Late Kupp touchdown lifts Rams to Super Bowl LVI title over Bengals

NFL – Super Bowl LVI
Los Angeles Rams’ Von Miller celebrates with the Vince Lombardi Trophy after winning Super Bowl LVI.
REUTERS/Mike Segar

When they needed their two superstars the most, Cooper Kupp and Aaron Donald delivered for the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LVI.

A one-yard touchdown pass at the right pylon from Matthew Stafford to Kupp with 1:25 remaining proved to be the game-winner in a 23-20 victory. But with the Bengals driving to midfield, pressure from Donald with 38 seconds remaining forced a Joe Burrow incompletion on 4th-&-1 to cement the Rams’ victory.

Kupp, who won the NFL’s receiving triple crown in 2021, posted eight catches for 92 yards and two scores to lift Los Angeles after yielding 17 unanswered points to blow an early 13-3 lead while losing a fellow star receiver in Odell Beckham Jr. The performance allowed him to add another piece of silverware to his trophy cabinet: a Super Bowl MVP.

For Stafford, the 13-year-pro who languished with the Detroit Lions for years made the most of his first-ever trip to the playoffs, winning it all in his first season with the Rams. The 33-year-old completed 26-of-40 passes for 283 yards, three touchdowns, and two interceptions.

The veteran outdueled Cincinnati’s young star quarterback in Joe Burrow, who performed admirably in his first-ever trip to the Super Bowl — completing 22-of-33 passes for 263 yards and a touchdown. Most of it was focused on Tee Higgins (four catches, 100 yards, two touchdowns) and rookie Ja’Marr Chase (five catches, 89 yards).

A solid night despite an offensive line that was overwhelmed by the Rams’ pass rush. They yielded a Super Bowl record-tying seven sacks.

For the Bengals, their torturous Super Bowl wait continues with another last-minute loss on football’s biggest stage — something they experienced in their last trip to the big game 33 years ago against the San Francisco 49ers.

The Rams jumped out of the gates to a 10-point lead in the second quarter, supplying an early suggestion that they’d run away with Super Bowl LVI on their home turf.

After the Bengals made the peculiar decision to go for it on a 4th-&-1 on the Rams’ 49-yard-line with their opening drive of the game and failed, Los Angeles took advantage of the short field to take the lead — Stafford hitting Beckham for a 17-yard touchdown in the right corner of the end zone.

Cincinnati got on the board with a McPherson field goal with 28 seconds to go in the first quarter, but the Rams quickly answered on their next drive with a six-play, 75-yard march that concluded with an 11-yard touchdown from Stafford to Cooper Kupp. A botched hold on the extra point kept the Rams’ advantage at 10.

The Bengals provided a quick answer with a seven-minute drive that spanned 75 yards. Instead of Burrow finding the end zone through the air, though, it was running back Joe Mixon, who pulled up on a toss play to his right and found Tee Higgins in the back of the end zone from six yards out.

Stafford and the Rams were dealt a significant blow when Beckham, who had 52 yards on two receptions with that touchdown, went down with a non-contact injury with just under four minutes remaining in the half. He would not return.

Five players later, Stafford was intercepted in the end zone by Jessie Bates III to snuff out a prime scoring opportunity at the end of the half.

On the first play of the second half, the Bengals took the lead as Burrow found Higgins down the left sideline for a 75-yard touchdown. The Cincinnati receiver was lucky not to have a flag called on him for offensive pass interference after he face-masked Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey to the ground.

Things got even worse for the Rams when Stafford’s first pass on the next possession bounced off the hands of Ben Skowronek and into the hands of Bengals defensive back Chidobe Awuzie at the 31-yard-line.

It led to McPherson’s second field goal of the day to put the Bengals up seven, 20-13, just 4:45 into the half.

Los Angeles pulled back within four with a field goal from Matt Gay, but difficulties finding momentum against an active Bengals defense continued. Anxiety for Los Angelinos only heightened when Stafford came up limping after he was sacked with three minutes to go in the third.

But the Rams defense proved to be just as resolute, sacking Burrow five times in the third quarter and an additional one on Cincinnati’s first drive of the fourth quarter. The last of that sequence was Von Miller’s second of the day, which hobbled Burrow as he stayed down a few extra seconds while clutching his right knee. Like Stafford, he would stay in the game.

Super Bowl LVI Rams Aaron Donald
Los Angeles Rams defensive end Aaron Donald (99) sacks Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) in the third quarter in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium./Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

After they weren’t able to find him for a majority of the second half, the Rams finally turned to Kupp to help will them back into the lead. The star wide receiver first converted a 4th-&-1 rush on the Rams’ 30-yard-line with five minutes to go before hauling in three catches for 38 yards — helping move the Rams into the red zone at the two-minute warning.

They received a reprieve after failing to convert on a 3rd-&-goal from the 8-yard-line when a holding call on Bengals linebacker Logan Wilson gave the Rams an automatic first down. Stafford hit Kupp in the back of the end zone on the following play with 1:38 remaining, but it was waved off after offsetting penalties were called on each team.

A pass-interference on Bengals cornerback Eli Apple on the very next play moved the ball down to the 1-yard-line, setting up the second scoring connection of the night between Stafford and Kupp with 1:25 to go.

For a city that boasts the 17 champions of the Lakers, the six World Series of the Dodgers, and the two Stanley Cups of the Kings, Los Angeles’ status in the football world has been tumultuous and underwhelming.

That was up until Sunday night.

The Rams, in just their sixth season back in LA following a 20-year stint in St. Louis (they played in Los Angeles from 1946-1994), are now the champions of the NFL; just the second time ever that an NFL franchise from Los Angeles has won the Super Bowl. The Raiders won Super Bowl XVIII in 1985 during a 13-year stretch in which they called Los Angeles home.

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