NFL playoff magic runs out in Super Bowl LVI

Super Bowl LVI took place on February 13th, 2022 at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California. The Rams, with their 23-20 victory over the Bengals, became the second team in two years to win a Super Bowl in their home stadium.

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Super Bowl LVI took place on February 13th, 2022 at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California. The Rams, with their 23-20 victory over the Bengals, became the second team in two years to win a Super Bowl in their home stadium.

   Heading into the ultimate matchup of the 2021-22 NFL season, we had been treated to perhaps the most exciting set of playoff games in league history. Almost every game had plenty of tension, high-level play, and last-minute drama. At times, it felt as if the matchups were being scripted by paid writers for the NFL.

   They couldn’t quite bring it home with Super Bowl LVI.

   Until the final seven or so minutes of the Los Angeles Rams’ 23-20 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, there wasn’t much to write home about for this year’s title game. The game was close throughout, but there just wasn’t the elevated sense of excitement and intensity that should come with the championship game, especially after the outstanding games that came before it.

   To start the game, the Bengals won the coin toss, and elected to defer. The two teams were locked in a defensive battle for the better part of the first quarter, until star Rams WR Odell Beckham Jr. caught a 17-yard touchdown from QB Matthew Stafford with 6:22 remaining. The Bengals drove down the field leading into the end of the quarter, but had to settle for a 29-yard field goal from rookie sensation Evan McPherson to make the score 7-3 Rams.

   The Rams quickly marched down the field to start the second quarter, and Stafford connected with Offensive Player of the Year WR Cooper Kupp in the back of the end zone for an 11-yard touchdown. However, the hold for the extra point was botched by punter Johnny Hekker, and the ensuing two-point desperation throw was no-good. This kept the game at 13-3 Rams, and the missed point would later come back to give the Rams a major scare.

   During the early part of the game, neither team could establish an effective running game, leading both to rely on their passing attacks to drive the offense. The Bengals got tricky in this aspect, unleashing a trick play that had RB Joe Mixon throwing a 6-yard touchdown to WR Tee Higgins with 5:47 left in the half. This brought the score up to 13-10 Rams.

   Unfortunately for Los Angeles, their second-best receiver in Beckham Jr. left the game not too long after, suffering a non-contact injury to his left knee. It was devastating to see him fall victim to injury after playing so well in the first half of the game.

   Going into halftime, where Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, Eminem, Mary J. Blige, and Kendrick Lamar headlined a solid show, it seemed that the Bengals had the advantage, although they trailed by three points. Beckham Jr. was out for the game, the Bengals offensive line had done a great job of protecting QB Joe Burrow, and the referees had barely interfered with the game.

   However, this was about to change. After only producing one sack in the first half, the Rams’ defensive front headlined by Von Miller racked up six more in the second half of the game. The notorious “refball” also made an appearance as well, when Higgins illegally grabbed Rams CB Jalen Ramsey’s facemask during a 75-yard touchdown completion; there was no flag thrown.

   The score now read 17-13 Bengals, and after a costly interception throw by Stafford on a short field, McPherson tacked on another field goal, this time from 38 yards, to give his team a one score lead at 20-13. On the next possession, the Rams tried to replicate the Eagles’ famous “Philly Special” trick play from Super Bowl LII, but Kupp’s throw sailed over the head of Stafford. The Rams settled for a field goal, and kicker Matt Gay converted from 41 yards out to make the score 20-16 Bengals.

   At this point, the game was underwhelming. Neither quarterbacks were playing up to their potential, and the running backs couldn’t find any openings to cut through. The Rams defensive linemen were quickly becoming the stars of the game, as Burrow began to take a beating. “Joe Shiesty,” as he is becoming known, couldn’t withstand sack after brutal sack, and his face showed it.

   However, as the game began to wind down, it got a bit more interesting. With around six minutes left in the fourth quarter, Bengals WR Tyler Boyd dropped a pass on a critical third down that forced them to punt the ball. If he held on, he more than likely would have picked up the first down.

   The Rams took over, and proceeded to methodically drive down the field, relying on Kupp to get them to the promised land. After dominating all season long, he scored the game-winning touchdown on a catch in the right side of the end zone with 1:25 left in the game to launch the Rams back in front, 23-20. Eastern alum CB Eli Apple was the defender in coverage.

   The Bengals got the ball back for one more possession, but a poor decision to throw the ball on fourth-and-short ended their Super Bowl dreams. The Rams emerged victorious, taking home their first Lombardi since 1999.

   As a whole, I wasn’t completely satisfied with Super Bowl LVI. It had enough scoring to be interesting, but the player performances weren’t compelling until very late in the game. The playoff magic that we’ve seen all winter long just simply wasn’t there on Sunday night.