/Donald, Kupp Lead Rams to Comeback Win in Super Bowl

Donald, Kupp Lead Rams to Comeback Win in Super Bowl


Donald, Kupp Lead Rams to Comeback Win in Super Bowl
Vincent Verhei
14 Feb 2022, 02:50am

Los Angeles Rams DT Aaron Donald

Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around emails about the games that each of us are watching. We share information about the games that the rest of the group might not be watching, ask questions, and keep everyone else informed about which games they might want to tune into (if they can).

On Monday, we compile a digest of those emails and produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.

While these emails are generally written with Audibles in mind, they do not represent a standard review of all the games each week. That means we aren’t going to cover every game, or every important play. We watch the games that we, as fans, are interested in watching, so your favorite team’s game might not be covered to your fullest desires or even at all. (If you are a Seahawks or Patriots fan, you are probably in luck; if you are a Lions fan, not so much.) We have no intention of adding new authors solely to cover every game on a given Sunday, nor will we watch a different game from the ones that we’re personally interested in watching just to ensure that Audibles covers every game.

Los Angeles Rams 23 “at” Cincinnati Bengals 20
Pregame Show

Vince Verhei: One hour till kickoff. Predictions? I wrote a Twitter thread on the bets I made, but the short version is that I think the Rams win a game that’s lower-scoring than most people expect. L.A. wins 27-16.

Bryan Knowles: Cincinnati will score more points than they allow sacks, but the Rams will score an even greater number of points, and it will be on that basis, and that alone, that they will be declared the winner.

Aaron Schatz: I’m going with the Rams, for all the reasons detailed in my preview. If people want an exact score prediction, I said 31-20 over at ESPN.

Bryan Knowles: Andrew Whitworth gets to wear his brand new Walter Payton Man of the Year patch today, the first time that has ever happened in a Super Bowl. Along with his captain’s patch, the Super Bowl patch, and the Rams “Hi my name is” patch, he may be more patch than man at this point.

Scott Spratt: I read Bryan’s first comment in the voice of Perd Hapley from Parks and Recreation. Also, I think the Rams will win by a touchdown or more.

First Quarter

Vince Verhei: First impression: My goodness what a beautiful game. I know a lot of people don’t like the fine details of the Rams’ uniforms, but the black-and-orange of Cincinnati and the blue-and-yellow of Los Angeles contrast each other so nicely.

Bryan Knowles: It could be orange against dishwater, so I’ll take what we’re getting.

Scott Spratt: The Andrew Whitworth revenge game is off to a rocky start. Do we think he’s a Bengals sleeper cell?

Bryan Knowles: I think Cam Akers got in Whitworth’s way on that sack, followed by the third-down give-up draw (which, by the way, boo!), so maybe Akers is buying into your theory, Scott.

Vince Verhei: That devastating L.A. run game rears its head on the opening drive: three carries, 1 yard, and a punt.

Aaron Schatz: Bengals do the smart thing and go for fourth-and-1 at midfield … but they don’t get it when Ernest Jones slaps the ball away. So far, Joe Burrow is getting the ball out quick, but it’s only two pass plays. And so far, the Bengals didn’t rush only three against Matthew Stafford like some people expected, but that’s also only two pass plays.

Bryan Knowles: Not sure why Joe Mixon wasn’t on the field for third or fourth down there, but at least Zac Taylor was aggressive!

Aaron Schatz: I think they’re just sticking with the idea that Samaje Perine is the third-down back, but I’m with you. If I’m running for the first, I want Mixon.

Scott Spratt: Samaje Perine averaged 2.4 yards after contact per attempt this regular and postseason versus 1.8 for Mixon. In those short-yardage situations behind a poor run-blocking line, Perine makes sense to me as a battering ram.

Bryan Knowles: I’d also like to hit Tee Higgins wide open in the flat, but I’m not Joe Cool.

Oh wow. Burrow had Higgins *wide open* in the flat. pic.twitter.com/g0jJl1qKTa

— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) February 13, 2022

Aaron Schatz: Bengals rush three for the first time on third-and-4, completion to Cooper Kupp, first down and extra yardage.

Scott Spratt: Darrell Henderson is in on the second drive, so it looks like Sony Michel may be the odd man out in the Rams’ backfield.

Aaron Schatz: Touchdown Odell Beckham Jr. Another rush three, they had Beckham in the slot which put Mike Hilton on him and it was man coverage … Beckham beat Hilton with his first move, Hilton recovered well and had his hand up, but it was a sweet throw and excellent catch by OBJ. 7-0 Rams.

