The Los Angeles Rams’ Road to Their Super Bowl 56 Win

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Matthew Stafford holding the Lombardi Trophy Courtesy of Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

This NFL season has been unlike any other, new talent like Micah Parsons and Ja’marr Chase entered the league on fire, while proven veterans like Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady made final strides for another Super Bowl Victory. Entering the 2021-2022 season, all the money was on the Chiefs and the Bills in the AFC and the Buccaneers and Packers in the NFC to win their respective divisions and ultimately claim the ultimate prize, a Super Bowl Trophy. However, the Super Bowl featured neither of these teams, but rather the “young-but-talented” Bengals led by Joe Burrow and the “all-or-nothing” Rams, idolized by their strong defense and new leadership. But how did two teams, who were projected to have more losses than wins and to barely skim the playoffs, end up on America’s largest stage? The journey was everything but easy.   

The story starts for the Rams in the 2016 draft, where they drafted Jared Goff with the first overall pick, indicating the start of a new era and rebuild. Under the coaching staff of Sean McVay and other amazing talents, Jared Goff did well. Not exceptional, but well. Well, enough that in just two years he led the team to Superbowl 53, the team’s first appearance since 2001.  

However, they fell short to the GOAT and the New England Patriots. But this season’s success was not due to Jared Goff, but rather the defense led by Aaron Donald, who was ranked as the 2nd best NFL player in recent years. Since that Super Bowl appearance, Jared Goff disappointed expectations and the Rams started to decline, season after season. McVay and the Rams front office knew it was time for a change, and that Goff wasn’t the man for them. Their sights landed on Matthew Stafford, the then QB for the lackluster Detroit Lions, and in the 2021 off-season, the Rams gave up Jared Goff, a 2022 First-round Draft pick, a 2023 first round draft pick, and a 2021 third-round pick to acquire the Veteran star. The price was steep and hefty, as it cost the Rams their immediate future, but as we know now, it was well worth the price.  

This trade rocked the NFL world. In the previous years, the Rams acquired players like Brian Allen and David Edwards later in the draft who bloomed into stars, they acquired Cam Akers and Van Jefferson in the 2020 draft and the list goes on and on. Due to these preparations, Matthew Stafford was a plug-and-go operation – the missing piece. Their stage was set for the 2021-2022 season, with Stafford as their leading man. 

On the other hand, the Bengals built their roster purely off draft picks, the most important being Joe Burrow, the franchise quarterback they took First overall in the 2020 NFL draft. In that same year, they secured Tee Higgins in the fourth round who was a necessary piece to their super bowl run. But mid-2020 season, disaster struck, due to the Bengals horrendously awful offensive line, he got hit suffering a torn ACL and MCL in his left knee. The Bengals were in panic mode, as that is a very difficult injury to recover from. In the 2021 off-season, the Bengals got busy securing and signing people like Trey Hendrickson, Chidobe Awuzie, Mike Hilton, Larry Ogunjobi, and more. When it came time for the 2021 NFL draft, the Bengals had secured the 5th overall pick.  

Due to Burrow’s injury, the Bengals were expected to take Penei Sewell, a generational talent on the offensive line to protect their franchise quarterback. But, like the Rams, they shocked the NFL community when they took Ja’Marr Chase, a college teammate of Burrow’s, as the Bengals wanted to reunite them and reignite that chemistry. Chase and the Bengals were heavily criticized in the preseason due to seemingly poor free agent signings and NFL analysts projected them to be a 5-win team. Entering the 2021-2022 season, the Bengals entered with a young and developing team, led by Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Joe Mixon, and Joe Burrow.  

As the season kicked off and weeks passed, both teams surpassed expectations and established themselves as top teams. They were considered good, but not Super Bowl good. For the Rams, this changed when they traded for both Von Miller, who was the Super Bowl 50 MVP, and Odell Beckham Jr., a proven wide receiver who would replace the injured Robert Woods. In these moments, the Rams had gone all-in on this season, as they had traded all future draft capital and had used up every dollar of the salary cap. In addition, the Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp immediately clicked with Matthew Stafford, who set records week by week as the duo dominated team by team.  

