Aaron Donald and Cooper Kupp stalled the Bengals’ bid for his or her first championship, main the Rams to their second Super Bowl win and fourth general title. Super Bowl LVI’s three-point margin completed off a stretch of seven one-score video games to shut the season. Here are the grades from the 2021 marketing campaign’s closing Sunday.


1 of 15

O-line finally ends up denying Bengals elusive title

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals (13-8) saved successful despite their offensive line, carrying one of many worst blocking quintets right into a Super Bowl. Sins of the 2021 offseason caught as much as the AFC champions, who could be celebrating had they introduced even a median O-line to Los Angeles. Although Tee Higgins and Ja’Marr Chase torched Jalen Ramsey and mixed for 189 yards, Joe Burrow taking a Super Bowl-record-tying seven sacks overshadowed that success. Burrow broke a playoff document (by 5) by taking 19 sacks and went down 70 occasions this season (third all-time). Somehow main this group this far illustrates Burrow’s potential, however it’s time for a full-scale overhaul upfront, a la the 2021 Chiefs.



2 of 15

Cooper Kupp submits declare to NFL’s biggest receiving slate

Cooper Kupp submits claim to NFL's greatest receiving slate

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

With Van Jefferson a nonfactor and Ben Skowronek an aerial zero changing Odell Beckham Jr., the Bengals nonetheless couldn’t include Matthew Stafford‘s solely dependable weapon when it mattered. Saving a dull Rams run sport with a fourth-down jet sweep additional highlights Kupp’s worth, as does catching a game-winner after a “Jacked Up”-caliber hit. The MVP’s 92-yard, two-touchdown night time gave him this season line: 178 catches, 2,425 yards, 22 TDs. Second place in single-season yardage: Larry Fitzgerald, with 1,977. It has by no means been simpler to build up receiving yards, however Kupp both dropped the NFL’s biggest broad receiver season or is that this period’s unquestioned consultant in that dialog.



3 of 15

Coverage points impede Bengals

Coverage issues impede Bengals

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Believe it or not, the Rams’ 43 speeding yards are usually not the fewest by a Super Bowl champion. The 1999 Rams completed with 29. But the Bengals each stonewalled the Rams’ floor sport and minimized the unofficial hosts’ aerial assault for a lot of the second half. The AFC champions didn’t have sufficient expertise at cornerback to reward its sturdy front-seven displaying, with Kupp and Beckham making sufficient performs to compensate for the Rams’ prolonged stretch of nothingness. Eli Apple‘s bounce-back season ended with two TD catches allowed. Cincinnati intercepted Stafford twice and notched 9 tackles for loss, however its batch of free company nook additions couldn’t shut the present.



4 of 15

Rams should guarantee Aaron Donald doesn’t retire

Rams must ensure Aaron Donald does not retire

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Sudden Donald retirement rumors ought to scare Rams followers; the relentless defensive sort out widened the hole between himself and this period’s different defensive greats Sunday night time. Donald completed with seven pressures and two sacks, with he and Von Miller following Super Bowl 50’s Miller-DeMarcus Ware duo as the one teammates with two Super Bowl sacks apiece. This protected a scuffling Rams offense. The Bengals’ closing 5 drives featured punts or a Donald-driven turnover on downs. Although Ramsey’s tough night time saved the Bengals in it, the Rams’ deep D-line received the matchup it wanted to with an all-time efficiency. An inventory of the highest 15 gamers in NFL historical past now appears incomplete with out Donald.



5 of 15

Zac Taylor’s offense sputters down stretch

Zac Taylor's offense sputters down stretch

Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer/USA TODAY NETWORK

This could be checked out from a number of angles. The Rams boasted a greater roster, but the Bengals almost stole a victory. However, Cincinnati’s incapability to maneuver the chains for a lot of the second half and its two red-zone discipline objectives let the Rams off the hook. The Bengals totaled 121 of their 305 yards on a Chase one-handed catch and Higgins’ 75-yard TD that doubled as a tough officiating miss, they usually went away from Joe Mixon (4.8 yards per carry) too typically on third- or fourth-and-short. Samaje Perine shouldn’t be taking a third-and-1 stick with it a do-or-die drive. Cincinnati’s offense didn’t must be too significantly better to flee, given the protection’s second-half efficiency, however this nonetheless slipped away.