Vince Verhei: Odd that they rushed three with a single-high safety and still left Beckham one-on-one. Where did all the other defenders go?

Aaron Schatz: They had two robbers around the first down marker. That’s weird. They must have been expecting mesh or something.

Stafford to OBJ Super Bowl touchdown dots!!!

(NFL Next Gen Stats) pic.twitter.com/OAuj8PJEt5

— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) February 13, 2022

Scott Spratt: One of the linemen—or maybe Logan Wilson who started on the line—feinted a rush and then dropped into coverage in the middle of the field. That was a strategy the Bengals used two weeks ago that I think limited Patrick Mahomes’ scrambling. But on the touchdown play, there just wasn’t anyone in the middle of the field to defend.

Vince Verhei: Also, great photo here of Beckham’s catch. You can see how strong his grip had to be with Hilton in perfect position to break it up.

Odell Beckham Jr. now has 7 receiving touchdowns with the Rams, including playoffs.

That ties Amari Cooper’s 2018 stint with the Cowboys for the most Rec TD by a player on a team that he didn’t start the season with. pic.twitter.com/0JLFQiJl4z

— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 13, 2022

Scott Spratt: Actually, Michel is playing on the third Rams series. So we have a full-on committee.

Bryan Knowles: And that committee is currently at six carries for 7 yards, or 1.17 yards per carry if you want to get all mathy about it. Meanwhile, Stafford is 6-for-6 for 56 yards and a score.

Carl Yedor: Cincinnati has been struggling to get anything going through its first couple of drives, but all it took was two quick chunk plays to set them up nicely deep in Los Angeles territory. A strong run from Mixon and a deep shot to Ja’Marr Chase got the Bengals down to the red zone, but they immediately stalled out with three incompletions. Strong coverage from Ramsey on the third-down pass attempt to Higgins forced a chip-shot field goal from Evan McPherson, making it 7-3.

Scott Spratt: Cris Collinsworth: “Al, Ja’Marr Chase reminds me of a young me.”

Aaron Schatz: Jalen Ramsey doesn’t play 1-on-1 on the other team’s WR1 all the time, but he was manned up on Chase on that catch and absolutely got beat. Great, great catch from Chase. On the third-and-10, he was moved over to cover Higgins and that’s where the Bengals went and Ramsey wrestled it out of his hands.

Bryan Knowles: That’s a quarter of the way to the Lynn Swann-type MVP for Chase; a hell of a grab on good coverage (and frankly, you might have been able to call DPI on it, if the refs were going to call the Super Bowl tight for some reason). Any Cincinnati win needs three or four more of those big shots, because I don’t think they can grind out a victory against the Rams defense.

Vince Verhei: 7-3 at the end of one. Neither team can run: we’re at 11 carries for 27 yards between them, and 13 of those yards came on one Joe Mixon play. Bengals have 46 yards on the Chase catch, 14 yards on their other eight pass plays. So, almost nothing going right for the Bengals on offense. Meanwhile. Stafford is 6-of-6 for 56 yards, which sounds great, but only three of those completions have moved the sticks. So, that’s how you get three punts and a field goal attempt (plus the touchdown) in 15 minutes.

Second Quarter

Bryan Knowles: This second quarter has started more like I figured this game would go, with the Rams’ passing game clicking on all cylinders. Beckham gets lost in coverage for 35, Henderson escapes on a leak route for 25 more, Kupp burns Eli Apple for the touchdown. It’s 14 to … wait, no, the extra point is aborted, and Johnny Hekker pulls a Garo Yepremian and throws an interception on the PAT attempt, so it’s just 13-3. That’s actually annoying for prop purposes—I believe that will count as a turnover, even though possession doesn’t technically change hands, but does it count as a missed PAT? I’ll have to go delving into the small print to figure that out.

Aaron Schatz: It does not actually count as a turnover, I believe. If you look at the play-by-play live, it still lists the Rams with zero turnovers. This has to do with how the official play-by-play software processes two-point conversions. It won’t list all the details of the interception and lateral and whatever else happened.

Bryan Knowles: Vegas is going to get some angry calls no matter how they adjudicate that.

Oh, and NBC accidentally broadcast Sean McVay’s playsheet, so that’s probably not good.