For the Bengals, their respect came when defenders like Hendrickson proved themselves as pure talent, and young stars like Chase were having generational seasons. Joe Mixon was on a touchdown tear and Higgins was a reliable guy to win 50-50 balls.  When the playoffs came rolling around, both teams had made it, with the Rams now being favorited to make a deep run, while many were still skeptical of the Bengals and their potential. 

In the wild card round, the Rams were matched up against the Cardinals who were missing key players like Deandre Hopkins, so they had no problem winning 34-11. Similarly, the Bengals matched up with the Las Vegas Raiders, who didn’t deserve their playoff spot. The Chase-Burrow connection ran them over with a final score of 26-19. Both teams moved on solidifying themselves as top eight teams.  

In the divisional round, the Bengals matched up against the healthy Titans who had Derrick Henry returning from injury. The Bengals persevered and the defense showed up, toppling the powerhouse Titans 19-16. The Rams on the other hand found themselves against the Tom Brady-led Buccaneers. But the Buccaneers had key injuries to players like Chris Godwin and Leonard Fournette. Although it was a close game that was secured by the historic connection between Stafford and Kupp, the Rams won 30-27. Both teams had secured a spot in their division championship games, one step away from the Super Bowl  

In the NFC Championship Game, the Rams matched up with the 49ers and the Bengals with the arguable best team in the NFL, the Chiefs. The Rams came up close verse the 49ers winning 20-17 in a nail-bitingly close game. With this win, Matthew Stafford headed into his first Super Bowl with everything to prove. Joe Burrow’s Bengals beat the Chiefs 27-24 with rookie kicker Evan McPherson hitting the game-winning field goal. Joe Burrow in his second year, compared to Stafford, had nothing to prove but still had that flame of a champion in his heart.  

Both teams took the Stage on Feb. 13, 2022, and the millions of Americans and other viewers were in for a show. The game started as expected, with very close and offensive attacks led by Kupp and Chase. Unfortunately, Odell Beckham did get hurt in the first half, which allowed the Bengals to enter half-time winning 20-16. With this hit to their offense and Ram’s strong defense, no team scored till the end of the fourth quarter when Cooper Kupp burnt his corner Eli Apple for a late-game touchdown that won them the game. Cooper Kupp won the Super Bowl MVP posting a stat line of 8 catches, 92 yards, and 2 touchdowns. Although the underdog and comeback player of the year Joe Burrow and his Bengals came up short to the Rams, who bet the house for this victory, their future is bright, and they will make noise in the AFC for many more years. Congratulations to Matthew Stafford and every other player on the 2022 Rams roster for their super bowl victory. Although the Rams came out on top, we must appreciate the key players of each team and their stats that helped lead their team to the biggest stage in America.  

For the Bengals, Joe Burrow threw for 4,611 yards on 70% completion with 34 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Their lead rusher, Joe Mixon, ran for 1,205 yards on 292 attempts which was an average of 4 yards per carry. Their receiving core of Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd put up 81-1,455-13, 74-1,091-6, and 67-828-5 (Catches-Yards-Touchdowns) respectively. On defense, Logan Wilson led the team in tackles with a perfect 100 while also leading the team in interceptions with 4. Trey Hendrickson led the team in sacks with an impressive 14. Finally, rookie kicker Evan McPherson went 28-33 on field goals.  

For the Rams, Matthew Stafford threw for 4886 yards with a completion percentage of 67% with 41 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. Sony Michel was their lead back with 848 yards ran on 208 attempts while Darrell Henderson ran for 688 yards on 149 attempts. Cooper Kupp had his historic season of 145 catches, 1947 yards, and 16 touchdowns. Jordan fuller led the team with tackles with 113 and Aaron Donald led the sacks category with 12.5 with Von Miller in a close second with 9.5. Jalen Ramsey and Taylor Rapp tied for most interceptions with 4 each. Their kicker Matt Gay kicked an impressive 33-35 on field goals. 

This season was captivating and NFL fans should be excited for years to come as talent in the NFL keeps flowing in year after year.