No end of storybook as Bengals go short, 23-20, in Super Bowl LVI
bengals.com Senior Writer
INGLEWOOD, Calif. — In the Hollywood foothills on Sunday, the Bengals took on an unlikely story that would have been dismissed by any scriptwriter in town, but couldn’t produce their first-ever Lombardi Trophy in a heartbreaking loss 23 -20 against the Rams on the scorching Super Bowl LVI soundstage.
The Bengals were sliding into rookie kicker Evan McPherson’s field goal range with 40 seconds left in midfield in fourth-and-one, but future Rams Hall of Fame defensive tackle Aaron Donald made the signature play when he nearly fired quarterback Joe Burrow and had him dump a desperate pitcher that had no shot. The game defined how LA’s passing rush took over the game with a Super Bowl record tying seven sacks.
The Bengals defense that had provided so much magic at the end of games this postseason, could conjure up no more. He incurred three penalties in 10 seconds inside 10 inside two minutes.
That set up Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford’s one-yard flip to wide receiver Cooper Kupp with 85 seconds left to give them the winning margin. It was Kupp’s second touchdown of the game and gave him 92 yards and the Super Bowl MVP trophy against a stubborn defense that deserved a better spell.
With 1:47 left on the 8, linebacker Logan Wilson was called for a catch on Kupp. Then a TD was erased by compensatory penalties, a Rams hold and hard shots on Bengals safety Vonn Bell. Still on Kupp. Then cornerback Eli Apple was called for holding Kupp and it put the ball on the Bengals 1.
The Rams’ pass rush, docile in the first half with a single sack at the last minute, erupted in the second half and their record seventh sack was particularly vicious early in the fourth quarter and sent Burrow limping to the sidelines. grabbing his right knee. . Rams edger Von Miller and outside linebacker Leonard Floyd broke it in half and twisted on a third down play that made Who Dey Nation sick. When right tackle Isaiah Prince girded Floyd for the shot on Burrow, it was Prince who was flagged.
But as Burrow waved to coaches and doctors, the heroic Bengals defense threw another save and Burrow came back. He finished a very brave 22 of 33 for 263 yards and a 100 passer rating.
The Bengals’ attack never found consistency on Sunday. From his 40 and the clock in under seven minutes, Burrow shot slots catcher Tyler Boyd on a third tilt and Boyd suffered his first fall since Game 3 of the year and it set the scene. places the winning disk of 15 games. .
After a sluggish 155-yard first half that put them down a 13-10 hole, the Bengals became the third-quarter team they’ve had all year in a wild second-half opener. . It only took one click. Burrow stepped into the pocket and whipped a long one to Tee Higgins (100-yard night) grappling with Pro Bowl cornerback Jalen Ramsey on the left sideline. Ramsey fell as Higgins passed him and he was off on a 75-yard touchdown play that put them ahead 17-13 on the longest playoff pass in Bengals history.
Then, in the next snap, cornerback Chidobe Awuzie made his eighth interception of the playoffs when quarterback ca’s pass knocked down wide receiver Ben Skowronek’s hands and in the space of 22 seconds, the Bengals had the chance to put the dagger on as the momentum swung visibly towards the fans clad in orange and black.
But in no particular order, Donald woke up from a first-half stupor he wasn’t appearing on the stat sheet and chased Burrow out of bounds for his first of two sacks of the night. But when he shoved Burrow to the ground as he ran out of bounds, the bench objected and the offensive line fell in Donald’s face.
There were no flags, just fireworks when a fan ran onto the field. Then at third and third on the Rams 11, Donald picked up Burrow again for a sack and as Burrow jumped up, he looked upset that one of his receivers broke the wrong way.
it threw the field goal 38 yards to give them a 20-13 lead, but the feeling was that the Rams defense turned the tide just as quickly.
The Rams got a field goal from Matt Gay to make it 20-16, but the Bengals couldn’t respond. Burrow had wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase wide open on third down, but Burrow one-shot him.
Then in the next series, the Rams threw back-to-back sacks. Von Miller, who had also been inactive in the first half, stunted down the right side and came roaring inside to drop him for a 10-yard loss near his goal line.
