The Los Angeles Rams were the better team heading into Super Bowl LVI, but they spent most of the second half of the game fighting significant headwinds. In the end, they won.
The story of the 2022 Super Bowl champions is a tale of overcoming significant obstacles even though they were expected to be here all along. That’s not to say the Cincinnati Bengals didn’t earn the right to be here - it’s about rising above the unfortunate moments and doing whatever it takes to win.
Bad calls happen. Good teams rise above it. We’ve still got this.— Battering Rams (@BatteringRams) February 14, 2022
LA went into halftime with a three-point lead; however, in the opening of the third quarter Joe Burrow went deep to Tee Higgins for a 75-yard touchdown and the lead. On the following offensive possession, Matthew Stafford’s pass bounced out of the hands of rookie receiver Ben Skowronek and into the arms of defensive back Chidobe Awuzie. Things seemed bleak at that moment for Los Angeles, but the team relied on its star players to right the ship.
The Los Angeles Rams are world champions after defeating the Cincinnati Bengals 23-20 - and it took a number of individual performances to reach the pinnacle of professional football:
Aaron Donald, DT
Receiver Cooper Kupp was named the Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl LVI; however, history would not have remembered Kupp’s game winning moment if Aaron Donald’s moment to end the Bengals’ final possession never happened.
On 3rd and 1 from midfield, Burrow handed off to Joe Mixon and Donald stopped him in his tracks for no gain. On the following snap Donald snuck by the left guard to get instant pressure on the Cincinnati signal caller, who pulled down the ball out of his throwing motion. Burrow pivoted to his right and tossed a desperation heave - ball game.
Aaron Donald. Absolute monster. pic.twitter.com/VR4MSWTsnU— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) February 14, 2022
Much was made of Donald’s slow first half, but he and the Rams pass rush showed up late in the game when it mattered the most. No single Ram is more deserving of this moment than Donald, who has now cemented his legacy as one of the best defensive players in NFL history.
Cooper Kupp, WR
Odell Beckham Jr. made impact plays early in the game, but he exited with injury during the first half. Van Jefferson and Ben Skowronek were targeted frequently in OBJ’s absence, but neither were overly effective when working down the field.
Despite good starting field possession for most of the second half, the Rams offense was sputtering - until crunch time when the dominant connection between Stafford and Kupp took over, just as they two of them have done all season long.
IT'S BEEN COOPER KUPP ALL YEAR.— NFL (@NFL) February 14, 2022
HE DOES IT AGAIN. #RamsHouse
: #SBLVI on NBC
: https://t.co/K02y40b5Nu pic.twitter.com/02QlsZmirX
Kupp took a jet sweep to convert a key fourth down on the game winning drive, and he caught a handful of passes in high pressure situations. Nearly all of the millions of people watching the Super Bowl knew the Rams were going to get the ball to Kupp, but he came through when it mattered the most.
The MVP of the game caught 8 passes for 92 yards and 2 touchdowns (including the game winner), and he added another 7 yards on the ground.
After leading the NFL in receptions, receiving yards, receiving touchdowns, and now being named Super Bowl MVP, did Kupp have the best individual season for a wide receiver ever? It’s a fair and legitimate question.
Unprecedented season for @CooperKupp pic.twitter.com/Fsuu7RSRyz— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 14, 2022
Matthew Stafford, QB
It almost goes without saying, but the Rams would not be world champions without the blockbuster trade to acquire Stafford.
He wasn’t perfect in the big game, but he kept his team alive despite missing two of his better weapons in Beckham and tight-end Tyler Higbee.
Matthew Stafford looking at all those doubters right now like pic.twitter.com/kKiZPdviZM— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) February 14, 2022
Stafford finished the game having completed 26 of 40 passes (65%) for 283 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. He also tied for the Rams’ second-longest rushing play on the night, which highlights just how little production LA was able to muster on the ground. All of the weight and pressure were on Stafford - he delivered.
Sean McVay, Les Snead, Stan Kroenke, Kevin Demoff
The Rams are one of the most well-run organizations in the NFL - you don’t make it to the Super Bowl twice in four years if that is not true.
It took organizational buy-in in order to leverage draft capital and salary cap resources as the Rams have done in recent years - and these individuals would have been mocked for anything less than a victory in this game.
"I'm really proud of this group."— Sky Sports NFL (@SkySportsNFL) February 14, 2022
LA Rams owner Stan Kroenke reacts to their #SuperBowl triumph... pic.twitter.com/kwHd6t4Fct
The ownership was aggressive in building the best stadium in the world. The front office shocked the world by hiring a 30-year old coach in 2017 and leveraging draft capital and salary cap resources to acquire high-end talent. The coaching staff continually adapted as players were lost on numerous occasions and new reinforcements joined the team over the course of the season. It took everyone being on the same page and being committed to the same goals - and they got the job done.
Brycen Hopkins, 3rd string TE
Starting tight-end Higbee was ruled out ahead of the game, and the hero of the NFC championship game, Kendall Blanton, suffered a shoulder injury.
GOD IS GOOD! ALL THE TIME! CHAMPS ! #GoRams— Brycen Hopkins (@Itsbhop89) February 14, 2022
After recording only a single reception for 9 yards in the first two season of his career, Brycen Hopkins recorded 4 receptions for 47 yards and was an important member of the offense in the second half. The moment could have been too big for an unproven, young player - but Hopkins made the most of his moment.
