Super Bowl LVI: Rams rally past Bengals, 23-20

INGLEWOOD, Calif. — Matthew Stafford threw three touchdown passes and engineered a long, game-winning drive late in the fourth quarter on Sunday as the Los Angeles Rams defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 23-20 in Super Bowl LVI.

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Stafford, who hasn’t played in a championship game since high school, took over at the Los Angeles 21 with 6:13 to play and led the Rams downfield, culminating with a touchdown pass to game MVP Cooper Kupp with 1:25 to play. The Rams went 79 yards in 15 plays for the winning score.

“Those guys just did a great job,” Rams coach Sean McVay said. “They took over that game.”

A holding call against Cincinnati on third-and-goal gave the Rams a first down. After offsetting penalties, the Bengals were called for pass interference, putting the ball at the 1-yard line. Stafford tried to sneak in on the next play but was stopped short of the goal with 1:29 to play.

Then Stafford connected with Kupp, who scored his second touchdown of the game.

The Bengals got the ball back one more time, but the Rams’ defense held, with Aaron Donald forcing a stop on fourth down.

Stafford was 26-for-40 for 283 yards. He was intercepted twice. His counterpart with the Bengals, Joe Burrow, was 22-for-33 for 263 yards and a touchdown.

Kupp finished the game with eight catches for 92 yards.

“I don’t feel deserving of this,” Kupp told reporters. “The guys standing here challenged me, they pushed me. I am just so grateful.”

Kuppo is the eighth wide receiver to be named Super Bowl MVP and the first since New England’s Julian Edelman in Super Bowl LIII.

The Rams’ defense, led by Donald and Von Miller sacked Burrow seven times as Los Angeles became the second consecutive team to win the Super Bowl in its home stadium. Tampa Bay won Super Bowl LV in Tampa, Florida, last year.

The Rams, playing in front of 70,048 fans at SoFi Stadium, became the third NFL franchise to win Super Bowls in two different cities. The franchise won Super Bowl XXXIV in St. Louis after the 1999 season. The Colts won Super Bowl V while in Baltimore and Super Bowl XLI while in Indianapolis, and the Raiders won Super Bowls XI and XV while in Oakland and Super Bowl XVIII while playing in Los Angeles.

The Rams took a 13-10 halftime lead and came into the game 47-1 when leading at the half under McVay. But Cincinnati stunned Los Angeles with a lightning-quick score 12 seconds into the third quarter and tacked on a field goal after an interception to score 10 unanswered points. The Rams managed to kick a field goal and trailed 20-16 entering the fourth quarter.

The Rams entered the game with a 1-3 mark in Super Bowls, winning their only crown while in St. Louis. The Bengals, meanwhile, were playing in their third Super Bowl and first in 33 years. Cincinnati’s two previous Super Bowl appearances were losses to the San Francisco 49ers.

Los Angeles dominated the game early, with Stafford efficiently leading the Rams to an early lead by spreading the ball among seven receivers. The Bengals were able to counter by using its running game.

Both quarterbacks completed 12 of 18 passes in the first half. Stafford finished the first half with 165 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while Burrow threw for 114 yards. Cincinnati’s lone touchdown was a 6-yard pass from running back Joe Mixon to Tee Higgins.

The Rams scored first, with Odell Beckham Jr. catching a 17-yard touchdown pass from Stafford with 6:22 left in the first quarter. Los Angeles took advantage of an aggressive call that backfired on Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor. The Bengals tried to convert on fourth-and-1 at midfield on its opening drive but failed to convert.

Stafford took over and put the Rams in position with a 20-yard pass completion to Cooper Kupp.

The Bengals trimmed the Rams’ lead to 7-3 late in the first period after Burrow completed a 46-yard pass to Ja’marr Chase. Evan McPherson kicked a 29-yard field goal with 28 seconds left in the period.

Stafford threw his second touchdown pass, an 11-yard pass to Cooper Kupp with 12:51 remaining. The extra point failed when holder Johnny Hekker dropped the ball after receiving the snap. Los Angeles still led, 13-3, after Stafford engineered a six-play, 75-yard drive.

The Bengals then chewed up 7:04 of the clock with a 12-play, 75-yard drive, finishing it off with some razzle-dazzle. Mixon took a handoff from Stafford and launched a 6-yard pass to Higgins with 5:47 left in the half. McPherson’s extra point made it 13-10.

It was Mixon’s first pass as a pro. He threw a pass as a college pro at the University of Oklahoma.

The Bengals won the toss but decided to defer until the second half. That paid immediate dividends when Burrow connected with Higgins for a 75-yard touchdown pass 12 seconds into the third quarter to take a 17-13 lead. It appeared that Higgins grabbed defender Jalen Ramsey’s face mask before making the catch, but no call was made.

Cincinnati then got the ball back when Stafford was picked off by Bengals cornerback Chidobe Awuzie. Stafford’s pass bounced off the hands of receiver Ben Skowronek, and Cincinnati converted the turnover into a 38-yard field goal by McPherson with 10:16 left in the third quarter.

The Rams countered with a field goal of their own with 5:58 left in the third. On third-and-5, the Rams did a double reverse that ended with Kupp trying to throw a pass to Stafford out of the backfield. Stafford was open, but Kupp missed him, forcing the Rams to settle for Matt Gay’s 41-yard field goal, which trimmed Cincinnati’s lead to 20-16.