6 of 15

McVay, Morris do sufficient to allow Rams escape

McVay, Morris do enough to enable Rams escape

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Rams shedding with Kupp on this degree and GM Les Snead forming the pass-rush armada he did would have been an unsightly blot on Sean McVay’s resume. He prevented that consequence, turning into the youngest Super Bowl-winning head coach. Not normally aggressive on fourth down, McVay dialing up the Kupp jet sweep on fourth-and-1 gave his shorthanded offense a late jolt. Winning with out Beckham, Tyler Higbee, and Robert Woods additionally appears to be like good for the play-calling wizard, who redeemed himself after a foul Super Bowl LIII night time. And, in doing what predecessors Brandon Staley and Wade Phillips (with the Rams) couldn’t, defensive coordinator Raheem Morris ought to land a second HC alternative in 2023. 



7 of 15

Officials veer from lenient to strict in waning moments

Officials veer from lenient to strict in waning moments

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Higgins deserves some credit score for his craftsmanship, managing to slither previous one of many NFL’s most bodily cornerbacks with an atypical unlawful method. But Ron Torbert’s crew lacking Higgins’ offensive cross interference on Ramsey is clearly a foul look. The officers letting the groups play (4 flags earlier than the Rams’ closing drive) after which whistling Bengals linebacker Logan Wilson for an iffy third-down holding name — based mostly on the sport’s prior circulate — was additionally a bit unusual. The Wilson flag could be interpreted as an applicable make-up name; the Bengals successful would have made for a foul look contemplating how they obtained their lead.


8 of 15

Bittersweet night time for Odell Beckham Jr.

Bittersweet night for Odell Beckham Jr.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Beckham’s significance to the Rams curiously crystallized after his second-quarter knee damage. The previously disgruntled Browns receiver exploded for an early landing and an enormous acquire on a crosser, and his absence crushed the Rams. The damage to the identical knee Beckham damage in opposition to the Bengals in 2020 will possible restrict him in his first true free company alternative and maybe closing probability at massive cash. Replacing Robert Woods and proving important for this Rams championship, OBJ will accumulate his coveted ring. But a 29-year-old wideout with a latest historical past of knee maladies will generate uncertainty when groups put together free company affords.


9 of 15

Splashy trades push Rams to mountaintop

Splashy trades push Rams to mountaintop

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Risk-taking GM Les Snead buying and selling his high three 2022 draft decisions and his high 2023 decide for Stafford and Miller pushed a stalled contender excessive, justifying the Tenth-year GM’s strikes after some failed contract extensions. Stafford going from Lions disappointment to the set off man on a Super Bowl game-winning drive punctuated one of many NFL’s defining career-changing seasons, and Miller re-emerging after 5 straight playoff absences (and a extreme September 2020 ankle damage) to notch one other two-sack Super Bowl locks him into first-ballot Hall of Fame standing. Even if it was just for a half-season, the Donald-Miller pass-rushing duo might be remembered as among the finest ever.


10 of 15

Longshot Bengals show they belong

Longshot Bengals prove they belong

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Stafford’s 79-yard closing drive not being particularly dissimilar to Joe Montana’s 92-yard march 33 years in the past ought to sting Gen-X-and-older Bengals followers. The franchise is now 0-3 in Super Bowls. But this was nonetheless a premier underdog story. Pegged by some oddsmakers at plus-15,000 to win Super Bowl LVI getting into the season, the Bengals joined the 1999 Rams because the biggest longshot to reach this stage. Lou Anarumo’s protection, after two dangerous seasons, annoyed Pro Bowl QBs and intercepted eight passes within the playoffs. And, whereas the Joe Burrow-Tom Brady comparisons don’t embody a Super Bowl win over the Rams, the Bengals’ second-year QB is much forward of the place the all-timer was after his win over St. Louis. 