Someone may burn that production truck to the ground after this shot pic.twitter.com/CXDNfoyauU

— Josh Pate (@LateKickJosh) February 14, 2022

Vince Verhei: I bet the over on interceptions, so I wish that counted, but it doesn’t. It didn’t cost the Rams a possession. It’s just a failed two-pointer.

Aaron Schatz: Collinsworth pointed it out, and it’s remarkable how the Rams’ defensive line hasn’t wreaked any havoc on the Bengals offensive line so far. They’re getting a good double team on Aaron Donald and Burrow is getting the ball out mighty fast.

Scott Spratt: Wow, that was an important catch by Ja’Marr Chase in the red zone. That attempted wide receiver screen was a lateral, and had Chase failed to make his one-handed grab, that could have been a live ball.

Vince Verhei: That whole drive was great work by Taylor. Pretty hard for Donald to do much when every play is an outside run, a three-step-drop-and-throw, or a halfback pass for a touchdown.

Aaron Schatz: Odell Beckham down, clutching left knee. Possible ACL injury. Very bad for the Rams.

Scott Spratt: Beckham at least is walking around on the sideline. Hopefully it’s not as bad as it looked in the moment.

Bryan Knowles: There’s your pick prop, Vince—Stafford tries to hit Van Jefferson on one of those deep routes they have been poking at all game long, but it’s a little underthrown and Jessie Bates picks it off in the end zone. Honestly, on third-and-14 it’s not the most painful interception in the world, but you just knew it was coming.

And, apparently, we have a taunting penalty! Because heaven forbid you celebrate intercepting a pass in the Super Bowl. Children may be watching, and think that they can be happy after doing an achievement of some description.

Aaron Schatz: I think the Rams are now stunting with Donald to try to get him away from the double team.

Vince Verhei: There were *three* guys blocking Donald on that Leonard Floyd sack right before halftime.

Aaron Donald playing three-on-one out here. pic.twitter.com/B027xwm0Rw

— Lindsey Thiry (@LindseyThiry) February 14, 2022

Halftime

Aaron Schatz: Not feeling so good about my Rams pick at halftime. The Bengals have done a great job of getting the ball out quick to prevent the Rams’ defensive line from taking advantage of their offensive line. But the Odell Beckham injury is a bigger issue. The Rams are a stars-and-scrubs roster. They have stayed great in part by staying healthy. It’s not a roster that can take major injuries. They only took the Robert Woods injury by signing Beckham. And worse, Beckham being out might influence McVay to call even more running plays and those running plays are going nowhere.

Carl Yedor: Bengals are hanging around to a somewhat surprising extent at this point, as I was with Aaron and Vince on the pregame optimism regarding the Rams. I wonder whether the Rams use more of Sony Michel with his downhill style in some power run schemes here in the second half as a way to try to get this offense moving. I found it amusing that McVay mentioned the need to be more efficient on early downs after he repeatedly had Akers run into a wall over and over again. Van Jefferson and Ben Skowronek are going to have to step up because it seems like Cincinnati is making a concerted effort to limit Kupp’s touches.

Vince Verhei: If the Bengals do come back and win this thing, it will probably because they’re the better running team, which sounds odd here in 2022. But the Rams only have 26 yards on 12 carries, and it’s awfully hard to hold a lead and kill clock when you can’t run, at all. Meanwhile, Joe Mixon only has seven carries, but he’s up to 40 yards, and the threat of the run is what opened up his touchdown pass in the red zone.

Right now, the MVP may be the Los Angeles offensive line. Aside from the Trey Hendrickson sack on the first drive, the Bengals are barely getting within shouting distance of Stafford.

Aaron Schatz: It’s actually 19 yards on 11 carries without Stafford’s scramble. Yuck.

Bryan Knowles: Honestly, the actual MVP at this point might be Kendrick Lamar, but your mileage may vary on that one.

My opinion of this game hasn’t actually changed much through the first half—Cincinnati needs big splash plays to stay competitive, and so far they have hit them. Even without Beckham, I still think the Rams are going to be more consistent in the second half, so we’ll have to see how many more highlight reel catches Ja’Marr Chase can make down the stretch.

Tom Gower: Rams up 13-10 at the half. Gains of 20-plus yards: Rams two, Bengals one. Chase’s 46-yard gain set up the Bengals’ field goal. The Rams got both of their explosives (Beckham’s 35-yarder and the 25-yard leak pass to Henderson, which had to be a rocket of a throw) on their second touchdown drive. The other scores for both teams featured a number of 10-plus-yard plays, but not the singular explosive like that, but I like the symmetry.

