Super Bowl LVI: What we learned from Rams' win over Bengals 

Los Angeles Rams
2021 · 12-5-0
Cincinnati Bengals
2021 · 10-7-0

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  1. Aaron Donald is inevitable. The most dominant defensive football player of his generation stood tall on the biggest stage. Donald and his defensive-line mates turned the tide of the game as the offense flagged, not allowing Joe Burrow to escape the pocket, step up or make plays for long stretches of the second half. The Rams sacked Burrow a Super Bowl record-tying seven times, with Donald and Von Miller each netting two QB takedowns. Trailing in the second half, the L.A. offense couldn't gain traction, with three three-and-outs over the third and fourth quarters. But Donald and the D put a stranglehold on the Bengals' offense, allowing just 11 net yards on four Cincy drives. Donald would not be denied, generating seven QB pressures, including five in the crucible of the second half. Donald said for weeks all he's been missing in his award-winning career is a Super Bowl title. It was fitting that the final Bengals snap came with Donald tossing Burrow like a rag doll as the QB desperately tried to make a play. With his MVP-worthy performance, the dominating defender got to finally hoist that Lombardi Trophy.  
  2. Matthew Stafford: Super Bowl-winning quarterback. In a career highlighted by game-winning drives, Stafford added another to his ledger. After a solid start, the offense screeched to a halt in the second half following Odell Beckham's knee injury. In a hella rut, going three-and-out repeatedly, the Rams desperately needed Stafford to make a play down four with the clock draining. The big-armed QB threaded a dart to Cooper Kupp over the middle between defenders to get into scoring range. After multiple flags on Cincy in the red zone, Stafford hit Kupp on the back shoulder to put L.A. up for good, culminating a 15-play, 79-yard TD drive. It marked Stafford's 36th fourth-quarter comeback win (regular season and playoffs), the most by any QB since he was drafted first overall in 2009. The game epitomized Stafford's legacy. He made some gorgeous, jaw-dropping throws, particularly to OBJ early. He also missed several throws as the Rams' offense struggled without a bevy of weapons. But, as he has for much of his career, on the game's pivotal drive, Stafford excelled. After years of his talents being overshadowed in a cloudy Detroit franchise, Stafford found the sun in L.A. and shined on the biggest stage. 
  3. Joe Burrow, Bengals offense come up shy. The Bengals entered the season with questions along the offensive line. They end the same way. All season -- and particularly in the playoffs -- Burrow overcame the consistent pressure. Not so on Super Bowl Sunday. Burrow was pressured on 42.5% of his dropbacks against the Rams, the second-highest in his career. The QB's average time to throw of 2.41 seconds was the fourth-lowest for Burrow in his career. If Burrow wasn't getting rid of the ball quick, he was getting hammered. When Joey B did have time to throw, he dropped some deep dimes to Ja'Marr Chase and Tee Higgins. But the pressure kept the Bengals' offense from putting the Rams away when they had the chance in the fourth quarter. The Cincy O-line allowed a sack on 17.1% of dropbacks Sunday after entering the game with the second-highest sack rate allowed in the NFL this season. The weapons on the outside got the Bengals to the Super Bowl. But taking the next step must come with better protection for the star QB. 
  4. Bengals run D smothers Sean McVay's scheme. The Rams kept banging their head against the wall, insisting on running the ball to no avail. And Cincy's D welcomed each run. L.A. rushed the ball 23 times for 43 yards, an average of 1.9 yards per carry. Take out a Stafford scramble and a Kupp handoff, and that drops to 19 carries for 30 yards, 1.5 yards per carry, from the three running backs. Despite the lack of ground success, McVay continued to go back to the well time and time again, particularly on first downs. It almost cost his club. Credit goes to the Bengals defenders who collapsed the middle and didn't let the Rams stretch runs outside. Even when it looked like a rusher might have some daylight, the Bengals would hold it for only a few yards. The longest L.A. run of the game was for eight yards. Cincy held Rams RBs to 25 yards on 12 rushes (2.1 average) versus light boxes and -39 rush yards over expected. It was a masterful effort to stymie what McVay wanted to establish. But in the end, it was Cincy's pass D that couldn't stop Stafford on the final drive. 
  5. One Kupp is enough for Rams offense. Beckham's knee injury threatened to derail the L.A. offense. Without having to worry about the star WR, the Bengals could double Kupp and force Stafford to throw elsewhere. It led to a stagnant offense for much of the second half. With the Rams missing Robert Woods, Tyler Higbee, and then OBJ, Kupp was on his own. The triple crown winner proved every bit worthy of his Super Bowl MVP trophy. Kupp converted a key fourth-and-1 run on the game's pivotal drive. He then caught a dart from Stafford over the middle for a 22-yard gain and another for eight to get inside the 20-yard-line. After getting blasted in the end zone on a play offset by penalties, Kupp drew an interference call. Two plays later, he was catching the back-shoulder pass from Stafford for the game's winning score. Even with the Bengals able to roll coverage his way, Kupp still found ways to get open. It truly was a marvel to behold. 
  6. Tee Higgins, Ja'Marr Chase shine vs. Ramsey in loss. All week the question was who would Ramsey cover? The answer mainly was Chase (58.5% of routes run), but the star corner took his turn all around. The Bengals' top two wideouts each made plays. Higgins went for 100 yards on four catches with two touchdowns. Chase added 89 yards on five receptions. Chase burned Ramsey deep early to set up a field goal. The rookie showed fantastic tracking skills and ball-handling to beat Ramsey. Later, to open the second half, Higgins got away with an apparent OPI to cook Ramsey for a 75-yard TD. For the game, Ramsey was charged with five catches and a TD. His 160 yards allowed in primary coverage was the most in a game in his entire career. Ramsey made some aggressive plays early as refs let them play for the first three quarters, and generated a big PBU in the end zone. The Bengals' young wideouts have tortured defenses all season and did so again in the Super Bowl. But Ramsey and his teammates got the ring.  

NFL Research: Sean McVay is the youngest head coach to win the Super Bowl (36 years, 20 days). Mike Tomlin previously held the title after winning SB XLIII at 36 years, 323 days.

 

Next Gen stat of the Super Bowl: Matthew Stafford went 10 of 12 passing for 140 yards and two TDs with Odell Beckham Jr. on the field (16 of 28, 143 yards, TD, two INTs without him).

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