Inglewood, Calif.—–The last few minutes of the game weren’t pretty, aided by three consecutive Bengals penalties and coupled with some bad throws. But with that being said: Cooper Kupp caught a 1-yard pass from Matthew Stafford with 1:25 remaining, LA’s offense woke just in time for a 23-20 Super Bowl victory Sunday at SoFi Stadium in front of a crowd of 70,048.
Stafford finished off the game with a decisive 15-play, 72-yard drive with a pass to Kupp, who leaped into the air with Eli Apple nearby to grab his second touchdown of the game.
It is the second Super Bowl victory in franchise history for the Rams (16-5), who won their first in 2000, when the team was based in St. Louis and beat the Tennessee Titans in Atlanta.
Kupp was named the game’s Most Valuable Player, finishing with eight catches for 92 yards and two scores.
“I just don’t feel deserving of this,” Kupp said after the game. “God is so good. I’m just so thankful for the guys I get to be around, for the coaches, my family. I don’t know what to say.”
The Bengals had an opportunity to win the game, Joe Burrow was stopped on his final play and forced to throw an incomplete pass as he faced immense pressure from defensive tackle Aaron Donald who spun the Bengals’ quarterback around.
Odell Beckham Jr. caught five touchdowns for LA in the regular season and had the first touchdown on Sunday, a 17-yard catch that he celebrated by doing the moonwalk in the end-zone.
Cincy responded with a 75-yard drive capped off by halfback Joe Mixon. He was so good on the ground that the secondary was sucked in when Burrow handed the ball off, and Mixon tossed the 6-yard TD pass to Tee Higgins.
The score remained 13-10 until halftime, with Beckham’s left knee injury most notable; he had to be helped off the field and didn’t return to the game.
Beckham left knee injury in the first half changed the complexity of the game in the second.
“I just can’t say enough about how much I l love this group,” said the Rams’ coach, Sean McVay. “There’s something really powerful about being a part of something bigger than yourself. And you can see that in the way that these guys competed.”
On the first play of the second half, Burrow launched a 75-yard touchdown to receiver Higgins to give Cincy a 17-13 lead. Higgins appeared to grabbed the face mask of defensive back Jalen Ramsey on the play, but there was no call for offensive pass interference on the field.
On the following series, Stafford threw a pass that was intended for receiver Ben Skowronek, but the ball bounced off his hands and into the grips of the Bengals’ defensive back Chidobe Awuzie. Evan McPherson tied Adam Vinatieri’s postseason record with his 14th field goal, a 38-yarder. The rookie didn’t miss in the postseason.
Bengals fans cheered through much of the game even though Los Angeles was in its home stadium. The roars grew louder in the second half — helped perhaps by an energized halftime show that included a bevy of superstar hip-hop artists, led by the Southern California native Dr. Dre and Snoop Dog.
The Bengals had come from behind in the A.F.C. championship game to defeat Kansas City. But Burrow, despite his late heroics that had gotten the Bengals to the Super Bowl, could not get it done against the Rams. He appeared to injure his knee late in the second half but remained in the contest.
The Rams’ defense was supercharged by the ferocious pass rushers Aaron Donald and Von Miller, ramped up their pressure up front in the second half, sacking Burrow five times in the third quarter to keep the game close.
Cincinnati (13-8) was penalized the second-fewest times (72) for the fewest yards (620) in the regular season but flags hurt them badly in the second – including pass interference by Apple on Kupp in the end zone.
And it was Donald, the player that LA had built their team around, who sealed the win.
“I wanted it so bad. I dreamed this, man.” Donald, with tears in his eyes, said on the NBC broadcast after the game. He looked up at the blue and yellow confetti cascading on the field as he was asked possible retirement.
Burrow the NFL Comeback Player of the Year was 22 of 33 for 263 yards and a touchdown. But was under the duress the entire game.
What Los Angeles did on that drive finally measured up to what its defense was doing most of the night: overwhelming Cincinnati’s blockers, sacking Joe Burrow a Super Bowl record-tying seven times. The pressure, led by Aaron Donald and Von Miller, was nonstop.
”That’s hard work, that’s hours together,” Stafford said. ”I just thank coach (Sean McVay) for putting it . `Hey, Matthew, you and Coop go get this thing done.’ He kept calling plays for him, kept finding ways to get him the ball. He made unbelievable plays; that’s what he does.”
Kupp had four receptions for 39 yards, and a 7-yard run on fourth-and-1 from the Rams 30 on the championship drive. He finished with eight receptions for 92 yards.
”I’ve said it all year, whatever is asked of me whatever my job is gonna be, I just want to execute to the best of my abilities,” said Kupp, who won the triple crown of receiving in 2021, leading in catches, yards and touchdowns. ”I trust as the game goes on I’ll have opportunities as well, and I just want to stay ready for those things stay locked in.”
LA’s defense responded by holding on third and fourth downs with a yard to go at midfield. Ernest Jones knocked down a pass for Ja’Marr Chase to turn over the ball, and the excellent field position set up the first touchdown.
The most intriguing matchup, Offensive Rookie of the Year receiver Chase against All-Pro Ramsey, got real exciting late in the opening quarter. Chase tracked down Burrow’s throw and made a one-handed grab over Ramsey for a 46-yard gain to the LA 11. The drive went no further and McPherson booted a 29-yarder. But the Rams made some adjustments in the second to slow down Chase.
”It just comes down to this team and the way we prepared, they way we loved on each other, trusted each other,” Kupp said.