By: Brian Helsel
And just like that, the NFL season is over. An historical and dramatic postseason that saw 8 games decided by 7 points or less has concluded with a dramatic Super Bowl that saw the Los Angeles Rams defeat the Cincinnati Bengals 23-20. WR Cooper Kupp won the Super Bowl MVP, putting up 8 catches for 96 yards and 2 touchdowns, including the game winning touchdown late in the fourth.
During the postseason, the Cincinnati Bengals took the hearts of the NFL community with their dynamic duo, QB Joe Burrow and WR Jamarr Chase. This could very well be the first of many Super Bowl appearances for this young tandem (who are just in their second and first years as pros, respectively), as they are a huge reason why the Bengals have made it this far. Although they came up short, the Bengals should be a powerhouse for years to come.
On the other hand, 13-year pro QB Matthew Stafford for the Rams has been on a mission. Having just won his first career playoff game a few weeks ago, Stafford has led the superstar-filled Rams to the final game of the year. Stafford has not seen the playoffs much in his career, as he spent his first 12 years on the Lions, who constantly had teams who rarely saw the postseason. Stafford has seized the opportunity of playing with one of the best WR duos in the league in Cooper Kupp and Odell Beckham Jr., as well as being coached by one of the best coaches in the league in Sean McVay.
There has been lots of speculation leading up to this game regarding star defensive tackle Aaron Donald’s retirement, and if he does decide to hang up the helmet, his final play will be a Super Bowl clinching sack. Not a bad way to potentially go out, as he has solidified himself as one of the greatest to ever do it at his position.
The game was filled with dramatic twists and exciting sequences. The Rams went into halftime up 13-10, thanks to a touchdown from Odell Beckham Jr, who has been such a great addition for LA since he signed mid-season. OBJ would unfortunately leave the game due to a non-contact knee injury, but it was nice to see he still ended up a champion by the end of the night.
To start the second half, everything went wrong for the Rams. Tee Higgins broke free from superstar CB Jalen Ramsey to give the Bengals their first lead of the game. Shortly after, Matt Stafford threw one or his two interceptions on the night.
It felt like all the momentum was in favor of the Bengals, but the Rams battled it out for the rest of the game. The dynamic duo of Matt Stafford and Cooper Kupp would soon take over the game. Despite the two interceptions, Stafford put together a great game, finding the end zone 3 times and throwing for 283 yards on 26/40 accuracy. The only points scored in the fourth quarter was a TD pass from Stafford to Kupp with just over a minute to go, something that has been happening Sunday after Sunday.
The Bengals had one more shot at a postseason miracle, but Aaron Donald showed his greatness. 4th down with the season on the line, and Donald plowed through the weak Bengals offensive line to get Joe Burrow under pressure to turnover the ball on downs.
The Rams playmakers in Stafford, Kupp and Donald all making key plays down the stretch was the key for Los Angeles. Their running game was dry all game long, and many questioned Sean McVay’s willingness to keep rushing the ball after seeing no signs of success. And even with the running game being on lockdown and being without receivers Robert Woods, Odell Beckham Jr and Tyler Higbee, the Rams found a way to get the Vince Lombardi trophy.
After the heartbreaking loss, Zac Taylor said he was “Proud of them. It’s a special group. It stings right now, but you have to find a way to cherish what this group had together.” The Bengals were a part of some of the best games of the postseason, and Joe Burrow is just getting started.
Aaron Donald was in tears of joy post game, saying, “I wanted this so bad… I dreamed of this man…it’s the best feeling in the world, I don’t know what to say.” It will be sad to see Donald go if he does decide to call it quits, but if he chooses to retire, this would be a deserving way to go out.
During the Super Bowl MVP speech, Cooper Kupp said that “I don’t feel deserving of this, I am so thankful to be around these guys and my family, I don’t know what to say. I am just so thankful.”
This season was seen as a title or bust year for the Rams. Trading multiple picks for Matt Stafford, trading for Von Miller mid season, signing Odell Beckham mid season, the Rams were all in, and they achieved their goal. What an exciting game to cap off an incredible NFL season.