This was a game that had quite literally everything: dynamic quarterback play, stellar defence, amazing catches, a brilliant halftime show, and even some trademark controversy for good measure.
An exciting end to the season
By Joseph Agosti, Contributor
One thing you can’t say about Sunday’s Super Bowl was that it was boring. This was a game that had quite literally everything: dynamic quarterback play, stellar defence, amazing catches, a brilliant halftime show, and even some trademark controversy for good measure. In a tale between plucky underdogs the Cincinnati Bengals and the powerhouse Los Angeles Rams, the Super Bowl was as exciting as it was polarizing, with a captivating performance by both teams with very different backgrounds.
The team from the AFC, the Cincinnati Bengals were not expected by anyone to make it this far. Coming off a 4-11-1 2020 season, where rookie sensation quarterback Joe Burrow was injured halfway through the year, the 2021-22 season was meant to be a developmental season for the Bengals. Armed with the 5th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Bengals were faced with a dilemma; do they take high flying wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase who was a college teammate of Burrow’s and had built-in chemistry with him at an important position, or do they take Penei Sewell, the best offensive lineman in the draft? This was a tough choice because the Bengals had arguably the worst offensive line in football in 2020, as Burrow’s season ended when he tore his ACL on a play where his offensive lineman failed to protect him. In the end, the Bengals took the Wide Receiver Chase. And what a decision it turned out to be, with Chase having the greatest season for a rookie wide receiver in NFL history catching 81 passes for 1,455 yards and 13 touchdowns on his way to Offensive Rookie of the Year. Buoyed by the play of Burrow and Chase, the Bengals went 10-7 winning their division and beating the powerhouse Kansas City Chiefs to make it to the Super Bowl.
The Rams, on the other hand, were expected to be title contenders from the very beginning. Having traded two first-round picks, along with incumbent quarterback Jared Goff to the Detroit Lions, in exchange for veteran QB Matthew Stafford, it’s needless to say that expectations were high in Tinsel Town. Stafford, however, came with risks of his own. Stafford, the first overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, while showing immense potential on some severely undermanned Lions teams, had never won a playoff game. So, the pressure was on the 33-year-old veteran. The Rams cruised through the season relatively smoothly finishing with a 12-5 record winning their division. After beating the Arizona Cardinals and Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Rams had made it to the Super Bowl, but would their high-risk move pay off?
The Super Bowl itself was an exciting affair, featuring two quarterbacks in their primes. Stafford, despite being relatively untested in the spotlight, had a solid first half leading the Rams to a three-point lead going into halftime. The Bengals won the coin toss, which meant they could receive the ball after halftime. It only took one play for Joe Burrow to find wide receiver Tee Higgins for a touchdown. It was not without controversy, as Higgins appeared to spin Rams defensive back, Jalen Ramsey, around by the facemask while making the catch. The refs missed the call, and it burnt the defence. The very next drive, Stafford threw a pass in which his receiver fumbled directly into the arms of a Bengals defender for an interception, which would lead to a Bengals field goal. Now the Bengals lead by seven.
One of the major stories entering the game was the play of Rams defender Aaron Donald. Donald is considered to be one of the greatest defensive linemen in NFL history, wreaking havoc on opposing quarterbacks for the past decade. During the first three quarters, Donald had little impact with a mediocre Bengals o-line holding the fort against him. But, in the fourth quarter, Donald beat his man and took Burrow down awkwardly. After the game Burrow would disclose that he had suffered a sprained MCL on the play, which clearly impacted his mobility. After that hit, the Bengals could not regain offensive momentum. After kicking a field goal to make it a one-score game, the Rams had the ball late in the 4th quarter. With time ticking down, they slowly but surely drove down into Bengals territory. But at the Bengals 8 yard line, Stafford’s pass was broken up by a Bengal defender, putting the Rams in a do-or-die 4th and goal. But wait, there was a flag on the play. The refs had called the Bengals linebacker for defensive holding on the pass breakup. Let me be clear, it was a poor call. I wouldn’t even expect it to be called in the regular season let alone late in the 4th quarter of a Super Bowl. But they called it anyway and rewarded with a first down the Rams scored a touchdown to put them ahead by three with just over a minute to go.
Joe Burrow, a stellar young quarterback almost did it, but with a damaged knee, and an exhausted offensive line, his final pass fell incomplete while being hit and spun to the ground by Aaron Donald. Replays showed that on the last play, JaMarr Chase had beaten Jalen Ramsey and would have been wide open for a game-winning touchdown. But the Bengals, just like in 2020, were let down by a poor offensive line when it mattered most.
What a game overall, Stafford finally proved his doubters wrong, Donald winning his first ring, and Joe Burrow with an incredible postseason cementing himself as the next face of the NFL. It will be interesting to see if both teams can continue with their momentum and possibly meet for a rematch next Super Bowl.