Ahhhh, the most bittersweet day of the year: The Super Bowl. On one end, we have the most exciting game of the year. On the other end, it’s the last day of football until September. Unless, of course, the XFL reboots again and we get to watch some of that… stuff. It’s time to break the monotony of winter by twiddling our thumbs and waiting for the next season. BUT before we get to that harsh low, let’s break down another iconic Super Bowl between the vicious LA Rams and the over achieving Cincinnati Bengals.
Let me preface this entire recap by saying that this is by far the most likable matchup between quarterbacks since Trent Dilfer and Kerry Collins. I’m actually unaware if that’s a “likable matchup”, but it might be the last one we’ve seen that was before Tom Brady’s run, and that was nearly two decades of misery for most NFL fanbases. Matthew Stafford is a humble, mild mannered quarterback who spent the first half of his career with the NFL’s worst franchise; if anyone deserves a ring, it’s Matthew Stafford. However, Joe Burrow has taken this league and social media by storm, so seeing him win is definitely not a loss for America. In fact, I think most of America was hoping that the former National Champion would pull it off, and I have to admit, it would have been a very great story. I guess what I’m personally trying to say is: either way this game went, I would have been very happy for one team and very sad for the other. Without further ado, let’s break down this game.
Both teams started the game off with a pair of punts, as these defenses came to ball out. For myself, the biggest headline in this game was going to be the defenses, specifically the Rams defensive line versus Cinci’s porous offensive line. After the pair of punts, Stafford decided it’s time to go beast mode as he effectively led his team down the field before finding OBJ for a 17 yard strike.
Following another set of punts from both sides, Joe Burrow and the Bengals began cooking as the OROY Ja’Marr Chase burned Jalen Ramsey on a beautiful one handed catch that brought Cinci to the Rams 11 yard line for a 46 yard play. It would have been nice to walk away from this with a touchdown, but Aaron Donald and the Ram’s defense forced three Joe Burrow incompletions. The rookie kicker Evan McPherson, whose been perfect in the playoffs, booted a 29 yard field goal to cut the score to a 7-3 Rams lead.
Stafford didn’t like that at all. On the very next drive, Stafford began slicing through the Bengal’s secondary, finding OBJ once again for a huge 35 yard play, and then his running back Henderson for another 25 yards. All of this led to the triple crown winner, Cooper Kupp, scoring on an 11 yard catch from Stafford. The placeholder muffed the hold on the PAT, so the score was now 13-3. Will that missed XP come back to haunt them?
Following that drive from the Rams, Burrow and the Bengals came to life. Burrow began slicing and dicing his way through a tough Rams defense, effectively finding all of his star receivers and Joe Mixon for chunk gains. On second and goal from the 6 yard line, the Bengals ran a trick play where Joe Mixon THREW a touchdown pass to Tee Higgins. If there’s a time to get creative and take these risks, it’s the Super Bowl. McPherson drills the extra point, and we now have a 13-10 game.
The game would enter halftime with a 13-10 Rams lead, but the Rams would endure a severe, heartbreaking loss on the offensive side of the ball on their second to last drive of the half. On a 2nd and 9 play from around midfield, Stafford tried to find OBJ on a crossing route. Odell reached for the ball, but ended up grabbing his knee and falling to the ground. I’m not one to speculate, but typically when a player grabs their knee on a non-contact play and fails to re-enter the game, it tends to be their ACL. It was the same knee that OBJ tore up a year ago with the Browns, so thoughts and prayers out to him. Hopefully the MRI comes back with something less serious. This loss takes away some of LA’s deep threat, and allows the Bengals to put more focus on Cooper Kupp. How will this injury affect the second half?
Well, the second half opened up with a BANG after the Bengals received the kickoff. It took them only one play to find the endzone on a BOMB thrown from Burrow to Tee Higgins for a 75 yard touchdown. However, this play had Rams fans sick to their stomach, and not because of the newfound points on the board. In the midst of going up for the catch, Tee Higgins grabbed and ripped Jalen Ramsey’s facemask to the side in order to get open for the catch. I don’t think there was anything malicious about this act from Tee Higgins; it was a bang/bang play and happens quite often in the NFL when a WR and DB are fighting. Either way, the refs missed this blatant facemask penalty, and the score was now 17-13 Bengals.
The heartache and head games didn’t stop there for the Rams, as the first play of the Rams next drive resulted in an interception. Stafford tried to find Skowronek in the middle of the field, but Skowronek displayed stone hands as he bobbled the ball in the air to be picked off by Awuzie. The Bengals now had excellent field position at the Rams 31 yard line, but a few sacks later and they walk away with only an Evan McPherson field goal. It should be mentioned that this drive also included a scuffle between the Rams and Bengals following Aaron Donald violently shoving Joe Burrow out of bounds for a sack. This scuffle resulted in multiple people getting in Aaron Donald’s face, and one player hitting him upside the helmet. If there’s one dude in the NFL you don’t want to upset, it’s Aaron Donald. The Bengals just poked the scariest sleeping bear they could find. Donald then beasted through the Bengal’s line for a 9 yard sack that effectively forced the field goal. The score was now 20-13, and it appeared the Rams were letting this game slip through their fingers.
On the very next drive, Stafford led his team down field to answer with a field goal of their own. The score was now 20-16. The loss of OBJ was now becoming very apparent. Outside of Cooper Kupp, OBJ’s replacements were not doing a great job of getting open against this tenacious Cinci defense. Cinci was not allowing any sort of movement on the ground, effectively stopping any rush from going over two yards. Will the OBJ injury lead to their demise?
