This season has been a spectacle—most of the time I was along for the ride, but there may have been a couple of moments I was ready to jump off entirely. Ultimately it was a journey I will never forget. The Los Angeles Rams are Super Bowl champions after defeating the Cincinnati Bengals 23-20.
LA’s biggest stars showed up for the biggest stage—I’m not talking about the cast of the Super Bowl halftime show. I’m talking about Cooper Kupp, Matthew Stafford, and Aaron Donald. Though there are many others who made an impact in the game, it was ultimately the three previously listed that took the game over in the waning minutes of Super Bowl 56, but is anyone really surprised by that? Of course it was Kupp, Stafford, and Donald.
The offseason is starting a little later than normal for Los Angeles as fans prepare themselves for a victory parade in the streets of downtown LA. So before we get into the conversation of free agency, or the next draft, let’s take a look back at LA’s Super Bowl win. Here are the things I learned in the Super Bowl.
Cooper Kupp, the best receiver in the league
For at least a quarter of play it seemed as though the Rams offense would take over the game. Odell Beckham Jr. looked unstoppable. His first catch of the game went for a 17-yard touchdown where he high-pointed a pass over his defenders head and came down with it in the end zone. With his second reception going for a gain of 35-yards, it began to look like OBJ would steal the show—then travesty struck. Late in the second quarter, Beckham’s knee awkwardly buckled underneath him on a crossing route and he fell to the turf in obvious excruciating pain.
Losing Beckham Jr to injury was certainly a momentum shift and emotional loss for both the offense and OBJ himself, but even still his contributions early in the game were HUGE in the victory! Two massive 3rd down catches, one for his TD and another led to a TD— RAMS ON FILM (@RamsOnFilm) February 14, 2022
@obj THANK YOU!! pic.twitter.com/jCCTAq5s5R
Stafford’s arsenal of weapons dwindled down and in the third quarter was left with just Kupp, Van Jefferson, and unproven talent in rookie Ben Skowronek and third-string tight end Brycen Hopkins. Without another threat on the field, Cincinnati turned all of its attention to covering the triple-crown winner. Not even that was enough to stop Kupp.
Without a running game to rely on or a receiving corps to keep the Bengals defense honest, Stafford and McVay decided to put the Super Bowl on the shoulder’s of the receiver they’ve trusted all season long. Kupp got his first taste of the action on the Rams game-winning drive with an end-around to move the sticks on fourth-and-1. On second-and-10, Stafford found him again for a eight yard gain before following that up with a no-look pass on a slant that Kupp caught for a 22-yards. Another eight yard reception put the Rams into the red zone.
Two costly penalties on the Bengals and six plays later, Stafford found his go-to target on a one-on-one situation with Eli Apple and threw a remarkable pass in a spot where only Kupp could come down with it. The score gave the Rams the lead with just 1:25 left in regulation.
The last series of the game easily cemented Kupp as the best receiver in the league. There was not a single person watching that game yesterday who did not believe full-heartedly that the ball was going to Kupp. The Bengals defense knew it. The coaches knew it. Every single person in a packed SoFi stadium knew it—and yet there he was, making every play like it was easy. That is what makes Kupp so special. With many their players down, he rose up to the occasion.
The offensive player of the year should have been the MVP of the league with his record-breaking year and incredible efforts in the playoffs, but I suppose MVP of the Super Bowl has a certain ring to it.
Aaron Donald and defensive line takes over the game
Kupp and Stafford may have been busy playing catch-up, but it was Aaron Donald and his defensive line that kept the game close all the way through. The matchup that everyone was talking about for the last two weeks turned out to be the catalyst for the Bengals—they were absolutely demolished by LA’s pass rushers.
Bengals finished with a 14% pass block win rate, the worst by any team in any game this season.— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) February 14, 2022
(ESPN / NFL Next Gen Stats)
It was not just one guy doing the work either. Von Miller finished with two sacks while rookie Ernest Jones, A’Shawn Robinson, and Leonard Floyd were credited with one; but it was Donald’s efforts that were the most eye-popping.
