The Los Angeles Rams are Super Bowl LVI champions. The City of Angels has a professional football championship to call its own for the first time since January of 1984.
Los Angeles came out like gangbusters against the Cincinnati Bengals, taking a 13-3 lead in the first half. That’s when it seemed like everything was going to come crashing down like a house of cards.
Cincinnati opened the third quarter with a 75-yard touchdown pass from Joe Burrow to Tee Higgins. Stafford was intercepted in the Rams’ following possession.
At that point, a hobbled Matthew Stafford joined forces with Cooper Kupp to put up one of the greatest drives in Super Bowl history — culminating in a game-winning score with 1:25 remaining in the fourth quarter.
In the end, Los Angeles came out on top against a game Bengals team by the score of 23-20 in Super Bowl LVI. Here’s a look at seven takeaways from the big game.
Related: 10 best players of Super Bowl LVI
Odell Beckham Jr. injury had a major impact on the Los Angeles Rams
The Rams were rolling early on in Super Bowl LVI with two touchdowns on their first three possessions. Matthew Stafford connected on nine of his first 10 passes, including touchdowns to both Cooper Kupp and Odell Beckham Jr.
For a while there, it looked like the homestanding Rams were about to blow out the underdog Bengals. Unfortunately, OBJ exited in the second quarter of the game with a non-contact injury to his left knee and did not return. As bad as we feel for the Pro Bowler, the imact was obvious when it came to Los Angeles’ success on offense.
The Bengals’ defense was able to zero in on Kupp after he led the league in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns during the regular season. With coverage shaded to his side, Stafford had a heck of a time distributing the ball until that final drive. The hope here is that OBJ’s is not too serious.
Cincinnati Bengals offensive line was a complete disaster
A two-play sequence late in the third quarter of Super Bowl LVI defined just how bad Cincinnati’s offensive line played in front of Joe Burrow throughout the game. With Cincinnati up 20-16 and possessing the ball, Joey Franchise was sacked two consecutive times by A’Shawn Robinson and Von Miller, respectively. This brought his sack total for the game to six. At that point, Burrow had been hit nine times on 30 drop backs.
Burrow then suffered a knee injury in the fourth quarter that seemingly limited him throughout the remainder of the game. That’s when Aaron Donald and Co. stepped up big time to continue putting pressure on Burrow — leading to a dramatic 23-20 Rams win. This is an area the Bengals must address moving forward after Burrow was sacked seven times Sunday night.
Game-changing play to open the second half of Super Bowl LVI
The Rams seemingly dominated the first half of this championship game, only to hold a 13-10 lead heading into the break. For a Bengals team that has been great in the second half throughout the season, this had to be seen as a win. For good measure, Cincinnati got the ball to open up the third quarter.
On the first play from scrimmage, Joe Burrow hit Tee Higgins for a 75-yard touchdown to give the Bengals a 17-13 lead. It came on a play-action pass from Burrow, who threw the ball down the left sideline. In a shocking manner, star Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey fell down. The end result was a Bengals score and what should have been a game-changing play for Cincinnati. The backdrop here was what could have been a missed offensive pass interference penalty on Higgins. For the NFL’s sake, we’re happy this didn’t decide the outcome of the game.
Aaron Donald comes to play in what could be his final game
It was reported ahead of Super Bowl LVI that Aaron Donald might call it quits after eight seasons in the NFL. One of the greatest defenders in modern league history, the four-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year had accomplished everything outside of winning the big game.
Primarily due to his performance in the trenches, the Rams hoisted that Lombardi Trophy inside SoFi Stadium in Southern California Sunday evening. His pressure on Burrow with Cincinnati facing a fourth-and-1 late in the fourth quarter pretty much ended it. All said, Donald recorded three quarterback hits, two tackles for loss and two sacks. While Donald stopped short of retiring immediately after the game, this would be one heck of a way to go out.
Penalties killed the Cincinnati Bengals on final drive
After a penalty-free game for the most part, Cincinnati’s defense just couldn’t hold up late in the fourth quarter. Its defense allowed Los Angeles to drive down the field on a 15-play, 79-yard drive that culminated in a Matthew Stafford touchdown pass to Cooper Kupp.
The backdrop here were three consecutive penalties called on the Bengals’ defense with the Rams in a goal-to-go situation. That included a holding penalty on Bengals linebacker Logan Wilson with Los Angeles facing third down. The next play saw Vonn Bell called for unnecessary roughness. Then, on first and goal from the four, Bengals cornerback Eli Apple was called for defensive pass interference. A game that saw Cincinnati called for a total of four accepted penalties culminated in its defense struggling to maintain composure. And it could have cost the Bengals their first ever title.
Matthew Stafford was not perfect, but he got it done
Super Bowl LVI will act as a career-defining moment for Stafford. Despite the former No. 1 pick throwing two interceptions, he stepped up when it counted the most. That included the aforementioned 14-play touchdown-scoring drive to take the lead with just over a minute remaining in the fourth quarter.
Stafford, 34, wasted away in Detroit during a 12-year career with the Lions that included zero playoff wins. Despite playing great ball in Detroit, he just couldn’t put that long-downtrodden organization over the top. The goal for Stafford last year was to find a team that would help him get that elusive Lombardi Trophy.
Going all in this season, the Rams did their best to provide Stafford with that elite-level supporting cast. He did his part Sunday evening in putting up one of the greatest Super Bowl drives in the history of the game. This is a well-deserved championship for Stafford, one that not a single individual can take from him.
Super Bowl LVI halftime show was pure gold
Dre Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, Mary J. Blige and 50 Cent took to the stage of the annual halftime show inside SoFi Stadium in Southern California Sunday evening. We’re talking hip-hop royalty. We’re talking 35 Grammy Awards combined.
The group did not disappoint, putting up a performance that many believe might be the best in the history of Super Bowl halftime shows. From Eminem singing his iconic “Lose Yourself” to Dre and Dogg going duet, it was absolutely amazing.
One now has to wonder if the NFL is going to book similar gigs like this moving forward. After all, these shows have lacked a lot since the entire Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction eons ago.