They did it. The Los Angeles Rams are Super Bowl champions. Five calendar years after hiring Sean McVay, his team has finally hoisted the Lombardi Trophy. The team, the city, and fans across the world won big on Sunday. The game was something that will be analyzed and attempted to be duplicated for decades to come. With the win on Sunday, the efforts to duplicate the success of the 1990s are over. Going forward, the team will be attempting to continue and duplicate what was accomplished this season.
While everyone on the roster has had their careers changed for the better as a result of the victory, some now have nagging doubts that could follow them forever as a result of this game. Without further ado, here are the winners and losers of Super Bowl LVI.
Los Angeles Rams Winners And Losers: Super Bowl LVI
What more could one say? The wide receiver has had the best season as a wide receiver, ever. Between the records set for yardage and winning the Super Bowl MVP, no one has had the level of success in one season that Cooper Kupp has had. One could name a receiver and Kupp’s 2021 season was better than their career-best. Antonio Brown? Kupp was better. Randy Moss? Kupp was better.
Without the third-round pick out of Eastern Washington University (a member of this writer’s graduating class), the Rams would not be where they are today. Kupp’s efforts on the final drive will live on forever, as will all eight catches for 92 yards and two touchdowns. Thanks to what he’s done in 2021, the wide receiver’s work will pay dividends for him for the rest of his life.
It is funny to remember this, but back in December, doubts were rising about Sean McVay. Earlier this season, this writer wrote a piece that if Matthew Stafford didn’t work out, the coach would be holding the blame as the quarterback was “his guy.” Well, the head coach’s bet on the quarterback worked out, and he looks like a genius. With the Super Bowl win, McVay has finally accomplished what he set out to do five years ago. Winning a Super Bowl essentially secures a job in the league for life. Whether as a coach or a commentator, McVay will never need to worry about his future again.
Matthew Stafford didn’t have his best game of the year by any means. He didn’t win the Super Bowl MVP award. However, with the win, he’s now entered into another echelon of quarterbacks. Aaron Rodgers, Brett Favre, Drew Brees, and Patrick Mahomes have all had one Super Bowl win. Stafford is now co-equals with them in that respect. Suddenly, Stafford’s name has a bit more juice. Of course, Joe Flacco and Nick Foles have one Super Bowl ring as well. To avoid falling into that class of quarterbacks, he needs to keep his foot on the gas for the remainder of his career.
Von Miller started 2021 with the Denver Broncos. He ended it as a Super Bowl champion. While he never asked to be moved, he accepted his new assignment. In exchange, the pass rusher earned his second Super Bowl ring and moved over .500 in Super Bowls. In winning with the Rams, he could say that he was a key reason for winning the game. Additionally, he earned two sacks. According to the Denver Broncos’ website, the resulting 4.5 sacks are tied for the most sacks by a player in Super Bowl appearances in history.
Aaron Donald was talking retirement just an hour before kickoff. Well, if this is it, the pass rusher is going out after a game and career for the ages. Without Donald, the Rams would not have won the game. The team needed stops regularly and the pass rusher was a key piece in a few. While he didn’t win the award for Super Bowl MVP, plenty of fans were calling for it. However, fans would ubiquitously agree that he deserves the award for most-valuable defensive player of the game.
Ernest Jones is a name that most do not think of. However, every tackle in the Super Bowl is worth 20 in the regular season. Jones led the team in tackles and earned a sack in the contest. Whether it is the Rams’ general manager or another team’s, one will turn on the tape and see Jones as someone to reward. If the Rams don’t do it, another team will. Either way, Jones’ great game will pay dividends for his career.
Odell Beckham Jr.
Originally, Odell Beckham Jr. was listed as a loser on this list. He had the opportunity to take over the game, thanks to the Bengals’ defensive game plan to neutralize Cooper Kupp at all costs. Instead, the wide receiver, unfortunately, suffered a season-ending injury that knocked him out of the game. However, considering the journey that the wide receiver has been on, he’s done more than enough to earn a spot with the winners.
At the start of the season, he was on a path to irrelevance with the Cleveland Browns. Had he done nothing, he would still be on the team and waiting to see if Baker Mayfield will be the quarterback next season. Instead, the wide receiver proactively risked it all to leave the Cleveland Browns. Had it not worked out, he could have slipped out of the league or, at least, to a less productive team. Instead, he landed with the Rams and the rest is history. Thanks to his gamble, the wide receiver has a Super Bowl ring and will have no trouble finding a team next season. Also, the famous boat picture plaguing his life is now erased with the win.
The fear was that if Cam Akers got the ball more in the NFC Championship game, Sony Michel’s future with the Rams was basically over. He was out-touched by Akers and in the Super Bowl, Michel was relegated to a deep-cutting trivia question. Michel touched the ball twice in the Super Bowl. This was the final nail in the coffin for the running back. He’ll find work rather easily elsewhere, but it likely won’t be with the Rams.
Cam Akers deserves a ton of credit for working his way back from injury just in time for the playoffs. However, he was eviscerated by the Bengals’ defense. In 13 rush attempts, the running back earned 21 yards (1.6 yards per carry). While the offensive line deserves much of the blame, Akers didn’t help matters in elevating the running game. Going into next season, if a high-quality running back becomes available for cheap, it would be good for the Rams to bring him in.
While Cam Akers deserves blame for the non-existent running game, the entire offensive line is equally to blame. The Rams nearly lost the Super Bowl because of this group. Stafford was hit early and often, as was Akers. Even Andrew Whitworth was uncharacteristically beaten on several occasions. Heading into next season, this could be the top group to refresh with new faces.
Jalen Ramsey met his match, getting beat regularly by the rookie Ja’Marr Chase. Granted, no cornerback has been able to stop him. However, the cornerback lost the matchup on Sunday, giving the cornerback a clear ceiling. Heading into the game, there was almost no one that the cornerback wouldn’t be able to handle. Raheem Morris could have left him alone with anyone and felt comfortable about it. However, after the game, Ramsey now has a level of receiver that he can’t handle on his own. This could have been the first crack in what was a great resume.
After Odell Beckham Jr.’s injury, it fell to Ben Skowronek and Van Jefferson to pick up the slack. Instead, Ben Skowronek dropped a pass that was intercepted. Both couldn’t rise to the occasion despite single coverage, eventually forcing Stafford to focus on Cooper Kupp, despite being draped in coverage.
Overall, the two combined for 13 targets and six receptions for 35 yards.
This game will loom large in the eyes of a win-now team that wants to keep the flame burning as long as possible. When the next opportunity to get a new receiver comes around, their inability to show up when it mattered most in this game could inform the Rams’ decision. Unfortunately for the two receivers, it doesn’t inform the choice in their favor.