His first sack of the game was as unconventional as they come. Joe Burrow scrambled from the pocket and was pushed out-of-bounds by Donald before he could pass the line-of-scrimmage. The hard shove caused a short scuffle on the sidelines, but the play set the tone for the rest of the game. His second sack of the game was a bull-rush that took Hakeem Adenij on a ride back into his quarterback when the Bengals were deep in Rams territory.
On the final drive of the match, Donald forced a fourth down when he one-armed tackle Samaje Perine, and ended the game on the next play when he broke free once again and forced a desperate pass from Burrow that fell incomplete. Game Over.
There will be a lot of talk of Donald’s potential retirement in the days and weeks to come, but for now he deserves to live in the moment with the rest of his team. Sunday was Donald’s greatest performance in the NFL which was fitting for the league’s best defender.
Matthew Stafford, the comeback king
Matthew Stafford may just have had the most clutch performance in playoff history with not one, not two, but three straight game winning drives on his way to win the Super Bowl. He has now stole the souls of Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo, and his most recent victim, Joe “cool.” No comeback has been more impressive than the one that led his team to a Lombardi trophy.
Matthew Stafford really threw a no-look pass on the game-winning drive in the Super Bowl.— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) February 14, 2022
Cooper Kupp: “That was probably the best no-looker of his life. I saw the lane and he fit it right in there.”
So gutsy and so awesome. pic.twitter.com/lRVGgAvyzk
Stafford’s weapons were all but depleted. Hs run game, non-existent—yet, to those that have watched Stafford in the playoffs, there was not a doubt that if the ball was in his hands in the final moments of the game the Rams would walk away as champions. His final drive of the game was a legacy changer. It was not perfect by any means, but “perfect” is not the Stafford way.
The Super Bowl winning quarterback finished the game with three touchdowns, 283 yards passing, and two interceptions that he can easily be forgiven for. His first interception was more along the lines of a punt and his second was a very catchable pass that was tipped up in the air by Ben Skowronek. He threw to seven different receivers, including his third-string tight end, but ultimately it was the Kupp-Stafford connection that sealed the deal.
Sean McVay cements his legacy
The memory of the 13-3 devastation that was Super Bowl 53 can now be cast aside in favor of the Rams most recent victory. Sean McVay has become the youngest Super Bowl winning coach in the NFL and has now entered the conversation as one of the best coaches in league history.
THE YOUNGEST HEAD COACH TO WIN A SUPER BOWL: SEAN MCVAY. pic.twitter.com/QprNVDuWOb— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) February 14, 2022
Sure, I could be getting ahead of myself. It could be a bit of a hyperbole to say that a fifth year head coach has done enough to be put up on a pedestal that is shared by some of the most legendary head coaches in the league, but maybe it isn’t. McVay has now been to the Super Bowl twice with two different quarterbacks, has a 55-26 record, a 7-3 record in the playoffs, and turned a mediocre franchise into one of the most respected in just a year’s time.
His best coaching he has ever done, however, had to be this year. While being tasked with teaching a quarterback one of the most intricate offenses in the league, he also had to navigate a massive amount of injuries throughout the year which included Cam Akers, Robert Woods, Tutu Atwell, and Tyler Higbee. He lost his deep threat in DeSean Jackson due to internal conflict, and he also had to deal with a Covid-19 outbreak that saw nearly half his team go down with the virus and still win against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 14.
McVay will be the first to tell you how resilient his players are, but at some point he needs to get credit where it is due. This was a tough year. Despite the challenges though, McVay adapted every week to give his team the best opportunity to win. When everyone on the outside thought the Rams were going to implode, he kept his team together and kept them on a winning path. Even on the biggest stage, as it seemed for just a second everything was about to fall a part, McVay rallied his troops and found a way to win. Sunday’s performance was legendary.
There are only a few coaches that get to call themselves Super Bowl Champions—that title will never go away. Is five years enough for McVay to be in Hall of Fame talks if he were to retire? Hopefully we won’t find out and we will be able to watch McVay continue his legacy for years to come.
This is great: After a late night celebrating, Sean McVay had to do an early-morning press conference, but was told he'll just have to answer a few questions.— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) February 14, 2022
He ended up answering 10+ questions. This was his reaction once the press conference ended. pic.twitter.com/tTzHGpBiJf
What did you learn in the Super Bowl? Let’s discuss in the comments below!