Super Bowl LVI


Super Bowl LVI was destined for history before the first whistle blew. For the first time in NFL history, the game was moved from its original weekend. Due to COVID-19, playoff dates were altered and games were postponed. The game was forced to be moved to Feb. 13, much to the dismay of any Valentine’s Day celebrators who are not entranced by the sport. After an eventful playoff season, the Rams and the Bengals were set for their championship match at the Ram’s home SoFi stadium in Los Angeles. 

A Bengals and Rams matchup was considered unlikely in the beginning of the season. While both teams had seen moderate and increased success thanks to coaching changes and better draft picks, the two teams were still unlikely picks to see the Super Bowl. Last season, the Rams ranked second in the NFC West with 10 wins and 6 losses. However, in the off-season the Rams traded the Detroit Lions their quarterback Jared Goff along with two draft picks in order to land Matthew Stafford, who had anchored the Lion’s offense for 13 seasons. At the urging of head coach Sean McVay, General Manager Les Snead produced the trade McVay felt he and his Rams needed. Little did he know in the course of a season, a man who was a superstar for Detroit would become a nationally renowned athlete. 

For the Bengals’ part, their draft pick of Joe Burrow in 2020 was thought by many to be a trap. He would risk his talent and potentially his health by becoming a Bengal. While Burrow had little say in the situation, his past two seasons in the NFL have proven he has the ability to make the best out of a bad situation. His rookie season was cut short, however, when in week 11 of the 2020-2021 season he tore his ACL and MCL against the Washington Commanders. The Bengals went 4-11 on the season. 

The two quarterbacks were beloved by their cities and brought with them a devoted fan base. For the Rams’ benefit, they had the advantage of Stafford fans who had watched him struggle to make the playoffs in Detroit. While he was no longer a Lion, they rooted for him anyway. For Burrow’s part, there had been an entire generation of fans who had not seen their team make the Super Bowl. Excitement, for the city of Cincinnati, was an understatement. The quarterbacks themselves are easy to root for: neither had been to the Super Bowl before. Their presence there had come about through nothing short of a Cinderella story. 

It is essential to note, though, that it is not only the quarterbacks that made the excitement around Super Bowl LVI what it was. Both teams had fan-favorite names on them, with even better stories behind them. The Rams boast an impressive roster. With highly recognizable names like Aaron Donald, Cooper Kupp, Odell Beckham, Jr., Andrew Whitworth and Von Miller, the team had successfully compiled some of the most beloved players from across the league with stellar stories which made it easy for fans to root for them—either all season, or just on February 13. 

The Bengals, alternatively, have a relatively young roster. Some of the best performers are only in their first or second seasons.  Burrow, in his sophomore season, has relied on Tee Higgins (also a sophomore) and his fellow LSU teammate Ja’Marr Chase as wide receivers. Quickly, Florida’s kicker Evan McPhearson became beloved on special teams while Joe Mixon and Eli Apple have been other, albeit older, staples for the team. 

Ultimately, the Bengals would fall to the Rams in the last quarter after taking the lead in the third. The Rams’ victory came from a touchdown in the last minute of play, leaving the Bengals little time to make up the deficit. Early in the game, Odell Beckham, Jr., was taken out of the game due to injury, which led to concern for the Rams, having lost one of their best receivers. Ultimately, it would make no difference for the team and Cooper Kupp stepped up to make up the deficit. While this is not the Rams franchise’s first Super Bowl win, it is the first since their move to Los Angeles. Their first win came in Super Bowl XXXIV while they were still in St. Louis. History for the Bengals came in a much more disappointing manner when they allowed seven sacks on their quarterback: the most in Super Bowl history. 

 The stories that the two teams hold were stories begging to be told. 2022 was certainly their year and their time to put their franchise on the map. For many, a Stafford win seemed fitting after years in Detroit. For Burrow, while those rooting for his Bengals may be disappointed, his youth and continued growth allow fans to hope that this will not be his first and last Super Bowl. Even those rooting for Burrow and the Bengals in the game cannot help but root for Cooper Kupp and his devoted wife, who sacrificed in college so they might share a moment like a Super Bowl win together. Aaron Donald had promised his daughter that they would one day play in the confetti of a Super Bowl together—a promise he was able to keep. Sean McVay became the youngest coach in NFL history to hoist the Lombardi Trophy. 

It could be argued that Super Bowl LVI was made for the older fans of football. With fans rooting for their teams who had not seen glory in years, it was finally their time to shine. Accentuated by a halftime performance with Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige, 50 Cent, Kendrick Lamar and Dr. Dre, the 2022 Super Bowl was unique for all the right reasons.