Superbowl 56 Reflection & Recap

Samir Jamdar '23

No matter which side you were rooting for, all a fan of football can ask for is a good game. Super Bowl 56’s matchup followed the same tone as the rest of the playoff matchups: an intense, down to the wire game that saw its final score happen in the final two minutes.

When the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals hit the two-minute warning, it was 20-16, Bengals. When Joe Burrow and the Cincy offense ran out of downs about 80 seconds later, Los Angeles was ahead 23-20. That’s football. That’s sports.

A few things about the game. Health wise, the Bengals had a walking-wounded offensive line that repeatedly got beat up by the Rams defensive line. For Los Angeles, their offense took a big hit, losing receiver Odell Beckham Jr. halfway into the second quarter due to a torn ACL. The Bengals receivers dropped key passes in the fourth quarter, and Aaron Donald closed the book on Burrow and the Bengals on those final two drives with some timely pressures. While the referees threw some controversial flags at the end of the game on Cincinnati, such has become natural for many meaningful football games.

After spending close to a decade in Detroit, set up to become another great quarterback without a Super Bowl ring, Stafford was traded to the Rams in a blockbuster deal. With star receiver Cooper Kupp by his side, paired with dominant defensive standouts including Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey, and Von Miller, Stafford finally reached the promised land, leading his team to a Super Bowl victory. He proved he could get the job done when it mattered the most, a knock critics have had against him through his playoff winless Detroit career. 

Donald’s case is more bittersweet. He started his career as a Ram in St. Louis before he became arguably the best player in the league. When the Rams went back out west to Los Angeles, Aaron Donald fled with them, adding salt to the wound that the city of St. Louis was left with.

Just like Matthew Stafford, Aaron Donald made massive plays, showing his menace when it mattered the most. On the biggest stage, he helped the Rams stop Burrow and Cincinnati repeatedly in the second half. That entire defensive line is filled with beasts, but Donald anchors it. 

The game was truly won in the second half by L.A. The game concluded with a 15-play final drive that resulted in a Cooper Kupp touchdown. The drive started at the Rams 21 yard-line with 6:13 remaining in Super Bowl LVI. Stafford tossed strikes to Brycen Hopkins, Cooper Kupp, and running back Cam Akers to get within the 10-yard line. The Bengals appeared to stop the Rams on a 3rd down play. However, Cincy linebacker Logan Wilson was flagged for a holding call on Rams running back Cam Akers. On the next play, Stafford threw what would have been a go-ahead touchdown to Kupp, but they would re-play the down due to penalties.

The Cincinnati defensive backs held up well for most of the game. In the end though, it was Cooper Kupp, the 2021 AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year, proving his greatness and getting the last laugh. Covered one-on-one by Cincinnati corner Eli Apple, Kupp broke on the ball thrown by Stafford and hauled in the touchdown. In a league full of fantastic athletes, particularly at the wide receiver position, Kupp walks away from the season as a Superbowl MVP.

Overall, Superbowl 56 was a fitting end to the longest season in NFL history. The Bengals, who defied the odds just by making the playoffs, nearly completed a Cinderella story in the Superbowl. While they came up short, Cincinnati proved to the NFL community that they are a threat for years to come. In the case of Matthew Stafford, Aaron Donald, and Head Coach Sean McVay, they all finally got their well deserved ring to conclude the 2021-2022 NFL season.