Super Bowl LVI shootaround: Rams pressure, Bengals falter

Photo of SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles
Prayitno Photography/Creative Commons

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“Lombardi in LA” has a nice “ring” to it.

On Sunday, Feb. 13, the Los Angeles Rams seized their second-ever Super Bowl win, after successfully defending their home turf of SoFi Stadium, 23-20, against the Cincinnati Bengals. Wide receiver Cooper Kupp was named Super Bowl LVI MVP, and Sean McVay became the youngest head coach to win America’s biggest sporting event. Here’s the breakdown of everything that went down from The Daily Californian’s sports staff.

What was the biggest reason why the Rams won?

Ryan Chien: There’s only one right answer here: the Bengals’ offensive line. But with a league-leading 51 total sacks allowed during the regular season, were any of us really surprised? Also tied for the most sacks allowed in a Super Bowl game (seven), Cincinnati faltered whenever the Rams brought pressure, especially when it came down to the second half. LA’s star defensive tackle Aaron Donald wrapped up the evening with a game-winning pass rush, and Von Miller tied the individual Super Bowl sack record in just two championship appearances –– a poetic end to a tumultuous and nail-biting 2022 NFL Playoffs.

Ali Fazal: On their game-winning drive, the Rams finally went away from the run-heavy script they employed the majority of the game. Apart from quarterback Matthew Stafford and Kupp, the Rams mustered only 30 yards on 19 carries, with running back Cam Akers being smothered during the game. During the nearly five-minute possession, Kupp caught four balls for 39 yards and the final touchdown. Maybe circumstances dictated the Rams’ pass, but regardless, the fact that Stafford and Kupp put their season-long chemistry on display put a cap on what was the former Lions quarterback’s most important game-winning drive of his career.

Benjamin Coleman: The Rams won the game on the backs of their two offensive stars: Stafford and Kupp. LA had its fair share of struggles, including an injury to receiver Odell Beckham Jr., two costly interceptions from Stafford and a stunning midgame momentum shift that saw a 10-point Rams lead turn into a 10-point deficit. But with the game on the line, LA overcame those struggles thanks to the Stafford-Kupp duo. A clutch 79-yard drive in crunch time — which concluded on a connection between the two for the game-winning touchdown with 1:25 to go — capped off a night of celebration in SoFi.

AJ Alany: Simply put, the Rams won because their No. 1-ranked team pass rush win rate faced the Bengals’ 20th-ranked offensive line. Games are often won and lost in the trenches, and this one in particular was decided there. The Bengals matched up with the Rams very well, leading for a solid amount of time. The Rams rushing attack looked nonexistent, and Stafford threw several interceptions. However, it’s virtually impossible to overcome giving up a Super Bowl record in sacks.

Which player’s legacy does this Super Bowl win help the most?

RC: Stafford. With more than 45,000 passing yards in 12 seasons with the Detroit Lions, we already knew he was an elite quarterback stuck in a bad situation. However, few expected Stafford to win it all so quickly with a simple change of scenery. Sure, the Rams had all of the pieces to complement the former first overall draft pick well before he stepped foot in LA. But Stafford is one of the highest-profile players on the team and the leader who initiated three straight game-winning drives to seize the Lombardi –– a feat that all but solidifies his ballot to the NFL Hall of Fame.

AF: Believe it or not, Beckham’s legacy is impacted the most, and it isn’t even completely because of what he did on the field. After he left the game with a knee injury, Stafford was 15-28 for only 143 yards, as well as two interceptions to go along with a touchdown. The Rams’ receiving corps sans Beckham couldn’t generate any separation, and Stafford was forced to throw 28.6% of his passes into tight windows with his superstar receiver off the field. Hopefully that “diva” label the media put on Beckham has worn off now.

BC: Kupp cemented himself as the best wide receiver in the NFL, as the Offensive Player of the Year put together a legendary game that may have swung the Super Bowl in favor of the Rams. Eight catches for 92 yards and two touchdowns, all while being consistently double covered after the injury to Beckham left him as the Rams’ sole key offensive weapon, makes Kupp a more than worthy choice for Super Bowl MVP. His performance will undoubtedly go down in history.

AA: Stafford has often been in an interesting tier in QB rankings with those who have put up top regular season numbers without much playoff success. This includes the likes of Philip Rivers, Matt Ryan and others. By winning the Super Bowl, Stafford cemented his legacy as a proven winner and likely became a first ballot hall of fame.

On a scale from 1-10, how entertaining was Super Bowl LVI to watch?

RC: 10. Rams fan or not, this game was everything you’d expect and more when watching a Super Bowl. There were tense moments, particularly as it pertains to the Bengals’ final drive that resulted in a game-deciding fourth down stop. There were celebrity sightings, such as Lebron James showing up as both a fan in SoFi Stadium and a high schooler in an eerie ad for Crypto.com. And there were other confusing million-dollar commercials, such as one including a QR code that crashed an entire app. Add it all to a vintage halftime show of LA icons, and you have a cherry on top for a night that the city of angels will never let you hear the end of.

AF: 10. This game showed shades of Jekyll and Hyde, with a high-scoring first half giving way to a defensive showdown in the second. Controversial moments were plenty, and as was the theme with this year’s playoffs, the game was decided on its last couple of drives. And if the game wasn’t completely your cup of tea, the star-studded halftime show was definitely enough to push the number over the threshold. The only negative was the slew of injuries, which will undoubtedly give way to debates over whether turfing fields should be banned.

BC: 7. This year’s Super Bowl wasn’t perfect, with an anticlimactic ending, a slow-paced defensive slugfest in the second half and a disappointing end to the miracle run of the underdog Bengals. Still, LA put on a show with a legendary halftime performance and a close, mostly entertaining game, that made Super Bowl LVI a solid iteration of the big game.

AA: 8. This game perfectly capped off what may have been the most entertaining playoff stretch in recent NFL history. From the drama of Joe Burrow walking off an injury, to a few controversial referee calls, to a halftime show that appealed to a wide array of people, this game made it difficult to take your eyes off of the TV.

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