There’s a larger discussion to be had about how many of the Rams’ run plays were pure runs as opposed to package plays that ended up runs because of how the defenses responded. Nate Tice on Twitter pointed out the second-and-15 run in particular as an example of this. But if you let the defense dictate that you’re running the ball, that’s a problem in its own right.

Third Quarter

Tom Gower: And I type that coming back from the half … 75-yard pass play to Tee Higgins. Jalen Ramsey fell down/was shoved down? Either way, HELLO.

Bryan Knowles: What did I say about the Bengals needing big explosive plays?

Vince Verhei: The other part of the stars-and-scrubs roster building is: what happens when your stars get you beat? The Bengals’ two best plays have come by picking on Jalen Ramsey.

Although, it certainly helps when the receiver pulls Ramsey down by the facemask and gets away with it.

Scott Spratt: I guess that’s why you don’t blitz Joe Burrow.

Tom Gower: By “shoved down,” I meant “Tee Higgins grabbed Ramsey down by his face mask.” What an incredible non-call.

Andrew Potter: The thing I both love and hate most about sports is how huge games turn on completely random events. That missed call is inexcusable, the Bengals defense immediately gets another tipped pick because a random injury forced a backup receiver into the game, and suddenly a 13-10 deficit is a 17-13 lead with possession on just 20 seconds of play. Whereas if the refs just make a basic, routine, obvious call, the Rams still have the lead and it’s first-and-25.

Bryan Knowles: What did I say about the Bengals needing big explosive plays? First Rams play of the second half is in and out of Skowronek’s hands and picked off!

Scott Spratt: Oof, that was Ben Skowronek tipping the pass up for the Stafford interception. Stars and scrubs, indeed, Aaron.

Aaron Schatz: Zac Taylor has discovered aggressive play calling in the Super Bowl. Two fourth-down goes. Just got the second one on a Burrow scramble.

Bryan Knowles: Aaron Donald has decided enough is enough, and if Hakeem Adeniji is going to be in his way, he’s just going to pick him up and throw him into Joe Burrow. Big sack to keep things a one-score game, and maybe the Rams can stop leaking water.

Scott Spratt: Getting Aaron Donald one-on-one with right guard Hakeem Adeniji seems like a good defensive adjustment for the Rams.

Vince Verhei: That was Donald’s second sack of that drive, after the one at the sideline that kicked off a little brawl. And on that one, he was being triple-teamed. Again.

Cale Clinton: I know that Odell is out, but I’m shocked that the Rams are still trying to run the ball. Longest run of 7 yards off a Stafford scramble. Cam Akers is averaging 1.1 yards on 10 carries, and Darrell Henderson isn’t doing much better. I don’t understand why this is still in their game plan.

Vince Verhei: It’s ridiculous. He’s down by a touchdown in the second half, and McVay keeps accepting second-and-9. Well, now that they have crossed midfield, there’s a pair of passes on first down.

Bryan Knowles: I’m fairly sure Aaron, Mike, J.P., and I called the “Matthew Stafford hilariously flailing at a pass” play on the Prop Bet podcast this week.

Vince Verhei: Between all those runs and that Kupp-to-Stafford pass attempt on third down, that was about as bad as a drive could be that still ends in a field goal.

Aaron Schatz: Don’t blitz Burrow! But the Rams do and actually get home for a sack on second down. Burrow skips the ball to Chase on third-and-long and the Rams will get it back again near midfield.

Scott Spratt: It looked like Stafford’s foot got stuck under D.J. Reader on that suplex sack. He’s on the training table now with the Bengals coming back on offense.

Bryan Knowles: Ah, the Bengals’ offensive line has shown up to the Super Bowl. Burrow’s up to six sacks and counting.

Scott Spratt: Suddenly the Titans’ record of nine sacks against Burrow a few weeks ago is in jeopardy. And yet, the Bengals are still winning.

Aaron Schatz: Between OBJ’s injury and possibly Stafford getting hurt, it may be too late.

Fourth Quarter

Vince Verhei: We’re down to the final 15 minutes of the season, the Rams are down by four, and they’re still trying to establish a run game that refuses to be established.

Bryan Knowles: Mike, J.P, you’re in the building; go down and physically prevent McVay from calling any more run plays. Heck, maybe they’re trying; maybe it was Mike running onto the field waving the towel a quarter ago.

Aaron Schatz: Second-and-5, and they ran the ball. I mean, come ON.