The rest of this game was a well fought defensive battle. Aaron Donald and the Rams defense were on a mission to capture their first ring, while Logan Wilson and Cinci’s defense looked to pull off what seemed impossible. Following the Matt Gay field goal to bring the score to 20-16, we would see 7 punts from both sides, with five of those punts resulting from three and outs. Neither side could get any offensive movement until the Rams got the ball back with less than five minutes left in regulation.
The Rams seem like a franchise that built this team with a “win now” mentality, especially after the offseason signing of Matthew Stafford. The team signed Stafford for this reason: To be clutch when he needs to be, to show off his arm strength and why he is considered one of the most underrated players in NFL history, and most importantly, to win a Super Bowl. Luckily for Stafford, or maybe unluckily depending on how you look at it, Stafford had the opportunity to display all of these things on this drive. This is your moment Stafford! This is why they signed you!
With OBJ out of the game, the offensive plan on this drive was to dink and dunk themselves up the field. Following a nine yard catch on first down, the Rams found themselves in a 4th and 1 situation with the game on the line. So whose number do they call? How about the triple crown winner, MVP candidate, and unstoppable force that they have in Cooper Kupp? Instead of trying to sneak it or run up the middle, the Rams take a risk with a sweep to Cooper Kupp who makes a beautiful cut to get up field for a seven yard game. Okay, breathe Rams fans; it’s not over yet!
It was now at this point that the Rams and the entire NFL fan base knew what the Rams had to do: GET THE BALL TO KUPP. He got you this far, let him win it for you. As Stafford continued to pass the ball for small gains, he eventually found Cooper Kupp for a huge 22 yard gain, and then again for an 8 yard gain. Then, even though he was bottled up all game, Cam Akers found some wiggle room in the middle of the defense for a HUGE 8 yard gain that brought the game to the two minute warning at the Cincinnati 8 yard line.
Two minutes left. One Score game. Everything on the line. What more could you ask for?
Stafford immediately throws three incompletions. Yikes. Luckily for Rams fans, Logan Wilson got called for a very ticky-tack defensive holding call that resulted in a new set of downs. And listen, I know this call probably angered a lot of Bengals fans, but remember that no call on the Tee Higgins touchdown? Enough said.
Stafford then throws a touchdown to Cooper Kupp! Time for the Rams to celebrate, right? Well, not exactly. There were penalties on both teams that resulted in a replay of downs. What a roller coaster of emotions this game is turning out to be. On the next play, who do you think Stafford is looking for? Well, Kupp of course, but sadly it was incomplete. BUT WAIT! What is this? A defensive pass interference? This is getting out of hand. The Rams now have the ball first and goal at the 1.
Stafford attempts to sneak one in but gets stuffed. BUT the very next play shows what we’ve all been foreseeing. Instead of running the ball from the one yard line, which admittedly probably would have been a bad idea, Stafford drops back and throws a dime to Cooper Kupp in the front corner of the endzone. The Rams now have a 23-20 lead with 1:25 left on the clock. Still plenty of football to be played.
Joe Burrow led his boys onto the field in hopes of winning the game, and at the very least forcing OT. It started off strong, as Chase got open for a 17 yard catch and run on the first play of the drive. He then found Boyd for a nine yard catch, bringing them to the Rams side of the field at the 49 yard line. Realistically, the Bengals probably only need about 15 more yards to get McPherson in a somewhat comfortable field goal range.
However, Aaron Donald and the Rams defense were playing angry and wanted to end it right here. On a third and one play call, the Bengals handed the ball off to Perine, and it really looked like he was going to pick it up. BUT! There’s always a but, I’m sorry. Aaron Donald grabbed Perine and, like an anchor holding a boat down, pulled Perine back and prevented him from getting the first down.
Now it’s fourth and one with less than a minute left on the clock. Joe Burrow drops back and is immediately met with a wave of pressure. Donald got in his face and yanked him to the ground. Burrow threw a desperation pass to Perine as he was being sacked, but it fell short. The Rams come out to take the knee, and the Rams are now your Super Bowl 56 Champions!
If you’re a Cinci fan, there is no shame in this loss. In fact, it looked like they were going to pull out the victory for a majority of the second half. This is such a talented and young core to build around, and it’s a highly above average core to build around. If I was the GM, I’m hitting this offseason by attacking FA for their offensive line needs, and then still drafting a couple linemen on top of that. Joe Burrow has already proven in his young career that he is their franchise guy, and it would be entirely irresponsible to not do everything in their power to protect him. Especially following a torn ACL/MCL in his rookie year. This loss stings, but the future is looking bright for the Cincinnati Bengals, and there’s no doubt it my mind that Burrow and his boys will be back on the big stage soon enough.
The MVP of the Super Bowl went to Cooper Kupp, and rightfully so. He finished the game with 92 yards and two touchdowns, including the game winning score. Personally, I think they did eeny-meeny-minie-moe on the sideline to choose between Donald, Stafford, and Kupp for this MVP honor. However, I think they made the right decision. The Rams had to ride on the back of their stud receiver following the OBJ injury, and he delivered. The Bengals knew he’d be the focal point of this offense, and they still couldn’t stop him when it mattered. Kupp’s season, including playoffs, saw 178 catches, 2,425 yards, and 22 touchdowns. He received the triple crown honors for the regular season, was voted OPOY, and had the most catches ever seen in a single post season. All of this was capped off with unanimous 1st team All-Pro honors and a Super Bowl MVP. WHAT A SEASON FROM THIS GUY, and it’s been an honor to watch him tear this league up.
What an amazing season from beginning to end. Now the offseason begins, and we have some big names heading into the Free Agency market. Who do you think takes it all the way next year?
Thank you for tuning in for our final installment of the NFL Weekly Recap. I’ve enjoyed writing these for the entire year, so I hope that you’ve taken something away from my limited football knowledge. We hope to see you next year!