Super Bowl LVI
Cooper Kupp and Aaron Donald impose their law to give the second ring to the Los Angeles franchise against a Bengals weighed down by Joe Burrow’s battered knee
The Los Angeles Rams made good pools and destroyed the dream of the Cincinnati Bengals, who entered the NFL postseason with the Cinderella band and stayed on the verge of glory in Super Bowl LVI, the first since Tom Brady, the lord of the rings, will announce his retirement. Zach Taylor’s charges almost made a splash at SoFi Stadium in sunny California, supported by a powerful defense and their refreshing insolence. But Joe Burrow’s knee, battered by a sack with 12 minutes remaining in a game in which the surprising AFC champions had dominated 20-16 until then, stripped the Tigers of their grip and Sean McVay’s men finished the comeback (20-23) with a Cooper Kupp touchdown that returned the Vince Lombardi trophy to Los Angeles 38 years after the Raiders offered their last title to the city of stars.
That score by Kupp, offensive player of the year in the NFL and designated Super Bowl MVP by the weight of his two touchdowns, less than a minute and a half from the end of another epic game, raised the Rams, champions, for the second time also in the year 2000, when the franchise founded in Cleveland in 1945 was still based in St. Louis, and finally allowed Sean McVay to be crowned, the coach who has revolutionized the competition with his commitment to offensive play and a management style who has created school.
The youngest head coach to win a Super Bowl at 36 years old made up for the defeat suffered three years ago at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta (Georgia) against his disciple Zach Taylor, where Brady’s New England Patriots dried up the Rams with a Numantine defense. The Bengals were close to emulating that script, but luck eluded a team that had staged a majestic epic. Two years ago they were the worst team in the NFL and last year they barely managed to claim four wins. But if Burrow’s knee had remained intact, they might well have sealed a jaw-dropping postseason in which they knocked out the Tennessee Titans and Kansas City Chiefs.
Because Super Bowl LVI was marked by two unfortunate events. The first lacerated the Rams, who lost Odell Beckham Jr. to injury in the second quarter. The controversial former receiver of the New York Giants and the Cleveland Browns had started the game in full swing, signing the touchdown that sparked hostilities in the sporting event with the greatest impact on the planet. The second weighed down the Bengals when they were looking at the top, leaving practically no room for action for a quarterback called to mark an era like Burrow, university champion and Heisman trophy who in his second year in professionalism touched the triple crown.
Surely the result of their inexperience, the Bengals, a team made from the draft and great scouting work, had a hard time taking the pulse of the game against a more experienced opponent armed with a check book. But as soon as their nerves were shaken, they regained that irreducible spirit that led them to claim an AFC title that nobody counted on. Trailing 3-13 at the start of the second quarter after Cooper Kupp’s first touchdown, the Cincinnati managed to go into halftime with their swords held high thanks to a score by Tee Higgins (10-13) and opened the gas after halftime , when another touchdown from the Clemson college-trained receiver gave them their first lead (17-13).
The pressure took its toll on Matthew Stafford, the veteran quarterback signed last summer to finish off a galactic block. Handcuffed on offense, the Rams clung to their rear to hold on, with Aaron Donald as their banner. A field goal for each side raised the score to 20-16 in favor of the Bengals, who held local status despite the fact that the duel was fought at the Rams’ compound. All open for the final stretch.
But misfortune hit the Bengals early in the fourth quarter. Burrow’s right knee was injured on a sack. His bloodcurdling cry of pain chilled the Bengals crowd. Stoic, the number 1 in the 2019 draft returned to the field of play, but with limited mobility. The Tigers had no choice but to shelter behind and pray, because the Rams, ferocious, smelled blood.
Aaron Donald, huge from start to finish, unleashed the final assault with his great defensive work. The Rams, who had been on the ropes, didn’t waste the extra life. Stafford simmered the drive until exhaustion overcame the Bengals’ rearguard. Then Kupp nailed the final blow to a team that seemed indomitable. Los Angeles is once again the epicenter of the NFL.