The Los Angeles Rams won the Super Bowl on Sunday night, beating the Cincinnati Bengals, 23-20. The Rams came into the game as the spread betting favorite and managed to outlast the Bengals in a tight game decided by some great defense and clever offensive schemes.
Below are five takeaways from last Sunday’s action at SoFi stadium in California.
1. Stars Deliver Hollywood Ending
Cooper Kupp, their Triple Crown receiver was named Super Bowl MVP after a two-touchdown performance and was the go-to option deep in the fourth quarter for quarterback Matthew Stafford. All season that partnership was devastating and in the Super Bowl managed to out-duel the blossoming QB/WR partnership on the Bengals side, Joe Burrow and JaMarr Chase.
Five of the last six games prior to this Sunday were decided on the final play. On Sunday it was pretty close, Stafford’s third touchdown pass came with 1 minute 30 seconds remaining – a one-yarder to Cooper Kupp – re-taking the lead for the Rams before one of the greatest players of all time, Aaron Donald, was able to seal the game with a sack on Joe Burrow earning him a long awaited Super Bowl ring.
For the Rams, the win justified a series of aggressive personnel moves all year, including adding quarterback Matthew Stafford, wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and linebacker Von Miller. These deals shouldn’t detract from what the Rams have been building towards the past five seasons however. Even though they haven’t picked in the first round of the last five NFL drafts, the Rams have selected more players since the 2017 season than any other team except the Minnesota Vikings.
Players such as Cam Akers, Jordan Fuller, Van Jefferson and Cooper Kupp (third round pick turned offensive player of the year) have been selected and developed by the Rams, creating an organizational structure that never puts too much pressure on key additions to lead the team. Matthew Stafford, Odell Beckham Jr,, Jalen Ramsey and Von Miller were the exclamation points on top of existing football fundamentals.
2. Burrow is the real deal
There will be a couple of lasting images of Joe Burrow during the big game. One was him trying to escape out of Aaron Donald’s grasp before throwing an incomplete pass for the final Bengals play of the game. The other happened earlier in the fourth quarter as after another sack, Burrow was laying on the turf clutching his knee in some pain. As the game shifted into the nail-biting fourth quarter, Joe Burrow never stood a chance.
In the second half of the game, Burrow dropped back to pass 21 times and was sacked on six plays receiving constant pressure throughout. Throughout the playoffs the Bengals quarterback was sacked 19 times, which is the highest amount in NFL history. No other quarterback had been sacked 12 times prior to 2022.
Burrow’s teammates have lauded him for his coolness under pressure all year and it’s remarkable that Cincinnati was even able to position him to win a game under the kind of duress he suffered. Moving forward, during the playoffs a superstar quarterback has been born, it is now on the Bengals to protect him.
3. It’s Sean McVay’s NFL
For head coach Sean McVay the victory was five years in the making. Coming into the league as the youngest hire (30 years old) in NFL history he revitalized a Rams team that hadn’t been to the playoffs since 2004 en route to a division title and NFL coach of the year honors in 2017. All week leading up to the big game, McVay said he learned from the Rams’ Super Bowl loss to the New England Patriots three years ago when, he admitted, Bill Belichick out-coached him.
Rams head coach Sean McVay is now a Super Bowl-winning coach at age 36. He coached Sunday’s game against a former assistant coach of his, the Bengals’ Zac Taylor. Another former assistant during McVay’s time with Washington Mike McDaniel has recently been appointed the head coach of the Miami Dolphins. Two former offensive coordinators are the head coaches of the Minnesota Vikings (Kevin O’Connor) and the Green Bay Packers (Matt LaFleur). His success in Los Angeles is the blueprint credited with changing NFL hiring philosophies towards younger head coaches.
4. Can the Rams win Super Bowl 57?
While repeating in the NFL is difficult, the last team to do so was the 2003-04 New England Patriots, the Rams have the structure in place to make another run. The Rams know all about a Super Bowl hangover, look no further than the 2018 season when they came off losing Super Bowl LIII only to miss the playoffs entirely in 2019.
The biggest question is whether star defensive tackle Aaron Donald will return for a ninth season for the team that drafted him. Donald is currently enjoying the present, “I’m just in the moment right now,” Donald said post-game. “I’m going to enjoy this with my teammates, my family, and I’m just going to be in the moment and enjoy this for today, a couple days.”
Eight key players are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents this offseason, a group including two critical midseason acquisitions Von Miller and Odell Beckham Jr. During the Super Bowl, Beckham left the game after suffering a torn ACL registering two passes for 52 yards, including a 17-yard touchdown in the first quarter.
The Los Angeles Rams are currently 10/1 or +1000 for Super Bowl 57.
5. What about the Cincinnati Bengals?
Although this season brought with it a culture-changing quarterback in Joe Burrow, there is no guarantee that Cincinnati will return to the Super Bowl, especially when one considers the quality of quarterbacks in the same conference as the Bengals – Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Justin Herbert and Lamar Jackson.
However, unlike the Rams, the Bengals have around $56.3 million to spend this offseason and most of their core talent is still on their rookie contracts. If Cincinnati can strengthen their offensive line – either with the draft or through free agency – and re-sign notable free agents Jesse Bates, C.J. Uzomah and Quinton Spain, there is plenty of hope that Cincinnati can become regular playoff contenders.
If restructuring happens, Burrows’ Bengals could join Mahomes’ Kansas City Chiefs and Allen’s Buffalo Bills at the top of the AFC pyramid as Super Bowl contenders for the next decade or so.
The Cincinnati Bengals are currently 12/1 or +1200 for Super Bowl 57.