Vince Verhei: Uh-oh. Sack No. 7 for Burrow and he limps off the field. That sets up a punt … which Kevin Huber BOOMS for a 54-yarder. But now we may have two gimpy quarterbacks.

Scott Spratt: That was Burrow’s 70th sack this season including both the regular and postseason.

Carl Yedor: With the state of this Bengals offensive line, the defense may have to win this game on that side of the ball, especially with Burrow banged up. That potential knee injury did not look good at all, though the broadcast is indicating that it may not be super serious. Even without Beckham, the Rams seem like they’ll have enough firepower to take the lead if they just stop handing the ball off on these doomed runs.

Cale Clinton: Really not a fan of whatever producer decided to air the tight shot of Burrow screaming in pain as he went to the ground. Pure agony. Can’t get it out of my head.

Bryan Knowles: You traded two first-round picks for Matthew Stafford to get you to the Super Bowl. You are here. Let him throw the football. My god.

Scott Spratt: Sean McVay was one of the most conservative fourth-down coaches this season. I’m really glad he went for that fourth-and-1 on his 30-yard line, and Cooper Kupp made him look good with a tremendous cut upfield on a jet sweep.

Aaron Schatz: I think that Stafford has decided that he’s going to Kupp now and he doesn’t care about the coverage. Bengals are playing a zone and Kupp is finding the holes. It’s going to be first-and-goal from the 8 at the two-minute warning.

Vince Verhei: Do the Bengals know they’re only up by four? Giving up all these short completions, letting the Rams move the ball and kill clock. Now they’re in the red zone at the two-minute warning, threatening to take the lead without giving Cincinnati time to answer. Drive has already killed 4:18.

Andrew Potter: The Rams aren’t bleeding clock the way they ought to be either. Snapping the ball before the two-minute warning all but guaranteed the Bengals will get the ball back, and they had already been snapping with time on the clock. Tell me they aren’t thinking two field goals is an option! Any time they leave after a potential touchdown is time the Bengals could use to come back.

Vince Verhei: Van Jefferson alone in the end zone for a go-ahead touchdown, Stafford throws it 4 feet over his head.

Which leads to a never-ending parade of penalties in what had been a clean game. Feels like the Bengals felt the refs weren’t calling anything and played aggressive, and suddenly the refs started calling everything.

So it’s first-and-goal at the 1, and the Bengals need to call timeouts now.

Bryan Knowles: More Matthew Stafford failed sneaks! My favorite postseason theme returns.

Scott Spratt: Remember when the Bengals ran seven straight plays from the 1-yard line without scoring and kicked a field goal as time expired to beat the Chiefs in the regular season? We may be headed toward the inverse of that.

Aaron Schatz: Fade to Cooper Kupp and the Rams score a touchdown! They just didn’t care. They were going to Kupp. Eli Apple on him. Bengals will get the ball back with about 1:20 left and two timeouts. Need a field goal to tie, touchdown to win.

Bryan Knowles: I have watched worse Super Bowls. I have watched more painful Super Bowls. I do not believe I have ever watched a more frustrating Super Bowl. These Kupp plays have been there all game long, and it took 55 minutes for the Rams to take them.

Cale Clinton: Jalen Ramsey said earlier this week he wanted Ja’Marr Chase as his receiver matchup. Well, he’s got him now. Chase hit Ramsey with a quick hesitation move to jumpstart the Bengals’ drive with a 17 yard gain.

Vince Verhei: Donald with the pressure on fourth-and-1 to force an incompletion and clinch a ring.

Aaron Schatz: Also, Donald with the one-armed strength tackle of Perine on third-and-1 from behind. Outstanding.

Aftermath

Bryan Knowles: Alright then, who’s your MVP? Cooper Kupp or Aaron Donald?

Vince Verhei: Donald won’t win MVP, but he should.

Scott Spratt: I would consider Stafford too, Bryan. Stafford got nothing from a running game or from a receiver other than Cooper Kupp. Was third-string tight end Bryce Hopkins his second best receiver today?

Vince Verhei: He might, but I’d honestly be upset. One good drive, and that was all to Kupp. So Kupp should get it before him.

Further argument for Mr. Donald: ESPN says Cincy’s offensive line just had the worst game for any team in a game this year.

Bengals finished with a 14% pass block win rate, the worst by any team in any game this season.

