Patience is a virtue — sometimes you have to wait an entire half for a makeup call. And yet I don’t think the Rams are complaining after beating the Cincinnati Bengals, 23-20, in their home stadium, to win their first Super Bowl in Los Angeles.
After opening the second half with one of the worst no-calls in Super Bowl history and a five-minute,10-point swing, the momentum of the game seemed like it was shifting the Bengals’ way. Odell Beckham Jr. was out, Matt Stafford was playing scared, and it looked like the Rams were letting the game slip out of their hands in their home stadium.
And then — the final drive. How to pick a play of the game from those final minutes? Is it the defensive holding makeup call for Tee Higgins’ egregious uncalled facemask on Jalen Ramsey (or is it the facemask itself)? Is it Cooper Kupp’s jet sweep on 4th-and-1? Kupp’s game-winning catch to cap off a 15-play, 4:48 drive that gave the Bengals under 90 seconds to attempt to engineer a game-winning drive?
It’s hard to choose a single moment from the drive to label as the play of the game today, but Stafford and Kupp’s ability to get downfield and make the plays when it mattered most after being held to a field goal in the second half of the game — arguably with the help of the refs at a very significant moment — was the turning point in tonight’s thriller.
Obviously, we can’t overlook Aaron Donald’s explosive interior pass rush, ending in a sack that finished the game despite a last-second desperation throw from Joe Burrow that landed in the vicinity of a receiver — Donald’s entire performance today was just incredible. But Kupp, whose unlikely journey to get here has been well-documented throughout the postseason, will take home the MVP trophy after his 8 catch, 92-yard, two-touchdown game, stepping up after the WR2 OBJ went out with a knee injury toward the end of the first half.
Kupp, a 28-year-old receiver who was a third-round draft pick out of Eastern Washington, capped a remarkable year in which he captured the receiving Triple Crown — leading the league in receptions, yardage and touchdowns — with the Super Bowl MVP. Only Jerry Rice in 1989 had accomplished that feat.
“I just don’t have words,” Kupp said when he was handed the MVP trophy. “I’m just so thankful for everyone.”
Joe Burrow and Stafford also had injury scares, but neither missed a snap. Cincinnati’s offensive line struggled (no huge shock there) throughout the game, allowing seven sacks on Burrow, including two each by Von Miller and Donald. On the other hand, L.A.’s run game looked abysmal — they averaged less than 2 yards per attempt, and the Rams went into the fourth quarter with a two-turnover deficit (and an unfortunate PAT drop). But you can’t count out Matt Stafford, I guess. And the refs’ need to make amends.