11 of 15

Rams now three-city champions

Rams now three-city champions

Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer/USA TODAY NETWORK

St. Louis followers acquired off simple by seeing the Cardinals largely proceed to wrestle after leaving eastern Missouri in 1988, however Sunday proved unlucky for a scorned NFL metropolis. However, by successful their first title in Los Angeles since 1951, the Rams additionally accomplished an NFL first. They now have championships in three cities, successful two in L.A., one in St. Louis, and one in Cleveland. The Rams left Cleveland weeks after successful the 1945 championship. The franchise’s fourth title separated it from the Colts and Raiders, who claimed championships in two cities. Perhaps this isn’t one thing to rejoice, however it’s actually notable for the time zone-hopping group. 


12 of 15

The retirement questions

The retirement questions

Sam Greene/Cincinnati Enquirer/USA TODAY NETWORK

The aftermath of the Rams’ first Super Bowl win in 22 years feels just a little unusual. Their finest participant is 30 and rocketing towards the Lawrence Taylor-Reggie White tier in NFL defender lore, however he didn’t verify a 2022 return. In addition to Aaron Donald (may cash be a problem right here?), Sean McVay is already discussing his post-NFL life. This uncertainty cuts into the Rams dynasty hopes. Andrew Whitworth grew to become the NFL’s first 40-something lineman to begin a Super Bowl and stated going out on high like Peyton Manning or Jerome Bettis could be applicable. Eric Weddle is re-retiring. Some main questions will want answering, and this Rams title contrasts with the Buccaneers’ run-it-back strategy. 


13 of 15

Cap area offers Bengals uncommon alternative

Cap space gives Bengals rare opportunity

Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer/USA TODAY NETWORK

Super Bowl contributors typically are usually not in nice wage cap form, however the Bengals are projected to carry almost $60 million in area — third-most within the NFL. With security Jessie Bates and defensive sort out Larry Ogunjobi the one key starters due free of charge company, the AFC champions can proceed to construct round Burrow’s rookie contract. The Bengals deviated from their free company stinginess in 2020, including a number of veterans (totally on protection) round their QB prize over the previous two years. Burrow can’t be prolonged till 2023, giving Cincinnati one other 12 months to load up. If there was ever a time for a group to pay offensive linemen.


14 of 15

Rams’ unorthodox blueprint works, however selections loom

Rams' unorthodox blueprint works, but decisions loom

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Other groups have paid dearly for buying and selling two first-round picks — the Bears, Seahawks, and Texans come to thoughts — however the Rams managed to commerce 4 years’ price of first-rounders for Ramsey and Stafford, but a parade is imminent. The group should lengthen Stafford, who continues to be on his Lions-built contract, and create cap room. Finding cap area has not been a problem for Snead, who discovered methods so as to add affect vets regardless of dead-money bloodbaths from the Todd Gurley and Jared Goff offers. The Rams have Miller and Beckham due free of charge company. Los Angeles has regularly let function gamers stroll to prioritize stars. Will cornerback Darious Williams and O-line starters Brian Allen and Austin Corbett be subsequent out the door?


15 of 15

New champs not considered as 2022 favorites

New champs not viewed as 2022 favorites

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The hints of Aaron Rodgers staying in Green Bay make sense. The Bengals’ rise has created an AFC gauntlet of quarterbacks, with Burrow becoming a member of Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, and Justin Herbert on this minefield. Early post-Super Bowl odds give the Chiefs and Bills higher pictures than the Rams (third, at 10-1) and Bengals (fourth, at 12-1) subsequent season. The Bills-Chiefs rematch was a Super Bowl-caliber occasion, a extra entertaining one, and the Rams may have some early gasoline to drive their title protection. Los Angeles’ highway must be simpler than Cincinnati’s, nevertheless, given the questions surrounding NFC powers Green Bay, Tampa Bay, and San Francisco.

Sam Robinson is a Kansas City, Mo.-based author who largely writes in regards to the NFL. He has lined sports activities for almost 10 years. Boxing, the Royals and Pandora stations that includes feminine rock protagonists are a few of his go-tos. Occasionally attention-grabbing tweets @SRobinson25.

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