(ESPN / NFL Next Gen Stats)

— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) February 14, 2022

Tom Gower: Donald was incredible on those last two plays, though the third-and-1 stop doesn’t happen without Greg Gaines also being involved. And while Burrow was getting the ball out, Von Miller was destroying the right tackle Isaiah Prince. They got 9 yards to Tyler Boyd because Burrow literally couldn’t hold the ball any longer before Miller whipped him. Judging that trade by what Bill Walsh had in mind when he talked about the importance of fourth-quarter pass rush, that’s a price you’re willing to pay for those results.

Stepping back, this was not a game where either offense had a lot of consistent success. The Bengals only had one drive where they had more than two first downs. The Rams had seven first downs on their game-winning drive, three on a couple of others (the field goal and the second touchdown drive), but failed to get a first down on half their 12 possessions. It’s hard to move the ball consistently in the NFL, with the ability to do so against good teams literally defining what good offenses are. No, it didn’t help the Rams that Sean McVay was fanatical about donating first downs with ineffective runs. Yes, the Rams were missing two of their hypothetical top three receivers plus their main tight end for most of the game, and their secondary receivers (Jefferson and Skowronek) weren’t the factors they needed them to be. The guy who did the best was Brycen Hopkins—4-47 wasn’t a huge line, but it was enough. And the Bengals had their top three guys produce some, but didn’t have that other guy. Mixon was the target of ineffective short passes. C.J. Uzomah wasn’t a factor in the middle of the field or as the guy to take advantage of mismatches created by the top three wideouts.

Congratulations to the Rams. They took some big risks trying to win, and it paid off. It might help create a more fun league if teams decide that’s the part of the example to be emulated rather than “Step 1: hire a thinly-experienced 30-something offensive guru; Step 3: win big.” (It’s the NFL, they’ll take both lessons.) Also, I’m happy that we’re not pointing to the no-call on Ramsey getting dragged down by his facemask as the game-winning score. I’m disappointed by how the game was officiated, with literally no live-ball foul calls in the first 58 minutes, then we get some non-extreme things called (but not the apparent false start on third down!). But the actual winning touchdown was a good play, and the defensive stop at the end didn’t appear to just be a case of murder most foul not getting called. I wasn’t expecting a super-compelling game, and I don’t think we got one, but I’d say the better team during the regular season, and the team that was somewhat better today, won, and I won’t complain too much about that.

Vince Verhei: To correct myself: Stafford had more than one good drive. That wasn’t fair to say. He had a good first quarter and a good fourth quarter. He didn’t do much in between. But I maintain that Kupp and Donald would both be more deserving choices.

Bryan Knowles: I’m trying to collect my thoughts to wrap this all up, and I just keep coming back to how frustrating this was. The Rams getting in their own way, over and over and over again. The refs taking over the game in the last 120 seconds. The Bengals being unable to block anyone in the second half.

But taking a larger view, you have to admire the Rams for going all in and winning the title. It goes against a lot of team-building orthodoxy to give away so many first-round picks to add veteran talent, and yet here we are. It was a massive bet—a bet on their ability to find depth players late in the draft to fill out their stars-and-scrubs roster, a bet on their ability to identify talent that would work better in Los Angeles than elsewhere, a bet that they could take advantage of how much other teams cared about the draft. I think I still prefer the draft-and-build strategy of team building, but I’m always excited when something unorthodox happens and works.

As for the Bengals, it always felt like this was a year too early for them, and that they’re really, really well set up for the future. If they had an offensive line, they might well have been able to run this one out and lift the Lombardi Trophy themselves. Build around Burrow and Chase, and I would expect them to be back here sooner rather than later. Though, I suppose we said that about Dan Marino…

Scott Spratt: And Marino didn’t have Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Justin Herbert, and Lamar Jackson in his conference.

Carl Yedor: Congrats to the Rams for finishing the job. It looked early like Cincy would have few answers for the combination of Kupp and Beckham, which seemed to be playing out until Beckham’s unfortunate injury. Brutal luck for him. With McVay insisting on handing the ball off over and over, it’s almost like he forgot that the best receiver in the league was still on his roster. But sometimes you have to “overcome coaching” as a player, and for all the good McVay does in scheming guys open consistently and sequencing plays, he gives a decent amount back with totally head-scratching decisions. I find myself frustrated after watching that game because the Rams were definitely more talented and had plenty of opportunities to exploit that, but it turned into a classic because of some strategic foibles. With how they dominated the line of scrimmage in the passing game, I don’t think this one should have been all that close.

