In a venue built for champions, the Los Angeles Rams carried off the crown jewel: a Super Bowl trophy.
It took a precise 79-yard drive capped by Cooper Kupp’s 1-yard touchdown reception with 1:25 remaining for a 23-20 victory Sunday over the Cincinnati Bengals to give the Rams their first NFL title since the 1999 season — and their first representing Los Angeles since 1951.
They did it in their home, the $5 billion SoFi Stadium, making the Rams the second consecutive host to win the championship after Tampa Bay became the first a year ago.
The winning series, during which game MVP Kupp’s 4-yard touchdown reception was negated by offsetting penalties, ended soon after with the NFL Offensive Player of the Year easily beating Eli Apple in the right corner of the end zone for the winning score.
Kupp had four receptions for 39 yards, and a 7-yard run on fourth-and-1 from the Rams 30 on the championship drive.
“I don’t feel deserving of this,” Kupp said. “The guys standing here challenged me, they pushed me. I am just so grateful.”
Even with that brilliant, decisive march to the Lombardi Trophy, it was LA’s “fearsome fivesome” that made the difference. Led by Aaron Donald and Von Miller, they sacked Joe Burrow a Super Bowl record-tying seven times, shutting down the Cincinnati offense after a 22-second spurt to start the second half gave the Bengals the lead.
Fittingly, Burrow was under pressure on fourth-and-1 and threw incomplete, setting off a football fiesta this city has not seen since the LA Raiders won the 1983 championship.
The 10 quick points at the outset of the third quarter put Cincinnati ahead for the first time. Tee Higgins’ 75-yard score made it 17-13 and was followed one play later by Chidobe Awuzie’s pick. Evan McPherson tied Adam Vinatieri’s postseason record with his 14th field goal, a 38-yarder.
Higgins beat All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey on the first play of the second half — the receiver clearly tugged Ramsey’s face mask on the play. After Matthew Stafford was intercepted on the next play, the Bengals got McPherson’s field goal.
Then they tried to hold on as all of southwest Ohio held its breath.
But LA’s relentless pass rush, led by its two biggest stars, Donald and Miller with two apiece, allowed nothing more.
Then came the 15-play march in which Kupp also converted the fourth down with his run.
Kupp even earned the MVP honour despite often being double-teamed after fellow wideout Odell Beckham Jr. went out with a knee injury in the second period.
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS