In a game dominated by both defenses, the Rams engineer a fourth quarter drive and follow it up with huge stop of Joe Burrow and the Bengals in a legacy sealing victory.
Charles Robinson @CRob5769
The Los Angeles Rams defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 23-20 last night in Super Bowl LVI to capture the franchise’s second Lombardi trophy, and first since 1999. In a game that was truly back and forth for the entirety of the evening, the Rams landed a two punch combo with their offense and their defense to end the game and the 2021-22 NFL season. Matthew Stafford found Cooper Kupp one on one with Eli Apple to make the score 23-20 with 1:25 left in the game, and shortly after the Rams defense, behind Aaron Donald, stopped the Bengals on 4th and 1 with 43 seconds to go to seal the game. The fourth down stop was a result of Donald doing what he does best – creating pressure with his immense ability and effort, slinging Joe Burrow (or Joe Sheisty? Joe Brrr? Joe Cool?) to the ground as he threw up a desperation attempt that fell to the feet of running back Joe Mixon, and Donald sprinting away pointing at his ring finger showing the world what he was about to claim – a ring.
It was an exhilarating end to a game that proved to be entertaining – halftime show included. While both quarterbacks played well at times, they both had their struggles as well. Matthew Stafford did a nice job with 283 yards and 3 TD and threw 2 interceptions, but both weren’t what I would call “bad”. One was on a deep ball in the second half that essentially served as a punt, and the other was off the hands of a guy named Ben Skowronek after Odell Beckham Jr. injured his left knee. Joe Burrow put up 263 yards and a touchdown, but was sacked 7 times and posted an overall QBR of 39.7. While the Rams offensive line was unable to get anything going in the running game (LA had 43 rush yards on 23 attempts against the stout Bengals rush D – good for 1.9 yards per carry and no scores), they were able to protect Stafford fairly well only allowing Cincinnati to sack Stafford twice throughout the course of the evening. The defenses were the story in this game, but the unit that made the biggest impact on the night – as many predicted – was the defensive front of the Rams.
Von Miller sacked Burrow twice and hit him 3 times. Leonard Floyd, A’Shawn Robinson, and Ernest Jones all got to the newly anointed future of the NFL one each. Aaron Donald got to him twice, and really put the Rams defense on his back on the final possession of the game. Donald not only got the final paws on Burrow on a play that everyone in America knew he was going to make to end the game, he also had one of the most impressive tackles I’ve ever seen the play before. The Bengals handed the ball off to Semaje Perine on an off tackle run on 3rd and 1 with 48 seconds left in the game. Perine is a 240 lb back, and the Bengals had been doing a nice job against the Rams in the run all night long. Donald was bodied up by the most unfortunate man in America last night, Bengals left guard Hakeem Adeniji, but still put out a single arm to make the tackle for a loss on the Bengals behemoth running back.
Offensively for the Rams we saw what we have seen all year long. The Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp show. Kupp was sensational last night, including on the final drive where he had 4 receptions, a run for 7 yards, and the game winning touchdown catch on Eli Apple. Apple had absolutely nothing for Kupp, something many writers have written about the journeyman corner over the course of his career. Kupp tallied up 9 touches for 99 yards and 2 touchdowns on the night, securing the Super Bowl MVP honor and cementing his 2021 as the greatest wide receiver season in NFL history.
The storylines surrounding the Rams coming in to the game were predictable and the game played out essentially the way everyone would have imagined it would. The Stafford/Kupp connection was too much for Cinci to handle, and Aaron Donald and the Rams defensive front 7 gave an atrocious Cincinnati offensive line trouble from the very beginning, but especially in the second half when the Rams started showing more overload packages and really confusing the Bengals up front. Joe Burrow was unable to check into better protection schemes when he saw these looks contributing to the 7 sack total the Rams ran up on the Bengals.
For all the talk on twitter about LA “buying a championship”, I thought it was extremely fitting that two players that the Rams drafted back when they actually had picks were the heroes of the night. Hell, they have been the heroes of the season for LA. Yes, Von Miller did have a huge night. Yes, OBJ was trending towards a big game before he went down with a non-contact knee injury and did not return – all the best to him, we certainly hope it was nothing serious. Yes, Matthew Stafford played well and led them on the game winning drive. But Kupp and Donald were the two best players on the field for either team last night, and it wasn’t particularly close.
As you guys may have picked up throughout last week, I had talked myself into rooting for the Bengals last night. Why not? Go AFC right? It’d be cool if the city of Cincinnati got to experience what KC experienced two years ago. Go small market teams! Well, that feeling left my body entirely when I saw this :
Ja’Marr Chase – dressed like a normal human being. Guy with the beard (not sure who that is) – dressed like a normal human, but probably a little underdressed for the Super Bowl. Joe Burrow? I mean, that’s something else.
It became evident to me that all of the media chatter about Burrow being “the next Tom Brady”, or of him surpassing Patrick Mahomes with a win in the Super Bowl, or gas bags pontificating about whether or not the Bengals were a dynasty before they had even played in – much less won – a Super Bowl may not have gotten to the Bengals young QB’s head per se, but the attention was certainly something he was enjoying.
So my hatred for the Bengals fully returned. It was something I couldn’t look past in the moment. But, at the end of the day – good for him, they had a great season and have a young roster that is for sure promising heading into the future. Let’s just pump the brakes on all of this Joe Cool stuff, shall we?
The Bengals won the AFC North this year, yes. They were able to beat the Raiders and Titans, and come back on the Chiefs in the AFC Championship game, sure. The game against the Chiefs had a lot going on in the home locker room at halftime, but that’s a different conversation for a different day. When the stage was the brightest, Burrow and the Bengals didn’t have it when it mattered the most. But let’s not forget they got to their 10-7 record on a last place schedule. The Bengals will play the Chiefs, Bills, Titans, Cowboys, Patriots, and Bucs next year, just to name a few. It will be interesting to see how they fare when the pressure is fully on them as defending AFC champions. I know one opponent that will have the game circled in red.
Positive spin for Burrow – now that he’s lost a Super Bowl, all he has to do to catch what Patrick Mahomes has done already in his career is win a Super Bowl, win a MVP, and get to the AFC championship 3 more years in a row. Should be easy for him to knock off.
While I was experiencing this reinvigorated hate with the Bengals, I was trying to justify rooting for the Rams. It felt dirty. But by the end of the game, seeing guys like Aaron Donald and Cooper Kupp have some of their best games on the biggest stage along with Andrew Whitworth, Matt Stafford, and Eric Weddle finally winning rings after busting their asses for years on less than stellar teams, finally getting what every pro football player dreams of – my heart did the Grinch thing for the Rams.
It was not the end of a season that I or anyone else in Chiefs Kingdom had hoped for, but it will have to do until next year. There are worse ways to end the year, as we all saw last year. For now, the Joe Brrr hype will die down for the offseason, the Chiefs are the odds on favorite to win Super Bowl LVII, and the NFL Combine starts in 2 weeks. Football is over for the time being, but the NFL never truly goes away.