Super Bowl LVI: Los Angeles Rams stars shine bright in Super Bowl win over Cincinnati Bengals | NFL News

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Matthew Stafford celebrates the Los Angeles Rams' win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI

Matthew Stafford celebrates the Los Angeles Rams’ win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI

Even when the Los Angeles Rams jumped out to a 10-point lead early in Super Bowl LVI, we should have known all along that the NFL’s title game was going down to the wire.

It has been the most dramatic NFL season in living memory and it was only fitting that the Super Bowl was played out in similar fashion.

The Cincinnati Bengals went from being 13-3 down to leading 20-13, but the Rams eventually rallied for a 23-20 victory to take home the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Here are my five major takeaways from Super Bowl LVI…

Highlights of Super Bowl LVI between the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals.

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Highlights of Super Bowl LVI between the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals.

Highlights of Super Bowl LVI between the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals.

1) Rams’ stars shine bright

In the second half of the Super Bowl, the Rams were in serious trouble. Their lead had been overturned and they couldn’t move the ball a lick as their offensive drives after the break read interception, field goal, punt, punt and another punt. It was time to rip up the playbook and just get the ball into the hands of the best players on the team.

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Matthew Stafford did just that, handing the ball to Cooper Kupp on a key fourth down play and completing four passes to his record-setting receiver on a 15-play, 79-yard drive that produced the game’s winning points – a one-yard touchdown strike to Kupp with one minute and 25 seconds remaining.

That march featured the most plays (15) of any fourth quarter go-ahead drive in Super Bowl history. It saved the Rams’ season and it was all down to Stafford and Kupp.

2) The rush to glory

Then it was over to the Rams’ biggest star of all to close out the game. Aaron Donald took over this Super Bowl in the second half and could easily have been named the MVP.

Aaron Donald delivered the quarterback hit on Joe Burrow to seal the win for the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LVI.

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Aaron Donald delivered the quarterback hit on Joe Burrow to seal the win for the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LVI.

Aaron Donald delivered the quarterback hit on Joe Burrow to seal the win for the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LVI.

With the Bengals threatening to take the game into overtime, Donald dragged Samaji Perine down from behind on third-and-one and then pressured Joe Burrow into an incompletion on fourth down. Game over!

The Rams sacked Burrow just once in the first half but ended the game with a Super Bowl record seven QB takedowns. Donald registered two of them, as did Von Miller.

The Rams created pressure on a stunning 41.5 per cent of dropbacks in the game, when their best in the regular season had been 26.6 percent. With Odell Beckham Jr. scoring a key touchdown in the first half, the Rams’ stars showed up in big spots on Super Bowl Sunday.

Matthew Stafford found Odell Beckham Jr in the endzone to grab the opening touchdown of Super Bowl LVI.

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Matthew Stafford found Odell Beckham Jr in the endzone to grab the opening touchdown of Super Bowl LVI.

Matthew Stafford found Odell Beckham Jr in the endzone to grab the opening touchdown of Super Bowl LVI.

3) Bengals fail Burrow

To his credit, Burrow attempted to put Cincinnati’s loss on his own shoulders. He told the world’s media that he needed to play better. Say it ain’t so, Joe! This one was not on Burrow, who still managed to post a passer rating north of 100 while becoming the most sacked quarterback in any Super Bowl.

A disconsolate Joe Burrow leaves the field after the Cincinnati Bengals' Super Bowl loss to the Los Angeles Rams

A disconsolate Joe Burrow leaves the field after the Cincinnati Bengals’ Super Bowl loss to the Los Angeles Rams

That’s just another unwanted record for Burrow or, more specifically, the Cincinnati offensive line. Burrow was sacked an NFL-high 51 times during the regular season and 19 more times in the playoffs – with nine sacks conceded against the Tennessee Titans in the divisional round and seven in the Super Bowl.

Burrow ended up being dropped 70 times this season – third-most in NFL history. You can’t win it all that way. And you cannot depend on having your quarterback around for the long term with such scant protection.

The future of Burrow and the Bengals depends on making good offseason additions to the offensive line. That is priority number one, two, three, four and five!

4) Bengals fail on money downs

The Bengals had this Super Bowl within their grasp but failed to make plays in big spots, starting with a fourth-and-one from midfield on their very first drive of the game. Burrow forced a pass into double coverage and the throw intended for Ja’Marr Chase was knocked away.

Cincinnati went three-of-14 on third down attempts and that is nowhere near good enough. And when they threatened to tie the game late, things went south very quickly and suddenly it was all over. Two quick completions to Chase and Tyler Boyd had Cincinnati in great shape – second-and-one from the Rams’ 49-yard line.

But, after an incompletion, the Bengals puzzled me on third down, putting the ball in the hands of Perine on a running play. Joe Mixon gained more than 1,800 yards from scrimmage during the regular season, rushing for more than 1,200, and he had already gained 72 yards on the ground in this Super Bowl. There are few runners better after contact, either.

That should have been a Mixon down. As for the final fourth down desperation heave, camera angles can be deceiving but I felt Perine could have at least dived for the ball.

