After an exciting season, the Los Angeles Rams are Super Bowl LVI champions. Matthew Stafford joins a very exclusive club, Zac Taylor hamstrings his team, and the entire strategy that the Rams deployed is completely validated.
First things first, Matthew Stafford joins Tom Brady and Trent Dilfer as the only quarterbacks to win the Super Bowl (as starters) in their first season with a team. Dilfer did it with the Baltimore Ravens in 2000, and Tom Brady did it last year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Secondly, the Los Angeles Rams become the second team to win the Super Bowl at home. With all those fun facts out of the way, time to look at how the game played out.
Los Angeles Takeaways:
The Los Angeles Rams are validated. Their strategy of trading high end picks for established players has been proven correct. Their offense was humming with the addition of Odell Beckham Jr. When he went down, that disappearance was felt and it showed. Von Miller made big plays, and Matthew Stafford played great during the entire postseason.
As for this game, Matthew Stafford actually played a pretty up and down game. He put the ball in harm’s way numerous times, and he made some big plays but also had some costly misses. However, that’s why they traded for him. Stafford’s high level play is up there with the best of the league, but he is prone to throwing the ball straight to the defense and did that in this game. Thankfully, the Rams played a great game on defense and should be applauded for it.
As for the defense, they played great. They got pressure, they stopped the run in key situations, they forced the Bengals to change their approach to quick passes. They got after Burrow all night, it was bad. I’m surprised Burrow didn’t break completely.
Cincinnati Bengals Takeaways:
Through my eyes, Joe Burrow either outplayed Matthew Stafford or played as well as Stafford. Burrow put the ball in harm’s way less often, and the two quarterbacks were about even when it came to high level throws. The main story of this game is how Zac Taylor found a way to hold his team back yet again. Taylor has this unique obsession with trying to establish the run despite the fact that it almost never sets up positively for the Bengals. Sure, Joe Mixon did a good job on some carries, however Taylor took the ball out of Burrow’s hands too often and opted to trust his offensive line to run block against Aaron Donald and Von Miller. What are you thinking? I counted double-digit down carries between the tackles for the Bengals, and I could count on one hand how many of them actually set up positive situations. Still, on short yardage situations Taylor opted to try and run through Aaron Donald. I simply cannot let that go, as a coach you need to know where your team is outmatched and adjust accordingly.
However, credit must be given to how the Bengals decided to counter the pass rush of the Los Angeles Rams. The Bengals opted for a passing game that revolved around quicker throws over the middle of the field. This was used to attack the Rams’ linebackers in coverage and to try and reduce the number of hits Burrow took. However, the Rams still had seven sacks and Burrow kept taking shots. To put it simply, this matchup was so lopsided that a perfect scheme would have needed to be put in place to turn the tables, and Zac Taylor simply is not capable of that.
Now for how the Bengals defense played, and I must say I am very impressed. Their run defense was elite, no other way to put it. They refused to let the Rams get anything on the ground, and they did their best to double team Cooper Kupp out of the game. When Odell Beckham Jr. went down, it was clear that this flipped things in favor of the Bengals. They forced Stafford into multiple turnover worthy throws, and they were able to capitalize and take the ball away. They played a fantastic game, and it should be remembered that way. Logan Wilson enjoyed a great breakout season, and that showed in the Super Bowl. The Bengals have a very nice group of young linebackers to build around. Their defensive line can get after it. Their secondary played very well down the stretch. This team is built to succeed, the sum of their parts is much greater than all of them individually.
Overall, the Rams deserved this win but Zac Taylor kept shooting himself in the foot. His decisions in key moments put the Bengals in situations that were so bad that Joe Burrow could not overcome it. The Bengals played an elite game on defense, but the Rams were barely able to edge them out.