As the defense had made the entire playoff, they held them on as the game veered to fourth with the Bengals holding an odd 20-16 lead, the lead they had lost with 34 seconds left in their last Super Bowl 33 years ago.
The Bengals kicked the Rams three in a row while their forward game was as dominant as the Rams. The nose of the DJ Reader tackle finished a record on a bag. Edge Sam Hubbard dropped running back Cam Akers for a two-yard loss to finish another. Then Wilson and cornerback Mike Hilton combined for a tackle to stop another drive. The Bengals have been immense in the running game, holding the Rams to 43 yards on 23 carries.
When running back Joe Mixon throws your only halftime touchdown pass for his first career touchdown pass in the biggest game of them all, you know your offense isn’t running high octane. Burrow couldn’t get into a groove as the Bengals only rushed for 155 yards in one half, they only really had one good drive.
By then, the Bengals had done a good job controlling Donald. Neither he nor Miller was on the stat sheet at halftime.
Burrow was 12 of 18 for just 114 yards while Mixon snatched 40 yards on seven carries but they couldn’t follow up. Still, down 13-3, Burrow staged a nice 12-play touchdown hitting all of his receivers and a nice swing pass to Chase for a four-yard run on third-and-two in the red zone.
Then Mixon became the first non-quarterback in four Super Bowls to throw a touchdown (Eagles tight end Trey Burton courtesy of the Philly Special) when he took wide ground, ran, then sat up and threw a ball over safety Nick Scott when he came on the run and Higgins had a six-yard touchdown. Higgins had three catches for 25 yards in the half, including a nifty 14-yard YAC.
Their only half-time penalty hurt them. It came after free safety Jessie Bates III made an interception in the end zone on a third and long, but Vernon Hargreaves III, who was inactive, came off the bench in celebration. He left Burrow with the ball at 10 instead of 20 with three timeouts at the two-minute warning.
In all three playoff games, the Bengals had scored in the final two minutes of halftime. But they couldn’t do anything. With a snap of the fingers, Miller and Donald chased him down to an incompleteness and the first sack the Rams got was a cover sack for Floyd with about a minute left in the half.
The Rams got the ball in good position on the field, but third-and-one Lions quarterback Matt Stafford fired a deep shot on wide receiver Van Jefferson and Awuzie was draped over him. Stafford played well, but not well enough to become the 32nd quarterback to be a Super Bowl MVP. He had three touchdowns and survived Odell Beckham Jr.’s devastating knee injury in the second quarter. But he also threw two picks and completed just 26 of 40 passes for 283 yards.
The Bengals’ sluggish offense was sparked by who else? Burrow to hunt. Chase got by Pro Bowl cornerback Jalen Ramsey, something you don’t usually see, and Chase responded with a catch you don’t usually see, a one-handed diving catch for a 46-yard play.
After the big play, the Bengals were well into the red zone at the Rams. But Burrow threw three straight misses and McPherson went 13-for-13 on a 29-yard field goal to cut the lead to 7-3.
The passing game just hasn’t clicked all day. Miller jumped over left tackle Jonah Williams to knock down the first pass. On the second down, Burrow went to Mixon in the flat, but there was nothing there. And on the third down, with Ramsey on Higgins and not having much room. The ball was a bit behind Higgins and broken.
Bengals edge Trey Hendrickson blew up the game’s first series with a sack when Rams running back Cam Akers knocked left tackle Andrew Whitworth off the block on second down and on third down BJ Hill took down Akers for nothing for complete a dominant defensive first series. It was a harbinger of defense efforts throughout the course, but the offense couldn’t reach the magic 24-point mark.
It looks like for the first time this postseason, the Bengals didn’t play a side ball in the Super Bowl opener. The offense faltered despite having a great field position at their 42. But head coach Zac Taylor opted to go for it fourth-and-one in midfield, they didn’t get it and the Rams went for it. scored the first touchdown of the game.
The Bengals couldn’t get three yards on three snaps after Burrow hit Boyd sideways under for seven yards on first down. On second down, Mixon barely got two in the middle and running back Samaje Perine got nothing in the same spot on third down. Then at fourth-and-one, Burrow split them and it looked like he had Higgins open on the right sideline, but he went back to the middle where Chase was in brackets and the ball was defended by inside linebacker Ernest Jones.