On Sunday night, the Cincinnati Bengals took to SoFi Stadium for Super Bowl LVI, looking to lift the Lombardi in front of LA's home crowd. After a back-and-forth showdown, the Los Angeles Rams secured the win with a 23-20 final score.
This victory over the Cincinnati Bengals gave the Rams’ their second Super Bowl title in franchise history, since their first in 2000. It also made them the second team in NFL history to win the Super Bowl in their home stadium, after the Buccaneers victory just last year.
And they needed the win… LA's head coach, Sean McVay, went all-in on this years’ Super Bowl with an intense trading strategy to say the least. The Rams gave up two 1st round picks to bring Matthew Stafford to California back in March 2021. Since then, McVay continued to trade away picks for the likes of Von Miller and Sony Michel. After such an eventful trading year, the Rams now won't see another 1st round pick until 2024 at the earliest. It really was all or nothing for SB56.
Matthew Stafford had spent 11 years with the Detroit Lions where he made the playoffs on just three occasions and received a swift exit each time with losses in the Wild Card round. Now after just one season in LA, Stafford becomes a Super Bowl champion and proves that all he needed was the right team around him. Although he may be 6 Super Bowl rings away from Tom Brady, Stafford could see great success in the years to come, so long as this star-studded roster sticks around.
This 23-20 victory also makes Sean McVay the youngest head coach in NFL history to secure a Super Bowl title. On the opposite sideline stood Bengals head coach, Zac Taylor, who at 38 years of age would have been second-youngest on that list if he could have secured the win. This match-up proved more than anything else that age is just a number - could this be a new era of 30-something coaches taking the top seat?
Despite the tough loss, Taylor "thought it was a really well-officiated game" even though we saw some questionable flags. The Rams got extremely lucky with a mistaken holding call on the Bengals 1 yard-line to set up the game winning touchdown. But some may say this balances out a missed facemask call earlier in the game - where Tee Higgins scored a 75-yard touchdown.
Joe Burrow put on a better quarterback performance than Stafford, especially considering LA's infamous defence. Zac Taylor even said that Burrow played most of the game with a sprained MCL. Regardless, he managed a QB rating of 101 versus Stafford's 89.9, where the Rams' pick-machine continued his regular-season form, throwing two interceptions. 'Joe Cool' had a slightly higher completion percentage and threw zero picks, but was sacked 7 times to keep his talent at bay.
Those 7 takedowns from the Rams tied the NFL record for total sacks in a Super Bowl, with two each to Aaron Donald and Von Miller. Although LA's pass defence didn't perform to their usual standard, blitzing linebackers and d-line rushers showed-up to hold Joe Burrow to just one touchdown throw.
Tee Higgins stood out on the Bengals side of the ball, with 2 touchdowns and 100 yards - 75 of which came from a single touchdown pass over the head of veteran CB Jalen Ramsey (but we won't mention the facemask again).
Offensive Rookie of the Year, J'amar Chase, showed off his catching ability with numerous one-handers - one of which took the Bengals from their own 43 to the Rams 4-yard line, beating Ramsey on a straight go-route.
Bengals RB, Joe Mixon, made one of the most impressive plays of the game - completing a touchdown pass to Higgins at the end of the 2nd quarter.
Odell Beckham Jr was a nuisance for the Bengals any time he touched the ball. He clocked 52 yards and a touchdown on just 2 receptions, until one bad step injured his knee and took him to the sidelines for the rest of the game.
Cooper Kupp was named Super Bowl MVP after giving a performance that was emblematic of his triple-crown season. He caught 8 out of 10 targets for 92 yards and 2 touchdowns, one of which put the Rams ahead in their final drive of the game, securing the Super Bowl win with it.
The Rams had the edge early with a 13-10 scoreline heading into the half. But Bengals QB Joe Burrow turned on the heat in the 3rd quarter and flipped the lead to 20-16. This put all the weight on LA's shoulders - needing a touchdown in the fourth quarter to keep the Lombardi Trophy within reach.
After exchanging 4 punts with the Bengals, it was crunch time for Matthew Stafford. A 5-minute, 80-yard drive culminated in a 1-yard touchdown throw to WR Cooper Kupp, leaving just 1:25 on the clock. All eyes were on Joe Burrow and the 75 yards that lay ahead of him.
After a few plays, a 3rd&1 stop gave the Bengals just one more chance to keep the drive alive. You guessed it - none-other than Aaron Donald pressured Burrow with an almost-sack resulting in an incomplete throw. It's no surprise that the star D-lineman secured the Rams win with a play he's been making all year long.
As Sean McVay put it:
“For the offense to be able to find a way and Aaron to finish it off, is poetic.”