The narrative surrounding this game seems likely to focus on the quarterbacks because of course it will, but much like last year, I think it should be centered on the offensive line. Stafford got to sit there and pat the ball pretty frequently as he waited for guys to come open; Burrow was under constant duress in the second half. It seemed like on each of his sacks, there was a receiver about to break open that he didn’t have time to hit. It’s a tale as old as time that the game is won in the trenches, and that showed up big-time in the passing game tonight.

Aaron Schatz: Andy Benoit, who used to write our Film Room column and now works for the Rams, is the first ex-Football Outsiders writer to win a Super Bowl ring.

Bryan Knowles: I’ll chug a glass of milk in his honor.

1
I didn’t know that about…

I didn’t know that about Andy, loved his work here, thanks for clueing us in!  

2
When a team gets the worst…

When a team gets the worst of the officiating (it’s silly to equate the tight calls at the end with a zebra missing a flagrant face mask, with 2 players in his field of vision, resulting in a 75 yard td), and the worst of the injuries, and still wins, yeah, they are deserving.

 

3
The fact that the Rams ran…

The fact that the Rams ran the ball didn’t bother me: it’s the fact that they ran the ball so *incredibly* obviously. The sweep to Kupp made me yell “finally” – it was the first run I didn’t know exactly what was coming for ten seconds. You could friggin’ see the Bengals adjust to better positioning and the Rams… just… sat there. (Of course, the one early audible cost them a delay of game, but…)

This game didn’t make me think highly of McVay or Stafford. Really, really simplistic play in the first three quarters. Just so basic and boring playcalling, whereas the Bengals were much better. They had a (second down?) draw which just flat out suckered everyone on the Rams. Great idea, great timing, too bad you can’t make Donald second guess himself.

Also, that piece of crap third down give-up run was either not a draw or the world’s worst executed one. Draws need a delayed handoff with the line pass blocking.

edit: The TD to Kupp made me super-happy though. When they lined up I flat out said audible to a pass, he’s got the room, and they *did* (OK, it was a preplanned check, whatever, same thing). So happy.

5
Even when trying to get…

In reply to by Pat

Even when trying to get inventive, it was head scratching. Really disliked Cupp throwing a short pass for Stafford on that down and distance, at that spot on the field.

7
Oh, that was *horribly*…

In reply to by Will Allen

Oh, that was *horribly* executed. That play absolutely should’ve had a check to Kupp just running if things weren’t perfect, and the Bengals messed up the spacing. I don’t know if Kupp would’ve gotten it, but asking a WR to adjust a throw is just a losing proposition.

4
Pandemic life in general…

Pandemic life in general kept me away from watching football for the 2nd straight regular season, then this last (hopefully) wave kept me away from the ugly first playoff weekend. Things loosened up enough, however, for me to watch the last 3 rounds, and man, they were fun games to watch, for a guy who had watched 1 or 2 games closely in 16 months.

6
Rams are definitely…

Rams are definitely deserving, they got screwjobbed on the Tee Higgins TD, and the penalties called against the Bengals were pretty deserving.

While I was hoping for a blowout, the way the Bengals lost actually provided maximum comedic value. Quinton Spain got beat for the final sack, poetic justice. Maybe if he had worked on his blocking and not his Twitter game.

8
Bengals Defensive coordinator

sure did a job this postseason.  

 

What was the baseball hat Mike Brown was wearing?  I joked in real time that he must have been paid to wear that cap.  And now that I write that and based on the rep of how tight Mike is with a buck maybe he DID agree to do that.  Ha, ha.

 

How did the refs miss the entire Rams line moving early on the pass play where the Bengals were called for d holding?  The play was so unnatural it had to be clear what had happened.  Line moves, beat, ball snapped to Stafford.  And I don’t think they mentioned it on the broadcast either.

 

Kupp was great.  But when you get triple teamed on more than a few plays and still make plays especially the fourth quarter thought Donald was the MVP.  Incredible to watch as usual.

 

So odd as a Packer fan to watch a game and not have multiple special teams goofs.  Ha!

9
I complained about the…

In reply to by big10freak

I complained about the offensive playcalling above, but the *defensive* calls were boring for the Rams early on, too. Letting Donald get triple-teamed like that was just nuts. Finally started seeing misdirection in the late third, and gasp, the Bengals OL breaks down.

15
If the refs had called false…

In reply to by big10freak

If the refs had called false starts properly this postseason the Bengals wouldn’t even be in the Super Bowl so *shrug*.

