The Los Angeles Rams are now the Super Bowl Champions with a 23-20 win over the Bengals. Matthew Stafford, the major acquisition this offseason, has won his first Super Bowl along with Aaron Donald, Odell Beckham Jr., Eric Weddle, Jalen Ramsey and Super Bowl MVP Cooper Kupp. Like all games, the Super Bowl comes down to major moments/key plays that define the outcome.
At one point in Super Bowl LVI, the Rams had a 90% win probability, which dropped to 21% at one point in the fourth quarter (per Doug Farrar). Let’s first walk through the series of events that occurred in Super Bowl LVI, and then we will discuss the importance of those big moments.
A Series of Events
The Rams were able to get an early lead on the underdog Bengals with a connection we’ve often seen in this playoff run, Stafford to Beckham Jr. The Bengals decided to double Cooper Kupp in the Red Zone, which created an opportunity for Odell to score. This was his 7th TD reception with the Rams in 12 games, which matches his total TD output during his time with the Browns in 29 games. This TD allowed him to tie with Amari Cooper’s Most Recorded TDs by a player on a team they did not start the season with in 2018.
On the second Rams TD, Eli Apple had bad eye discipline, which allowed Kupp to be cut free. This was one of the more crucial poor plays from Apple, since he allowed the OPOY and Triple Crown of Receiving winner free for a TD.
Cooper Kupp beats Eli Apple for the Game Winning Touchdown. pic.twitter.com/trrttdTIAw
— Doug Rush (@TheDougRush) February 14, 2022
On the defensive side of the ball for the Rams, they came into the game with premier talent on their DL and secondary. But, one of their big names struggled: Jalen Ramsey. Ramsey gave up two very big plays, including a TD to Tee Higgins (where an offensive facemask call was missed) and a go-route to Ja’Marr Chase in which he made an exceptional one-handed catch.
Absolutely RIDICULOUS to be doing this in the Super Bowl as a rookie. @Real10Jayy__
— NFL (@NFL) February 14, 2022
After Beckham’s injury, the Rams’ offense struggled to find a consistent target and struggled to stack first downs. Kupp only had 6 targets before the last drive, but he ultimately shined and became the Super Bowl MVP with his play on the last drive (6 targets).
Matthew Stafford was 10 for 12 for 140 yards with 2 TDs prior to the Beckham Jr injury. However, after the injury, the offense became more conservative and the Rams QB struggled a bit more. From that point on, Stafford was 16 for 28 for 143 yards with 1 TD and 2 INTs. All this occurred while the Bengals were dominating in the trenches on run plays with the absence of Tyler Higbee and the Kendall Blanton injury.
Flipping The Switch/Awakening The Beast
In the second half, the Rams’ offense stepped up, ultimately finishing with 7 sacks, two from Von Miller, two from Aaron Donald, and 1 each from A’Shawn Robinson and Leonard Floyd. Donald was dominant and generated a team-high of 7 pressures and 2 sacks on 40 pass rushes (17.5% pressure rate). He also created the most important moment in the game–the 4th and 1 disruption on Cincinnati’s last play. On 4th-and-1 from the Rams’ 49-yard line, Aaron Donald pressured Joe Burrow just 2.20 seconds after the ball was snapped, which forced an incomplete pass. The go-to gameplan for the Bengals was to get the ball out of Burrow’s hands quickly to negate the rush. Burrow averaged 2.41s of average time to throw on the game, yet, on this play, Donald got there in 2.2 seconds, which is indescribably quick.
On the previous play for the Bengals on 3rd and 1, they decided to run out of the shotgun with backup RB Samaje Perine who had 0 yards on the day instead of Joe Mixon who averaged 4.8 yards per catch and had over 1,500 yards in the regular season. Perine had just one carry (Divisional Round vs Raiders – a 2 yard gain) in the postseason heading into the Super Bowl.
The Rams’ defense was much more productive in the 2nd half–with much more pressure on Burrow. Burrow was pressured on 42.5% of his dropbacks, yet his completion percentage was 25% higher than expected on those dropbacks. When he wasn’t pressured, he was -10.8% worse than the projected percentage (per NGS).
Ultimately, the game came down to the main storyline going into it: the Bengals’ OL struggled to contain the Rams’ DL. Not trying to take away the Rams’ success, but even an average OL would have made the Bengals Super Bowl Champs. They gave up 19 sacks in the postseason alone, which makes success untenable.