By Earl Heath, Contributing Sports Writer
It was fourth and one at the 48 when Bengals QB Joe Burrow dropped back, paused, then pump fake the ball. That was enough time for Rams all-pro Aaron Donald to grab him by his jersey and throw him around like a rag doll forcing him to throw a desperation pass that fell to the turf handing the team a 23-20 win over the Cincinnati and winning Super Bowl LVI.
“I dreamed of this, it’s amazing” Donald said after the win. “Every guy in here gave it their all.”
It was the first Super Bowl win for the Los Angeles Rams. The last time they won they were in St. Louis under the ownership of Georgia Frontier.
This was Donald’s second trip to the big game. He and the team fell short against Tom Brady and New England in LIII.
In this game the Rams had to come back for a third time after trailing in this post season. Down 20-16 with 6:13 left and after a punt Mathew Stafford began the drive from the Bengals 21-yard line. It was meticulous as the Rams had no running game. Despite that they would convert three-third downs and two fourth-down plays headed for the winning score.
One of the 4th and one was a jet sweep with Kupp carrying the ball for seven yards for the first.
After that play Stafford targeted Kupp seven times and four were complete.
The Bengals had three penalties on the other plays. On a fourth and goal from the eight, Stafford threw an incompletion but Cincy LB Logan Wilson was called for a hold.
On the following play Kupp caught a pass in the back of the end zone for what appeared to be a touchdown but holding by tackle Rob Havenstein and late hit by the Bengals Vonn Bell created off setting penalties situation.
On a first and goal the there was an interference penalty on corner Eric Apple on Kupp. The Bengals were not going to let the Offensive player of the Year beat them. Two plays later Kupp beat Apple with a wicked fade move for a touchdown and the lead for good.
“Once we got in the red area it felt like it was about 60 plays for us to get that one on the fade,” said McVay.
It was a grind about day for Kupp as he finished the day with nine catches for 93 yards. He also had 37 yards on the ground enough to be name game MVP. He‘s just the third wide receiver in Super Bowl history to earn the honor (Jerry Rice, Drew Pearson).
Stafford was hot early completing 9 of his first 10 passes finished the game going 26 of 40 for 283 yards with 3 TD’s and two interceptions that included going 7 of 11 for 57 yards on the final drive. It was his third straight come from behind win in the post season. When asked about the game winning play. “That comes from hours of working together early in morning. It’s such a team here, we got guys that care for each other. I love playing this game for competition. This game can teach you so much, I get to go to work with people from all walks of life.”
Before coming to L.A. the QB spent time in Detroit and not getting to the big game cause caused internal issues. “For 12 years that goal wasn’t reached and it tore me upside. I knew I couldn’t complain and I had to find away. The fact we reached that goal today is so special.”
Stafford hit Odell Beckham Jr. who snatched the ball away from Bengals DB Mike Hilton for the 17-yarder that put the Rams up 7-0. It was clear the defense had trouble covering Beckham. But midway through the second quarter the fleet-footed receiver was open when he turned to make the catch then went down holding his left knee. He finished the game two catches for 52 yards. Later it was found to be an ACL injury.
He later connected with Kupp on a one-yard pass giving the them a 13-3 lead and missed the PAT as veteran Johnny Hekker fumbled the snap.
With the exception of two long pass plays the defense did a sound job against the Bengals. On the first play of the second half Burrow connected with Tee Higgins on a 75-yard score, Afterwards replay showed Higgins before quickly grabbing and letting go of Jalen Ramsey’s facemask causing him to fall. It was smooth sailing for the second-year man from Clemson as he coasted to the endzone giving the Bengals a 17-13 lead.
Referee Ron Torbert later told a pool reporter the crew did not see any contact that warranted pass interference on the play.” It was a veteran crew who were consistent all day. The Rams had two penalties for 10 yards and the Bengals 4 for 31 yards.
After rookie JaMarr Chase hauled in a 46 yards pass from Burrow setting the hem up deep in Rams territory the defense tightened and rookie Evan McPhearson kicked a 29 yard FG to put the Bengals on the board.
Von Miller MVP of 50 had two tackles both were sacks as he tied Super Bowl career record with 4.5 sacks. Durious Williams led all tacklers with eight followed by Ernest Jones and Taylor Rapp had seven each while Jones added a sack. AShawn Robinson and Lenard Floyd had a sack a piece.
The defense sacked Burrow seven times in his final 22 plays from scrimmage. At one point the Rams Defense sacked Burrow on three straight drop backs.
Veteran Eric Weddle who came out of a two-year to help in the defensive backfield had five tackles but suffered a right pectoral injury.
“Never in a million years did I think I would have this moment because my career was done,” said the 37 year-old. “Certain things had to happen for me to be here and to finish things off the wat we did is something out of a fiction fairy-tale and you wish your name would be part of it and lucky me I’m a World Champion.