INGLEWOOD, Calif. — Super Bowl 56 was a blast. The Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals put on a show fitting of La La Land. Here are our five instant takeaways as yet another NFL champion has been crowned.
5 Takeaways from Super Bowl 56: Rams’ stars shine brightest at biggest time
The Los Angeles Rams are world champions because they have Sean McVay, Matthew Stafford, and Aaron Donald.
Both players made massive, season-changing, and career-defining plays late in the Rams’ 23-20 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday.
Stafford directed a go-ahead touchdown drive late in regulation, completing 7 of 11 passes for 57 yards and the deciding score.
And Donald got to Joe Burrow on fourth down, forcing a game-sealing incompletion. Donald finished what might be his final NFL game (he’s floated retirement) with 4 tackles, 2 sacks, and that very important hurry.
Rams forget, then remember they have Cooper Kupp
The Rams’ fourth-quarter touchdown drive was a legacy moment for Matthew Stafford. But it was also a come-to-his senses moment for Sean McVay. Down two of his top three wide receivers, he didn’t do the obvious thing: Throw the ball to Cooper Kupp on every down.
Kupp was largely a non-factor for the game’s first 50 or so minutes.
But on that final drive, he was everywhere. His jet sweep on fourth-and-1 went for 7. Then, he caught an absolute laser from Stafford on a crossing route that went for 22 yards.
Kupp then capped the biggest drive of his career by hanging onto a 1-yard touchdown pass from Stafford.
Ben Skowronek is no Odell Beckham Jr.
In the first half, Odell Beckham Jr. suffered a significant injury to the same knee that he shredded less than two years ago. He went to the locker room and did not return.
The Rams’ offense missed him. Already without Robert Woods (who suffered a knee injury of his own earlier this season), the loss of Beckham put great strain on Sean McVay’s scheme.
McVay had to turn to the likes of Ben Skowronek, a rookie who caught just 11 passes on 20 targets during the regular season. Matthew Stafford still went to him early in the second half — but with disastrous results. Skowronek bobbled a pass and caused it to be intercepted by Chidobe Awuzie.
The Bengals’ offensive line could only hang on for so long
The biggest mismatch on paper was between the Bengals’ offensive line (which had already given up 9 sacks in a playoff game this year) and the Rams’ defensive line (which has two future Hall of Famers in Aaron Donald and Von Miller).
But for much of the first half, the Bengals schemed and played well enough to keep Joe Burrow upright. That script flipped after halftime, however, when the Rams destroyed the Bengals up front. LA sacked Burrow 5 times in the third quarter alone, keeping the game close despite their offensive implosion.
Another sack early in the fourth quarter was the scariest of the bunch. Burrow got rolled up and immediately grabbed his right knee in pain. He managed to avoid major injury, though.
Jalen Ramsey’s no-good, very bad day
The Bengals are too young to know things that the elders of football think they should know, namely: Never throw at Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey.
Clearly, Burrow doesn’t believe in that philosophy. He’s got ultimate confidence in his receivers — and with Ja’Marr Chase, Tyler Boyd, and Tee Higgins, who could blame him?
Burrow was rewarded for his faith in his teammates — at Ramsey’s expense. He connected with Chase for 46 yards down the right sideline in the first half, and then with Higgins for 75 and a touchdown down the left sideline to start the second. Ramsey was in coverage both times.