Before beginning a thorough breakdown of the big game let’s get this out of the way, THE RAMS WON A F##%ING SUPER BOWL!!!!!
After the Greatest Show on Turf self-destructed, the Rams crawled through 500 yards of sh!t smelling foulness most fan bases couldn’t imagine, nor would they want to, but the Rams came out clean on the other side.
The Super Bowl was a microcosm of their entire season. There were flashes of offensive dominance, idiotic turnovers, sputtering offense, a backpacking defense, followed by Cooper Kupp being miraculous. After missing the last Super Bowl run, Kupp was fittingly the reason why they won this time around. Kupp capped off a season where he won the receiving triple crown, Offensive player of the year, and now Super Bowl MVP. Only Jerry Rice has done all three and even he never did it in a single season. This season was one filled with great expectations followed by everyone (including some of their own fans), leaving them for dead, and then a euphoric and at times baffling playoff run, that ended in confetti.
Throughout the playoffs, the Rams struggled to run the ball and the Super Bowl was no different. Cam Akers led the way with 21 yards and the Rams combined for 43 yards. The Bengals run defense was stout all day and yet Sean McVay kept trying to make fetch happen. The thing is, while it might have seemed like McVay reverting to his stubborn ways, it actually did serve a purpose, although it might have been nice if the interior line had gotten some kind of a push. Nevertheless, the Bengals had to at least pay attention to the run game which meant Matthew Stafford (26/40, 283 yards, 3 TDs, 2 Picks). His throw to Odell Beckham (two catches, 52 yards, and a TD) was dead on and the catch by Beckham was spectacular. Kupp (8 catches, 92 yards, 2 TDs) also had a first-half touchdown and the Rams found themselves up 13-3. Then tragedy struck when Beckham injured his knee (later revealed to be a torn ACL) and the Rams offense became limited.
Stafford struggled to find much of a rhythm with anyone else. He tried to force a long bomb to Van Jefferson (4 catches, 23 yards) but it was picked off in the end zone. The Rams defense got fooled by a Joe Mixon pass and they suddenly saw themselves up 13-10 at the half.
Following a spectacular halftime show, the Rams seemed to be in a Footsteps Falco quicksand scenario. Joe Burrow threw a 75-yard bomb to Tee Higgins beating Jalen Ramsey, only he didn’t as Higgins got away with a blatant face mask/OPI.
Then Stafford threw a pass that bounced off Ben Skwornek’s Olive Oil-like arms and was picked. Evan McPherson kicked a field goal and the Rams were suddenly town 20-13. Even after Brandon Powell gifted the Rams great field position the offense couldn’t move. McVay ended up having to bust out the Philly Special and even that didn’t work.
Fortunately, the defense did what they had to do when the offense has been in a dark place. They carried the day. Following that series of unfortunate events Aaron Donald (4 tackles, 2 sacks, 8 pressures) pushed Burrow out of bounds and was punched by a member of the Bengals offensive line. No flag was thrown despite it happening right in front of a ref and then Donald turned into Jefferson at Ridgemont High’s homecoming. He ignited the Rams pass rush which was oddly held at bay despite the Bengals’ line being as flimsy as the business model for Homer Simpson’s sugar empire. They kept Joe Scheisty clean for a half but he’d wind up being sacked seven times. Von Miller got to him twice, A’Shawn Robinson, and Ernest Jones also sacked Joe Cool. The run defense kept the Bengals in check and the secondary reigned in the hydra that was the Bengals receiving corps.
Still, things looked absolutely bleak offensively. That is until some homegrown Rams stepped up in unexpected ways. Darrell Henderson (3 catches, 43 yards) came off of IR after missing almost two months of action. He had key catches in both halves that moved the chains. Brycen Hopkins (4 catches, 47 yards) seemed like a concept more than an actual player but he had crucial first-down catches in the fourth quarter, and while they still couldn’t run the ball, Stafford was able to find Cooper Kupp. McVay had a Coach Kline-esque moment of clarity and got creative. They did a sweep to Kupp on 4th and 1 and then Stafford hit Kupp on a 22-yard no-look pass that even Patrick Mahomes was impressed by. Cam Akers got them into the red zone and things got weird.
The red zone offense had several starts and stops. They couldn’t run it in and Stafford had an erratic throw to Van. Then there were several flags mostly on the Bengals and then Eli Apple got burnt by Kupp for the actual deciding touchdown.
On the Bengals final drive, Aaron Donald made the deciding pressure on 4th and 1 sealing the victory. Kupp and Donald were the two heroes of the game and it was fitting. For all the hoopla and handwringing about the Rams trading picks for stars and bringing in big names, the game, like the NFC title game, came down to two in-house stars. Kupp and Donald were the common denominators in both instances. The legacies of several players were forever changed that night.
Andrew Whitworth gets to retire with a ring and a Walter Payton Man of the Year patch against his old team, after a long historic career. He clinches the title of greatest free agent in Rams’ history.
Eric Weddle came out of retirement and was the designated green dot player in the biggest game of the year. He tore his pec and yet still finished the game.
Aaron Donald, in eight years, settled any debate as to who the greatest player of his generation is (and he put himself into a stratosphere occupied by the greatest of the greats).
While Beckham didn’t get to finish the game, his career reclamation got to end with a ring.
Von Miller reminded everyone how dominant he still is with over 14 pressures in the playoffs alone and set the record for most combined sacks in the Super Bowl (4.5).
Robert Woods got a ring after tearing his ACL and every player on the team made a point of saying they wanted to win one for Trees. He and Whitworth were two of the most important reasons why “WE NOT ME” was allowed to cultivate in the locker room. Woods even vowed to help Beckham with his rehab during the game.
Matthew Stafford suffered through twelve years in Detroit where success seemed to have a restraining order with him. His first year, following a controversial trade, he won a Super Bowl and at the very least began his pursuit of a gold jacket. His numbers speak for themselves and now he has a ring to go with it. He put together four tremendous playoff games and now he has as many rings as Aaron Rodgers.
The most important legacy (besides Donald) that was clinched was that of DeSean Jackson…just kidding…Sean McVay. McVay proved he could get out of his own way and avenged his first Super Bowl loss. At 36 he became the youngest head coach to win a Super Bowl and despite retirement rumors, he’s not going anywhere. The Rams will have a lot of cap space (believe it or not Ripley) and around eight draft picks to improve the team and make a run at it again next year. The Rams went all in this season and hit big but they’re not ready to leave the casino just yet. It’s been a beautiful ride! On to next season.