrew Whitworth on COVID list

The Los Angeles Rams placed starting left tackle Andrew Whitworth on the reserve/COVID-19 list Saturday.

He is unlikely to be cleared in time for Sunday’s game between the Rams (10-4) and host Minnesota Vikings (7-7).

Whitworth’s backup, Joe Noteboom, also is on the COVID list. Bobby Evans and Tremayne Anchrum Jr. are possible replacements.

Whitworth, who turned 40 earlier this month, has started 13 games in his 16th NFL season.

The four-time Pro Bowl selection and two-time All-Pro has started 233 of his 237 career games with the Cincinnati Bengals (2006-16) and Rams.

–Field Level Media