The Los Angeles Rams are Super Bowl LVI Champions after their 23-20 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. The game’s MVP was receiver Cooper Kupp following his near 100 yards-from-scrimmage and two-touchdown performance.
Kupp’s first reception came on the Rams’ second drive of the game, converting a third-and-4 with a 20-yard reception, ultimately leading to an Odell Beckham Jr. touchdown. His next impact play came in the second quarter on an 11-yard touchdown, marking his sixth straight game with a touchdown. The fifth-year receiver then skidded to a stretch of dormancy, not having a sizable effect on the box score. That was until the Rams found themselves down four points with just over six minutes left in the game.
Facing a fourth-and-1 at their own 30-yard-line, Sean McVay kept his offense on the field, intending to keep their potential game-winning drive alive. The Rams did just that, giving Kupp an end-around where he maneuvered his way for seven yards and, more importantly, a critical first-down. Two plays later, he involved himself in the action again, setting up a third-and-2 at the Rams’ 45-yard-line. Not too long after, Kupp scampered for a twenty-two-yard gain, positioning the Rams closer to the endzone.
On third-and-goal from the eight-yard-line, Kupp was targeted just shy of the endzone, but he drew a holding penalty on Logan Wilson to give LA a new set of downs. On the next play, Kupp caught a touchdown in the back of the endzone, yet it was negated by offsetting penalties. No surprise, Kupp was targeted on the ensuing play, where he drew yet another flag — this time a pass interference call on Eli Apple.
Second-and-goal on the opponent’s 1 yard line down by four points, with the Super Bowl hanging in the balance. Cooper Kupp put his incredible footwork on full display, running a textbook endzone fade. The Eastern Washington product then made the biggest play of his life, snatching the go-ahead touchdown that was ultimately the difference in Super Bowl LVI. His spectacular performance earned him Super Bowl LVI MVP, becoming just the fifth wide receiver to win the award in the past thirty-three Super Bowls.
Kupp’s unbelievable day was the cherry on top for his historic season. Finishing the regular season with 145 catches, 1,947 receiving yards, and 16 receiving touchdowns, he led the NFL in each of these categories — and it wasn’t particularly close. Kupp had 22 catches, 331 yards, and 2 receiving touchdowns more than any other player in football in the 2021 regular season. Additionally, he now finds himself 2nd in catches, 2nd in receiving yards, and tied for 15th in receiving touchdowns all-time in a single regular season. Add Offensive Player of the Year and unanimous All-Pro to that list, as well as the most catches in one postseason, and it makes for one of the greatest receiving seasons of all time.
So how did Cooper Kupp rise to stardom and complete this breathtaking season? It began in Yakima, Washington, where he ended his high school football career without a single college football scholarship offer. Soon after, he was offered by Eastern Washington University, a Division I FCS school. Following a redshirt season in 2012, Kupp had an incredibly productive and consistent career as an Eastern Eagle, amassing at least 93 catches, 1431 receiving yards, and 16 touchdowns each of the four seasons he played.
Looking through his college page at Eastern Washington, the word “record” appears 77 times. That’s no typo; Kupp finished his college career with 428 catches, 6,464 receiving yards, and 73 receiving touchdowns, all of which set FCS records after his college career. The FCS First Team All-American, of which he achieved four times, all in consensus fashion, began to prepare for the NFL Draft. Some might say it was in his blood to play in the league, as both his father and grandfather played in the NFL. The Rams selected Kupp in the 3rd round of the 2017 NFL Draft, making his family the third ever to have three generations picked in the NFL Draft.
In the 2017 season, Kupp found himself competing for playing time with the many talented receivers on the Rams’ roster, including Robert Woods, Sammy Watkins, and Tavon Auston. First-year head coach Sean McVay and first-year offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur saw immediate potential in Kupp, who concluded his first NFL game with 76 receiving yards and a touchdown. Despite having a somewhat quiet start to his rookie season, the former Eastern Eagle found his stride, racking up 457 yards and 3 touchdowns in his final six games that season.
During his next year, Cooper Kupp picked up where he left off, starting the year with 438 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns through the first five games of the season. However, he sustained a knee injury in Week 6 that caused him to miss some time. Upon returning, Kupp suffered yet another injury, this time a season-ending torn ACL. That postseason, the Rams played in the Super Bowl, but Kupp was forced to watch from the sidelines.
Cooper Kupp returned to full health for the 2019 season, attempting to build on his previous body of work. He did this and then some, totaling 58 catches, 792 receiving yards, and 5 touchdowns before the Rams’ Week 9 bye. Kupp finished the year as the Rams’ most productive receiver with 94 receptions, 1,161 yards, and 10 touchdowns, the team leader in each of the categories.
In 2020, Kupp found overall success, exceeding 1,000 receiving yards, but it wasn’t the statistical improvement some expected. He finished the year with the lowest yards per reception and yards per route run of his career. Only finding the endzone 3 times, the receiver looked to make substantial leaps in the 2021 season. To do this, he changed his offseason routine, doing unique training workouts to hone his skills.
After Kupp’s phenomenal 2021 campaign, this hard work has certainly paid off. He finished the playoffs with the most receiving yards in NFL history throughout the entirety of a season with 2,425 yards, thanks to his 2nd-most receiving yards in a single postseason. He also finished with 22 receiving touchdowns, the 2nd-most for an entire season. Kupp had at least 61 receiving yards in each game this season, and he had at least 92 in all but two of them. He also had seven games with multiple receiving touchdowns, including in the NFC Championship Game and Super Bowl LVI.
Cooper Kupp’s astonishing season ended spectacularly Sunday night with a Super Bowl ring and the Super Bowl MVP. He also became just the second wide receiver in NFL history to win Offensive Player of the Year, lead the regular season in the three major receiving statistical categories, and win Super Bowl MVP. The only other to accomplish this feat is Jerry Rice, which is exceptional company in one’s fifth NFL season. These numerous accolades and records are simply jaw-dropping, and we may have just witnessed the greatest receiving season of all time.
All statistics provided by PFF, unless otherwise noted