Los Angeles Rams players made the traditional Super Bowl champions trip to Disneyland to celebrate their win over the Cincinnati Bengals.

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Los Angeles Rams players made the traditional Super Bowl champions trip to Disneyland to celebrate their win over the Cincinnati Bengals.

Los Angeles Rams players made the traditional Super Bowl champions trip to Disneyland to celebrate their win over the Cincinnati Bengals.

5) A playoff series for the ages

We may never see another playoff series like this one. From the divisional round on, we had six games decided by three points, and another – the Kansas City Chiefs’ overtime win over the Buffalo Bills – coming by just six points.

There were comebacks, iconic moments and standout performances, and so many occasions when games hung in the balance and could have gone either way. The Super Bowl turned out to be exactly like the rest of the postseason, which simply reflected the wild and wide-open nature of this entire 2021 campaign.

Player of the Week: Aaron Donald

Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald is rumoured to be considering retirement after only eight seasons in the NFL

Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald is rumoured to be considering retirement after only eight seasons in the NFL

Aaron Donald was quiet for so much of the first half of Sunday’s Super Bowl, to the point where our guest – six-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman Calais Campbell – said the Rams’ three-time winner of the NFL Defensive Player of the Year prize “did not look himself”.

But from the moment Donald shoved Burrow out of bounds for his first sack of the game, he played like a man chasing greatness. Those Cincinnati offensive linemen just woke a sleeping giant by getting into Donald’s face at the end of that play.

But now the Rams are faced with the prospect that Donald may choose to walk away from the game after just eight years in the league. That was reported in the final hours leading up to Sunday’s kick-off and Donald certainly didn’t shut down that notion when asked about it after the greatest game of his life.

Play of the Week

The remarkable nature of Matthew Stafford’s no-look pass to Cooper Kupp on the final drive to win the Super Bowl was largely overlooked in the moment.

Cooper Kupp and Matthew Stafford completed an incredible, game-winning drive in which the quarterback almost solely used his trusted wide receiver.

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Cooper Kupp and Matthew Stafford completed an incredible, game-winning drive in which the quarterback almost solely used his trusted wide receiver.

Cooper Kupp and Matthew Stafford completed an incredible, game-winning drive in which the quarterback almost solely used his trusted wide receiver.

I think most of us only really noticed it when we watched more of the film on Monday. Twitter and social media certainly woke up to one of the most amazing throws in Super Bowl history the day after the game. Imagine having the nerve to pull off that kind of throw with the biggest game of your career on the line?

It was brave but it was also brilliant and it will rightly be remembered more after the Super Bowl than it was applauded during it.

Coach of the Week: Sean McVay

Sean McVay reflects on the Los Angeles Rams' impressive finish to beat the Cincinnati Bengals and becoming the youngest head coach to win a Super Bowl.

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Sean McVay reflects on the Los Angeles Rams’ impressive finish to beat the Cincinnati Bengals and becoming the youngest head coach to win a Super Bowl.

Sean McVay reflects on the Los Angeles Rams’ impressive finish to beat the Cincinnati Bengals and becoming the youngest head coach to win a Super Bowl.

The 36-year-old Sean McVay has become the youngest head coach to win a Super Bowl and he needed to make a big call late in this game that kept the Rams marching for the winning points.

LA faced a fourth-and-one on their own 30-yard line with five minutes left in the game. It would have been very easy for McVay to call for the punt and rely on his defence to make yet another stop. Instead, he rolled the dice, trusting that his defence would at least hold Cincinnati to a field goal if the play failed.

The end-around to Kupp was a great call for three reasons: one, it was a lot less risky than a pass on fourth down; two, it meant the ball was not given to running backs who had gained just 30 yards on 19 carries; three, it got the ball into the hands of Kupp – the Rams’ best offensive player.

Cooper Kupp felt he didn't deserve the Super Bowl MVP and was thankful to the rest of his team for achieving the award.

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Cooper Kupp felt he didn’t deserve the Super Bowl MVP and was thankful to the rest of his team for achieving the award.

Cooper Kupp felt he didn’t deserve the Super Bowl MVP and was thankful to the rest of his team for achieving the award.

On my radar

For the second year in a row, a veteran quarterback has joined a new team and won a Super Bowl in his first year with that franchise.

Stafford became just the third quarterback in NFL history to win a Super Bowl in his first year with his new team, just one year after Tom Brady led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to victory in the title game. You don’t think that resonates with the likes of Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers? Or even a supposedly-disgruntled Kyler Murray, of the Arizona Cardinals?

NFL players – particularly quarterbacks – have more power than ever before. I expect some of them to use it and to look at teams who have everything in place to make a run, apart from the quarterback.

I would put the likes of the San Francisco, Pittsburgh Steelers and Indianapolis Colts in that category. And it appears the Colts are going to be open for business as reports on Sunday suggested they are looking to cut or trade Carson Wentz before the start of the new league year. The NFL never sleeps, so get ready for some big headlines in the coming months.

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