Inglewood, Calif. – When it mattered most, three of the Rams’ biggest playmakers stepped up big-time.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford‘s go-ahead touchdown pass to wide receiver Cooper Kupp with 1:25 left, followed by defensive lineman Aaron Donald‘s fourth-down pressure of Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow on the ensuing drive lifted the Rams to a 23-20 victory over the Bengals in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium, giving them their first Super Bowl title in Los Angeles.
Click here to purchase Super Bowl champs merchandise. Rams Recap by Stu Jackson
Trailing 20-16 with 6:20 remaining, the Rams reached the Bengals 8-yard line with under 2 minutes remaining. Facing a 3rd-and-goal from that spot, Stafford’s pass intended for Kupp was broken up, but a defensive holding call against the Bengals kept the drive alive. On the next play, Stafford fired what was initially the go-ahead, four-yard touchdown pass to Kupp, but it was negated by off-setting penalties.
A pass interference penalty against the Bengals on the next play advanced the ball to their 1-yard line with 1:38 left. Stafford then connected with Kupp from one yard out for the go-ahead touchdown pass to put the Rams up 23-20 with 1:25 left.
Quarterback Joe Burrow opened the Bengals’ ensuing series with a 17-yard completion to wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase and 9-yard completion to wide receiver Tee Higgins to move them to midfield. Needing to convert on 4th and 1 from the Rams 49 to keep the drive alive, Donald slammed the door shut pressuring Burrow into an incompletion that resulted in a turnover on downs.
Stafford completed 26 of 40 pass attempts for 283 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions in the victory. Kupp tallied eight receptions for 92 yards and two touchdowns, while wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. posted two receptions for 52 yards and a touchdown before exiting the game late in the first half with a knee injury.
Meanwhile, the Rams defense collected seven sacks, led by Donald and outside linebacker Von Miller’s two each.
Here is the complete game recap, presented by Audi:
The Rams opened with a 3-and-out, but managed to get the ball back shortly thereafter thanks to a big fourth-down stop at midfield on the ensuing series. Helped by a 20-yard catch-and-run by Kupp on 3rd-and-3, Los Angeles got on the board on their second offensive series via a 17-yard touchdown pass from Stafford to Beckham for a 7-0 lead with 6:22 left in the first quarter.
A 46-yard, one-handed grab by wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase put Cincinnati in position to potentially answer late in the first quarter, but it could only come away with a field goal after Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow misfired on his next three pass attempts, with Miller and Ramsey each breaking up one.
Connecting with Beckham for 35 yards and Henderson for 25, the Rams quickly responded on the following drive with an 11-yard touchdown pass from Stafford to Kupp. While the extra point attempt was unsuccessful, the score still gave the Rams a 13-3 lead early in the second quarter.
The Bengals pulled close again, though, as a 7-minute and 4-second scoring drive capped off by a 6-yard touchdown pass from running back Joe Mixon to wide receiver Tee Higgins cut the Rams’ lead to three with 5:47 left in the first half.
As the Rams were looking to answer, they lost Beckham to a knee injury. Four plays later, Stafford was intercepted by Bengals safety Jessie Bates III in the endzone on a deep pass intended for wide receiver Van Jefferson.
Neither team could muster anything on either of their next two possessions, leaving the Rams with a 13-10 halftime lead.
The Bengals took the lead 17-13 on the first play of the second half, as Burrow fired a 75-yard touchdown pass to Higgins put to them ahead.
Sixteen seconds later, Stafford’s pass slipped through wide receiver Ben Skowronek’s hands and into cornerback Chidobe Awuzie’s for the interception at the Rams 31. The Bengals went for it on 4th and 1 from the Rams 22 and converted via Burrow scrambling for the first down, but Donald’s second sack of the drive and game secured the third-down stop for Los Angeles, holding Cincinnati to a field goal. However, Los Angeles still faced a 7-point deficit early in the third quarter.
L.A. added a 41-yard field goal by Gay on the ensuing series to cut its deficit to four with 5:58 left in the third quarter. Its next points would not come until 1:25 in the fourth quarter on Stafford’s second touchdown pass to Kupp, but it gave them back the lead 23-20.
Donald’s pressure on the following drive made sure they wouldn’t need to answer, clinching the victory.