Rams Vs Bengals Rewind: Relive The Night The Rams Ruled

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super bowl lvi

For Los Angeles Rams fans, Sunday’s Super Bowl LVII is a reminder of the good times, of, you know, 12 months ago. Here, we have our Rams Vs Bengals rewind.

Last February it was the Rams at the top of the NFL mountain after a thrilling 23-20 win over the Cincinnati Bengals at SoFi Stadium in LA. Aaron Donald cried “Ring Me!” Cooper Kupp was the Most Valuable Player and the Rams were clutcher than clutch (is that a word?). 

I don’t remember exactly what happened in the 2022 season. Something about 5-12? I’m not sure. 

I choose to remember the good ole days of 2022, so I spent the other night watching Super Bowl LVI. It was wonderful to see the big moments play out all over again, but also wild how your perspective changes. Here’s what I remembered and what I misremembered (that is a word): 

Two Unsung Heros 

I have written about this before, it’s third-and-one for the Bengals on their final drive. They run the ball with Samaje Perine (a backup) and Aaron Donald heroically surges through and stops Perine for no gain. He throws him back short. That forces the fourth down and the Rams win.

But Donald wasn’t the only Ram to make the play. 

I never noticed it before until the other night, but Rams defensive lineman Greg Gaines knifes through the Bengals offensive line and is also there to grab Perine. If Gaines isn’t there, Perine may be able to surge through Donald (or at least fall forward) and get the first down. 

The other guy I completely forgot about was back-up back-up tight end Brycen Hopkins. Remember, Tyler Higbee was hurt and didn’t play. Kendall Blanton got hurt in the game, and so the Rams had to use their third tight end. Hopkins makes the first catch on the Rams game-winning drive and finished with 4 catches for 47 yards after having one catch all season. When Odell Beckham Jr. went down, the Rams needed someone to step up, and you can make the case it was Hopkins who did so. 

The MVP Question 

With six minutes left in the game, the Bengals are leading 20-16 and Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow is the MVP by default, even though he only has one touchdown pass – that the first play of the second half. Remember, the other Bengals TD was a trick play on a pass by Joe Mixon.

We all know what happens next, the Rams go on an epic drive (helped by a penalty, but we will get to that). Cooper Kupp converts on a jet sweet on fourth and one from the Rams own 30, Kupp catches a touchdown pass that’s taken off the board because of offsetting penalties and finally Kupp makes a great catch on a back-shoulder fade for the eventual game-winning score.

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford had some awesome throws and was good, but he also had two picks – neither was his fault – but he wasn’t the MVP.

So Kupp is the MVP….but then Aaron Donald takes over the game in the final minute and gets the game-ending sack.

Kupp got the MVP for what he did on the final drive, but it’s fair to say that Donald dominated the entire second half. I have voted for Super Bowl MVP before (really) and they pressure you to put that vote in quick. With 90 seconds left in the game, Kupp was MVP, but at the end, I think I would have voted for Aaron Donald. It’s telling that on the broadcast, they interview Donald first (probably thinking he’s the MVP) and never get to Kupp.

Full Circle Tigers

The Bengals first drive of the game is almost exactly how the game ends. Cincinnati faces third and one at midfield and runs the ball with Perine. A’Shawn Robinson and Gaines make the play at the line of scrimmage.

So now its fourth-and-one, and the Bengals don’t hesitate, they line up to go for it and Burrow throws a pass that is knocked away by Ernest Jones. Almost three hours later the Bengals would look at the exact same situation and fail to convert.

NFL Football 101

The Rams and Bengals were the epitome of today’s NFL. They had two powerhouse offenses that couldn’t be stopped. Part of it is because they are so good, part of it is because the rules don’t let you hit anyone. So both teams almost go into the game playing soft on defense, because when NFL offenses are good, only three things can stop them: penalties, a sack or a turnover.

So that’s all the Rams and Bengals defenses played for. The Rams had two drives stopped because of penalties. It put them in third and long situations that they couldn’t convert. The Bengals had drives stopped because of sacks. Other than that…the offenses were able to move the ball through the air, not so much on the ground.

Was It A Penalty?

I don’t think this play is talked about nearly enough. It’s the Super Bowl and all game the referees have let the players play. Jalen Ramsey got facemasked by Tee Higgins on the Bengals TD pass and there was no call. Donald gave Burrow a nice shot near the sidelines and there was no call.

As football fans, that’s what we want, right? We don’t want an ambiguous call to alter the game.

But Bengal fans have a gripe, for sure. It’s under two minutes, it’s third and goal for the Rams at the Bengals seven. Stafford fires a pass across the middle for Kupp. There’s contact between him and Bengals linebacker Logan Wilson and the flag comes out. Holding.

The replay showed nothing of the sort. The silence by Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth on the broadcast says it all. Finally, Al is like, “Cris, what do you think?” and Cris is like “That’s what they called.” Neither was going to slam the NFL refs in that moment. The Rams got a free first down and scored a few plays later. Conspiracy theory? No. The better team won. But it’s almost like the refs can’t help themselves. They can’t let the full game play out without having an impact.

Super Scene: Did You Notice?

Rams punter Johnny Hekker was almost the goat. He fumbled the snap on the PAT costing the Rams a point. I wonder how much that played into his release.

I had forgotten this, but the Bengals had all the momentum in the third quarter, the first play was the long TD pass to Higgins, then a Stafford pick. The Bengals take over at the Rams 31 up 17-13, they run a play and then the game is delayed when a fan ran onto the field. The delay seemed to zap some of the Bengals mojo. They would get a field goal, but that was it for them the rest of the way.

I know a lot of people (me included) miss Andrew Whitworth for the Rams, but the truth is the whole Rams offensive line did a horrible job against the Bengals. LA came out running the ball, really, six of their first nine plays were runs? Cam Akers touched the ball the first three plays, but the Rams only finished with 43 yards on the ground.

The OBJ injury was a big loss for the Rams and still is. It’s interesting that he never came back to play this season, because ACL injuries these days are usually only 6-8 month deals. Maybe it’s a sign that he really did want to come back and play for the Rams all this time, but when it looked like the Rams were going nowhere, he decided just to opt out.