The Los Angeles Rams are your Super Bowl LVI champions! It took a down to the wire 23-20 victory at SoFi Stadium over the AFC champions in the Cincinnati Bengals led by their star second year quarterback Joe Burrow and wide receivers in Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, along with the Offensive Rookie of the Year and All- Pro rookie Ja’Marr Chase. What makes it even more special for the Rams is that they did it at home in Los Angeles.
The Rams would score the first points of the game with Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford connecting with wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr for a 17-yard touchdown to give the Rams a 7-0 lead after a successful field goal to put them up top. Stafford would later find All-Pro wide receiver Cooper Kupp for a 11-yard pass to make it a 13-3 ball game after a failed conversion attempt.
The Bengals wouldn’t score a touchdown in the first quarter as they struggled against the defensive pressure of the Rams led by All-Pros in Aaron Donald, Von Miller, and Jalen Ramsey who helped the team rank third in sacks, third in interceptions, and second in pass touchdowns allowed according to https://www.lineups.com/nfl-team-rankings/defense . The Bengals would score their first touchdown in the second quarter that came from a Burrow to Higgins connection to help the Bengals reduce the lead to 13-10.
After a slow start in the first half, Burrow and the Bengals got the fireworks started right away in the opening start of the third with a 75-yard pass to Higgins in the opening drive for them to help them regain the lead. Higgins clearly grabbed the mask of Ramsey that was an obvious call and would’ve been scrutinized more heavily had the Bengals won the game. However, the referees missed it and Higgins was awarded a touchdown. That would be the only touchdown though, as both teams ended up just scoring a field goal a piece in the third quarter.
Then the fourth quarter came, with the Rams down four and without their second receiver in Beckham out due to suffering a non-contact leg injury late in the second quarter, and mostly playing with second and third stringers, Stafford and Kupp found a way. It took 15 plays in Cincinnati’s territory with 1:29 left to play and being down 20-16, after knowing it was a touchdown or nothing because that other guy Burrow and the Bengals were going to make sure the game was out of reach if so.
But, the constant penalties called on the Bengals defense, with none bigger than Bengals safety Von Bell, who had an illegal hit on Kupp after he caught a pass in the endzone, but was waved off due to a penalty on the Rams as well that canceled it out for both teams. Bengals linebacker Logan Wilson and the outspoken cornerback Eli Apple also had penalties as well that gave the Rams chance after chance to convert in the endzone as they were force feeding Kupp.
Eventually the Rams duo of Stafford and Kupp finally found a way after the initial touchdown being waved off and helped the Rams take the lead 23-20 with a 1:25 remaining in the fourth, enough time for Burrow and the Bengals to try to get in field goal range or score a touchdown to win it. It at first seemed like that with Burrow connecting on almost every pass he threw until the final few possessions. With a championship on the line and the clock ticking the Rams defense came in clutch, but none more than a 3-time Defensive Player of the Year himself in Donald who had a huge play on 3rd &1, preventing Bengals running back Samaje Perine in getting the first down.
Donald, one of the greatest defensive forces the league has ever seen would again have another play that would define his legacy on the next drive after finding a way to somehow get his hands on Burrow and put him down on 4th & 1 and Burrow still somehow got it off, but missed just short of Perine which led to a turnover on downs and Donald pointing at his ring finger saying “ring me!”
It was an amazing game by both teams, as Stafford finished with 283 yards and three touchdowns along with two picks on 26-of-40 completions, while his primary running mate in Kupp would go on to capture the Super Bowl MVP with two touchdowns for 92 yards on eight receptions to cap off a historic season for him in which he was named the Offensive Player of the Year, won the triple-crown, and was named All-Pro.
Kupp totaled 178 catches for 2,425 yards over his 21 games (17 regular season and four postseason), which obliterated the former records. The previous record for combined regular season and postseason receiving yards was 1,977 by Larry Fitzgerald in 20 games in 2008. The previous record for combined regular season and postseason catches was 156 by Michael Thomas in 17 games in 2019 according to Michael David of Pro Football Talk https://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2022/02/14/cooper-kupp-finishes-with-178-catches-for-2425-yards-over-21-games-most-in-nfl-history/ .
Kupp broke numerous records this season that would take a laundry list to go over, but in the end he is now a champion and a Super Bowl MVP. How about Donald? A guy who has been here before, but suffered bitter defeat in 2019 to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. This time he got his rightful ring and further solidified his place in history as one of the top five defensive players in NFL History, bar none.
Lastly, how about Stafford? A guy who’s first 13 years were toiled away in NFL Siberia as a Detroit Lion, one of the worst run organizations in all of football, having just played with one star receiver in his career in Calvin “Megatron” Johnson. He changed the narrative of his career by showing up in the big pressure games in the postseason, whether it was coming back from deficits against the San Francisco 49ers and Bengals, to defeating the greatest of all time in Brady, he proved he’s a winner. That game winning touchdown to Kupp with all the pressure in the world on them to convert is all the proof you need to know, as Stafford has now solidified his place for a spot in Canton.
It was an amazing Super Bowl effort by both teams, and the halftime show was banging with iconic music artists such as Eminem, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and Kendrick Lamar performing, making for a memorable spectacle for fans. Burrow, Chase and the Bengals will look to build on this for the future, but in the end, the Rams are your Super Bowl 56 Champions!