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 inaugurated a new era in the NFL by winning Super Bowl LVI, the first since the legendary Tom Brady, the Lord of the Rings, announced his retirement. The Cincinatti Bengals were about to give the bell in the SoFi Stadium of the sunny
California, supported by a granite defense and its insurmountable insolence. But Joe Burrow’s knee, battered by a sack with 12 minutes remaining in a game that had been dominated by the surprising AFC champions 20-16 until then, left the Tigers without claws and Sean McVay’s disciples culminated the comeback with less than a minute and a half to go in an epic Cooper Kupp touchdown clash that returned the Vince Lombardi Trophy to the city of Los Angeles 38 years after the Raiders offered their last title to the city of stars .
The wide receiver, offensive player of the year in the NFL and Super Bowl MVP with his two touchdowns, elevated the Rams for the second time, champions also in 2000 at the hands of Kurt Warner, when the franchise founded in Cleveland in 1945 was still based in St. Louis, and crowned Sean McVay, the coach who has revolutionized the competition with his commitment to offensive play and a management style that has created a school.
The youngest head coach in NFL history made amends against his disciple Zach Taylor for the defeat suffered three years ago at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta (Georgia), where Brady’s New England Patriots wiped out the Rams with a numantine defence. The Bengals were close to emulating that script, but luck was elusive this time to a team that caressed a majestic epic. Two years ago they were the worst team in the NFL and last year they barely managed to win four games. But if Burrow’s knee had stayed 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. One 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, who in his second year as a professional was showing unsurpassed poise.
Probably the result of their inexperience, the Bengals, built from the ‘draft’, had a hard time taking the pulse of the game against an opponent armed with a check book. But as soon as the initial nerves were shaken, they recaptured the spirit of that uncompromising team that wowed the staff in the Divisional Round and AFC Conference Final. Trailing 3-13 at the start of the second quarter after Cooper Kupp’s first touchdown, the Cincinnati team went into halftime with their swords held high thanks to a Tee Higgins (10-13) score and opened the throttle after halftime , when another touchdown from the Clemson college-trained receiver put them up 17-13.
Remontada ‘in extremis’
The pressure was taking its toll on the Rams, betting favorites, and Matthew Stafford, the veteran quarterback signed last summer to finish off a galactic team, was beginning to make mistakes. It was the worst moment for Californians, who clung to their defense to resist, with Aaron Donald as their standard. A sack by the Pittsburgh defenseman allowed the Rams to minimize risks, despite McPherson’s field goal, with which the Bengals kicker tied the record for postseason effectiveness set by Adam Vinatieri in 2006 (14 kicks of 14 converted).
That’s when the Rams defensive line stepped up and the world came crashing down on the Bengals. Early in the fourth quarter, Burrow’s right knee was hurt on a sack. His bloodcurdling cry of pain chilled the Bengals crowd. The 2019 draft number 1 returned to the pitch, but his mobility was limited. The Tigers were left in the hands of their defense, which multiplied to resist the last attacks of some enraged Rams. Aaron Donald unleashed the offensive with a determining sack for McVay’s pupils to start the final assault.
The Rams, who had been on the ropes, did not waste the extra life that destiny had granted them. Stafford simmered the drive until fatigue overwhelmed the Bengals’ defense. And Kupp nailed the final dagger to a team, until then, indomitable. Los Angeles is once again the epicenter of the NFL in a new era without Brady