Von Miller & Leonard Floyd, OLB
Von Miller played a great game and got after Burrow frequently - recording 2 sacks. Leonard Floyd made the first sack of the game and was an effective run defender.
While Donald’s performance overshadowed the contributions of Miller and Floyd, the two edge rushers were still difference makers and should be recognized as such.
.@VonMiller making plays when it counts the most.— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) February 14, 2022
: #SBLVI on NBC pic.twitter.com/kjiUdNIg0y
Odell Beckham Jr., WR
OBJ was the fire starter for the Rams on offense, and LA would not have earned a trip to the Super Bowl without him. Beckham suffered an unfortunate non-contact injury in the first half and was emotional on the sideline late in the game. Here’s to hoping he did not suffer a severe injury, because the NFL is more entertaining with him in it.
Prior to injury, it seemed the Rams were confident they could retain OBJ for the 2022 season.
OBJ'S FIRST CATCH IS A TOUCHDOWN. #RamsHouse @OBJ— NFL (@NFL) February 13, 2022
: #SBLVI on NBC
: https://t.co/K02y40b5Nu pic.twitter.com/4nbf2miuHO
Andrew Whitworth, LT
The 40-year old veteran could retire after winning the Super Bowl, he’s been an emotional leader for Los Angeles since he joined the Rams in 2017. A world championship likely secures his place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and he did it against his former team.
Ernest Jones, ILB
Eric Weddle took over the “green dot” and defensive signal calling duties for this game, which allowed rookie Ernest Jones to step into a larger role. Jones made the most of his increased opportunities - registering 7 total tackles, 1 sack, 2 tackles for loss, and a fourth down pass deflection.
Could we be watching the emergence of the next defensive star for LA?
Ernest Jones! #CarolinaMade pic.twitter.com/FIiJmVPh8k— Gamecock Athletics (@GamecocksOnline) February 13, 2022
Darrell Henderson, RB
Many counted out Darrell Henderson after the emergence of Sony Michel late in the season and after Cam Aker’s playoff explosion; however, Henderson was the best running back for the Rams in both the run and the pass game.
With receiving options limited, Henderson was one of the better downfield threats for LA - and it’s exciting to think how the team could leverage his talents with a full stable of talent next season.
The young runner managed 7 yards on 4 carries and caught 3 passes for 43 yards.
Los Angeles & SoFi Stadium
The Rams winning the Super Bowl in their home stadium is special, and it’s fair to wonder how this could impact the team’s ability to grow their following after relocating to Los Angeles in 2016.
LA and SoFi Stadium shined bright on one of the world’s largest stages.
Lackluster performers (not losers)
Van Jefferson, WR
It certainly seemed the Rams expected to push the ball down field to OBJ on fade routes out of the slot, and when Beckham went down these targets went to Jefferson. After being an effective deep threat for most of the season, Jefferson seemed overall ineffective as a down field receiver in the Super Bowl.
Maybe he just had a lot on his mind - his wife was transported to the hospital mid-game for the birth of his child. Winning a Super Bowl is a moment you remember for the rest of your life, and this is an even more special memory for his family. Congrats to the Jeffersons.
A Super Bowl ring and a new baby for Van Jefferson. February 13, 2022 - what a day for the Rams receiver! (Van_j12/IG) pic.twitter.com/X0cHrSfpIq— Lindsey Thiry (@LindseyThiry) February 14, 2022
Cam Akers & Sony Michel, RB
Los Angeles was committed to the ground game even though it was not working. While McVay was panned for this at times, I think it worked to the benefit of the Rams - and it’s important that McVay never completely abandon the ground game
Cam Akers was overall ineffective - toting the rock 13 times for 21 yards (1.6 average) and recording 3 receptions for 14 yards. Akers did have an 8-yard carry on the Rams’ game-winning possession, but he just seemed to lack a real sense of urgency in this game.
Sony Michel was mostly absent after Henderson took over the second running back role. Michel had 2 carries for 2 yards, but it’s fair to wonder if the team could have better leveraged him in short yardage situations or around the goal line.
Ben Skowronek, WR
Skowronek was targeted 5 times but he managed only 2 catches for 12 yards. He also tipped a Stafford pass into the air (albeit it was a bit far in front of him) that resulted in a momentum-shifting interception.
Stafford with his 2nd INT of the night— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) February 14, 2022
After his brutal end zone drop in the NFC championship game, Skowronek had a tough two-game stretch to close the season.
Jalen Ramsey, DB
It was a tough night for Jalen Ramsey. He fell down on a Burrow pass early in the game that resulted in a 46-yard catch by Ja’Marr Chase. Tee Higgins pulled him down by his facemask and then caught and ran for a 75-yard touchdown. On the Bengals’ final offensive possession, Chase made a last-second adjustment on a Burrow pass to get outside of Ramsey breaking on the ball - the result was a 17-yard catch and run.
Tee Higgins definitely got away with one. Grabbed Ramsey's facemask. pic.twitter.com/yg4yFxd9VY— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) February 14, 2022
Cincinnati rarely pushed the ball down the field, but interestingly enough when they did they seemed to target Ramsey. Ultimately, the star corner gets the last laugh as a newly crowned world champion.