By: Gus Wilson
On Sunday, February 13th, 2022, Super Bowl LVI (56) was set to take place in Los Angeles, California, at the newly built SoFi stadium. The biggest game of the year in the National Football League (NFL) was between the NFC Champion Los Angeles Rams and the winner of the AFC, Cincinnati Bengals. With both teams coming off last-second wins against their conference champion opponents, they both looked to hoist the Lombardi Trophy for the first time since Super Bowl XXXIV (34) for the Rams, and the first time ever for the Bengals. While it was only the second time in NFL history one of the teams had home-field advantage in the championship game, the first time coming just last year, neither team let that alter the game plan.
After a short introduction from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson just seconds before kickoff, the game was underway. On each team’s opening drive, the defenses came up clutch with a forced punt by the Bengals unit and a fourth and one stop by the LA Rams. The Rams took the momentum after a stop on fourth down and used it to score from 17 yards out from a Matthew Stafford pass to wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. This touchdown was the only one of the very defensive first quarter. The Bengals ended the first by scoring a field goal to cut the lead to four.
The second quarter started off with a Matthew Stafford master class. After throwing a 35-yard pass to Odell Beckham Jr. on third and 11, he threw a 25-yard pass to running back Darrell Henderson Jr. He finalized this drive with an 11-yard touchdown pass to the NFL AP Offensive Player of the Year Cooper Kupp. After a missed hold on the extra point, the lead was extended to 13 to three. Cincinnati wasn’t going to go down by too much as they used some trickery by pitching the ball to running back Joe Mixon, where he threw a six-yard touchdown to wide receiver Tee Higgins. On the next drive, the Bengals stepped up defensively. Safety Jessie Bates III picked off Matthew Stafford on a deep pass to the endzone. After the interception, neither team did much for the rest of the half, making the score 13 to 10 with the Rams in the lead. During the quarter, however, Odell Beckham Jr. suffered a non-contact knee injury and was helped off the field. After the game, it was diagnosed as a Torn ACL.
The Pepsi Halftime Show didn’t let anyone down. Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg opened up and had the crowd going electric. Along with the amazing performances of Kendrick Lamar, Mary J. Blige, and Eminem, 50 Cent surprised the crowd as a guest appearance as well/
The Cincinnati Bengals started off the second half with a bang. On the first offensive play, Joe Burrow released a deep ball to Tee Higgins for a 75-yard touchdown to take the lead. While it did look like Higgins may have grabbed the facemask of star cornerback Jalen Ramsey to get open, the points counted. Stafford was then intercepted by cornerback Chidobe Awuzie after a bobbled pass from wide receiver Ben Skowronek. Momentum completely shifted in favor of the Bengals. They converted on a field goal later on the drive to take a seven-point lead. The Rams responded with another field goal to cut the deficit to four going into the final quarter of the NFL Season.
After more defensive back and forth, Los Angeles received the ball back with 6:13 left in regulation, still down 20-16. After a 17 play drive from Stafford, including seven from inside the 10, due to multiple penalties being called. Stafford threw his third touchdown of the game and second to Cooper Kupp to take a three-point lead with under one minute and 30 seconds to go. With young phenom Joe Burrow at quarterback, the Bengals were confident in a late drive to send the game to overtime. After a 17 yard pass to NFL AP Offensive Rookie of the Year Ja’Marr Chase on first down. The Bengals faced a third and one after two plays. On this third down, three-time Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald made an incredible play by grabbing running back Samaje Perine and holding him back from gaining the one-yard needed. On fourth and one, with the season on the line for both teams’ season at stake, Aaron Donald made his second straight play forcing the incomplete and bad throw from Burrow and almost bringing him down for a sack. This play sealed the Super Bowl for the Rams and sent the Bengals home wondering what could have been. Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was the most visibly upset on the sideline after the final kneel down, as he knew all of his hard work in New York and Cleveland finally paid off. Although Aaron Donald had the late-game heroics, Cooper Kupp won the Super Bowl MVP with eight catches, 92 yards, and two touchdowns, including the game-winner.
While the Los Angeles Rams look to repeat as NFL Champions again next year in Arizona, the young and upcoming Bengals look to continue to prove doubters wrong next year and bring home the Lombardi for the first time in franchise history.