Reflections on Super Bowl LVI

Reflections on Super Bowl LVI

It has taken me a while to digest and think about Super Bowl LVI. As I consider the game, I decided to reflect on the history of the two clubs with the Super Bowl before discussing the game itself.

The Rams have now made 5 appearances in the Superbowl. The other four occurred in 2019, 2002, 2000 and 1980. The greatest show on turf beat the Titans in 2000, when the Rams were still located in St. Louis. The only other Super Bowl victory the Rams secured occurred this year. This is the second full year the Rams have played in their new stadium in Inglewood called SoFi. It is also the first year the Super Bowl has been held in this state-of-the-art stadium.

The Cincinnati Bengals have lost all three of their Super Bowl appearances to NFC West teams. Their first two losses came at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers. All three of the Bengals games have been close. In their three appearances, the Bengals never lost by no more than five points. Lastly, while many have lauded Matthew Stafford’s end of the game drive as the best Super Bowl ending drive ever, it seems writers and sports pundits have forgotten their history. In 1989, with just three minutes and ten seconds to go, Joe Montana led the 49ers on a 11 play, 92 yard game winning drive leaving only 34 seconds on the clock. In fact, just like the 49ers, the Rams had to score in the fourth quarter to win. Joe Montana’s last Super Bowl drive was headlined by the famous quote, “Hey, Isn’t that John Candy?”. Lastly, neither team committed a penalty during the 49ers game winning drive. In contrast, the Rams drove 79 yards on 15 plays taking four minutes and 48 seconds to accomplish leaving one minute and 25 seconds on the clock. Looking at the Rams last drive, they made it all the way to the Bengals eight-yard line on their own before the first flag was thrown. On a 3rd and goal, Stafford threw an incomplete pass intended for Cooper Kupp. A flag was thrown on Logan Wilson who was guarding Kupp. Wilson was flagged for defensive holding giving the Rams an automatic first down on the Bengals 4-yard line. Wilson had his hands on Kupp but looking at the play many times, one can see that he never tugged on Kupp, he was just playing good defense. Still, the flag was thrown. The next play both teams were flagged. Then, the next play Eli Apple committed a pass interference penalty on Kupp placing the Rams on the one-yard line. A couple of plays later, the Rams score and the rest is history.

As I look back on the game, the referees allowed the teams to play the game, until the Rams failed to convert a 3rd and goal with just a couple of minutes to go in the game. They didn’t throw a flag on Jalen Ramsey early in the game when he interfered with a wide receiver on the goal line. Likewise, the refs didn’t throw a flag on Tee Higgins who jerked Ramsey’s facemask, and then juked Ramsey to catch and run 75 yards for a touchdown. Up until the last two minutes of the game, only two penalty flags were thrown, and both of those were on the Bengals offensive line. My disappointment with this game centers around the notion that if the referees were allowing the player to play the whole game, then that is how the game should have ended. Up until the penalty against Logan Wilson, the Super Bowl was an excellent game. We all want to see good clean football. We all hope that a game is referred fairly and consistently. Wilson played Kupp exactly the way you are supposed to play a wide receiver coming over the middle. Unfortunately, the refs read Wilson’s hands on Kupp as slowing him down. Maybe they thought a linebacker can’t run with a wide receiver. Maybe they thought something else. I don’t think the refs deliberately influenced the game. However, I believe the referees were inconsistent in how they officiated the game.

The subtle surprise of this game was how well the Bengals defense played. Once Odell Beckham Jr., went down to injury, the Bengals only had one receiver to be concerned about. Matthew Stafford had a difficult time finding his rhythm in the second half as the Bengals forced three punts, an interception and a field goal. Part of his issue was the loss of OBJ. The other part of his issue is the Bengals smothering run defense which held the Rams to a total of 43 yards. In total, they forced two interceptions, two sacks and six punts. In the end, it was the Rams defense who stepped up. Though they did not force Joe Burrow to throw an interception, they sacked him seven times. Aaron Donald and Von Miller lead the way with two sacks each. Their defense also held the Bengals run game to 72 yards. Lastly, one minute and 25 seconds is a lot of time for a quarterback the caliber of Burrow. The Rams had to step up to keep the Bengals from tying or winning. The Bengals Super Bowl the exact same as the 49ers NFC Championship game did. On fourth down, Joe Burrow was harassed by Aaron Donald to the point that has he was being tackled he threw a no look pass. Jimmy Garoppolo’s no look pass ended up being an interception. Burrows thudded into the dirt, ending the game.

This game will be memorable for several reasons. First, the Rams constructed the best all star roster they possibly could. They traded for Matthew Stafford in the off season. They traded for Von Miller during the season. They signed OBJ off the street. They also signed Leonard Floyd as a free agent. All these players were key components to their journey to win the Super Bowl this year. Second, this game will be remembered because the oldest lineman in the NFL played left tackle for the Rams. Andrew Whitworth, not only played in this game at 40, but also won the Walter Payton man of the year award this year. Third this game will be remembered for second year Joe Burrow’s gutsy performance throughout the game as well as this season. His rookie season was cut short due to an ACL injury. The Bengals saw fit to pair him with his LSU College Football National Championship running buddy Jamarr Chase and they almost pulled off the Super Bowl win. Lastly, this game will be remembered most for its iconic half time show.

Dr. Dre and Snoop

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