10
 A close game but not a…

 

A close game but not a great game.  I agree with many of the observations above.  I’ll add that I was perplexed that Taylor didn’t do more to protect Burrow in the second half.  After Burrow’s limp-off, Bengals came out with extra OL and two TE and had a nice running play.  Maybe work some more heavy with play action, etc.  Who knows.  But in situations when the Rams knew the Bengals had to pass, it was a shooting gallery for the defense.

Anyone else have the weird feeling – which I’ve felt in prior Super Bowls – that everyone is trying to hurry through the first half to get to the halftime show?  It’s like the first half is for the Super Bowl parties, the second half for the football fans.

Refereeing is perplexing.  Before the game and through the first 3+ quarters, I was confident in my opinion that you can absolutely bank on refs relaxing on calling pass interference, holding, etc., in crunch time.  And then the final couple minutes happen.  If Wilson doesn’t get that holding call, I think the Rams would have been facing 4th down with the game on the line, more or less.  I’d be curious to see stats on number of penalties called by week, including preseason and playoffs.  I would watch with wry amusement a Super Bowl that had as many penalties as the typical Friday night preseason game.

12
The Bengals OL/Rams DL…

In reply to by Peregrine

The Bengals OL/Rams DL matchup was boring as hell for a half and then became interesting. Boring because in the first half it was like the same thing, over and over. Wall off Donald, quick pass, next play.

I don’t think it’s fair to blame Taylor because by the 4th quarter the Rams were changing things up a lot. They’d show blitz and have the guy drop back just so they couldn’t get clean combo blocks on guys. After Burrow got injured, the Bengals shifted things, but it didn’t last. Right after that heavy run play they had a nice timed draw, which for most teams would alter the DL’s timing, but the Rams smelled blood. By that point it was just sheer athletic advantage.

I mean, that 3rd and 1 stop, my God.

14
I wonder what would have…

In reply to by Pat

I wonder what would have happened if the Bengals tried to feed Chase like the Rams fed Kupp.  Of course, maybe they tried.  Burrow needs to have a better clock in his head.  Cincy can have a great future but they’re going to have to make a lot of good decisions to get there.  The league is just too competitive. 

Donald is a hell of a player and seems like a good man and teammate.  Easy to like.  Always amusing to go back to look at draft histories.  The Falcons, my team, picked Jake Matthews at #6 and while Jake has had a pretty good career, he’s not going to the Hall of Fame.  (Even before last night, Donald was a lock for the HOF, considering that he’s a better player than Warren Sapp, who is already enshrined.)

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RE: Playcalling

As a Packer fan, I was experiencing McCarthy flashbacks where the playcalling seemed to be let’s be really conservative and when that doesn’t generate much and things look desperate hey Aaron go be a wizard.  In this case it was on Matt or Joe to be magical and Stafford had a line and a top receiver to work with while Joe had more receivers but no line.  

 

What I appreciate about Stafford is yes he makes some inexplicable throws at times but you know what, he will TRY some throws that have some risk.  And that needs to happen for a number of reasons.  That throw across the middle late to Kupp was a crazy throw.  Sea of Bengal defenders.  But it worked.  Not to go back to 12 but his high degree of risk aversion prevents him from trying throws that 5-6 years ago he did attempt more often than not with success.

 

So good on you Matt Stafford.  As the saying goes, sometimes you have to say ‘WTF’.  You miss and you are a goat.  But you make it and now you are king of all you survey in the NFL.  

13
I’ve read a fair amount of…

I’ve read a fair amount of commentary this year about the importance of o-line play being overrated, but this is the 3rd time in the last 6 Super Bowls, just off the top of my head, where an ass-whipping of an offensive line was perhaps the most significant element of the game. Toss in the fact that a guy everybody calls GOAT just retired from an extremely long career, in which the guys in front of him very, very, seldom were recipients of such an ass-whipping, and I think the demise of the importance of blocking people is a bit overstated. That’s not to say that, in a league with a hard cap, it’s not hard to keep your weakest link in the 5 link chain from being a real problem.

16
But if you let the defense…

But if you let the defense dictate that you’re running the ball, that’s a problem in its own right.

Didn’t we castigate Reid and Bieniemy two weeks ago for not doing just that?

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With the state of this…

With the state of this Bengals offensive line, the defense may have to win this game on that side of the ball, especially with Burrow banged up. 

Are you arguing the defensive linemen should pass block?

They may actually be better at it than the Bengals actual offensive linemen.

Read more: footballoutsiders.com

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