Donald, Rams' Defense Join Kupp as MVPs

Cooper Kupp was named the game's MVP. But he doesn't win it without a lot of help from his friends.

USA About: Rams Publish: 02/14/2022 Edit: 02/14/2022 Author: Gardener

RamsThe Los Angeles Rams are Super Bowl champions because Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp made the winning plays when it mattered. But let's be honest: you didn't win this game. It put on plays all night, sacked Cincinnati's Joe Burrow a record seven times — including five in the third quarter — and handcuffed the Bengals long enough for Stafford and Kupp to come to the rescue. Stafford threw the game-winning touchdown pass. Kupp managed the decisive catch. And the Rams delivered a 23-20 win that saw Kupp named MVP of the game. But that can't be done without Aaron Donald. If they don't choke Burrow in the second half - including a sack that left him twisting his right knee and being helped to the touchline - there's no game-winning drive or Stafford-Kupp highlight tape. And what they say is that the Bengals were 3 to 14 on third downs and 1 to 3 on fourth and haven't scored on their last five possessions that ended like this: punt, punt, punt, punt and downs -- with Donald makes the two biggest stops on Cincinnati's final drive. The first was a tackle that saw Samaje Perine running back on a third and 1 at the Rams '49. Time remaining: 43 seconds. The second was his hit on Burrow on the next snap, spinning the quarterback onto the turf when Burrow frantically threw the ball in the air to avoid a sack. I dont know. But the Rams couldn't walk. They lost wide receiver Odell Beckham in the first half to a knee injury. They played without tight end Tyler Higbee, their second best receiver. Stafford had a few interceptions. And seven of their 13 possessions, including the last kneel down, were three games or fewer. Undermanned and in a funk, they struggled to score 16 points in the opening 58.5 minutes. But then Stafford and Kupp led them on a 15-play 79-yard drive that included a 7-yard Kupp run on a fourth-and-1 conversion and ended with Stafford hitting Kupp for a 1-yard TD hit. Kupp, the NFL's Offensive Player of the Year, caught Stafford's last four completions -- including one for 22 yards in a drive reminiscent of Joe Montana and Jerry Rice dissecting the Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII. "All of these things are really team awards," said the game's MVP. "You're not a successful receiver if all the other 10 guys on the field aren't doing their job. He doesn't get the award...and the Rams don't win the game...without the Rams defending. It kept Burrow and the Bengals at bay the entire time, giving Stafford and Kupp time to figure things out. After the New York Giants defeated New England in Super Bowl LVI, their second straight win over the Pats, I spoke to the Giants defensive end and said I learned a valuable lesson from him and his teammates: Great passing -Rushers boast great quarterbacks. I experienced it again in Super Bowl LVIII. Then in Super Bowl 50. Don't say you weren't warned. The Rams did it this season. It took them 33 years to get back into the Super Bowl... and then this happens. They've come that far three times in their 54-year history. They lost three times... with a total of 12 points. 4. Don't win the Super Bowl coin toss. That's eight straight games in which the team that won it at a Super Bowl lost the game. 5. White jerseys are the right jerseys. Teams in white jerseys have won 18 of the last 21 Super Bowls. 1. Losing a Super Bowl is hard enough. But the news gets worse, fans of the Bengals: Unless Tom Brady is your quarterback, history tells us the Super Bowl loser won't be returning the following year. Since the Buffalo Bills appeared in Super Bowl XXVIII, it has only happened once - in Super Bowl LII, when New England and TB12 returned to defeat the Rams. Yes, I know the Rams are having their first ever Super Bowl as the LOS ANGELES Rams, and it's good for them. But they don't have Brady either. Not in this millennium, you don't. The only team to do so was the 2003-04 Patriots, quarterbacked by You Know Who. Aaron Donald could retire? We have a new leader in the offseason Twitter feed. Amid reports he could leave if he wins, Sean McVay said last week that he was "committed to this team and this coaching." I don't know about you, but that doesn't sound like outright denial. 5. Did NBC's Cris Collinsworth actually say, "I don't know if I've seen better than Matt Stafford and Cooper Kupp in a pressure situation?" He did. Someone rewound the video of Super Bowl XXIII with the 49ers' Joe Montana and Jerry Rice. If only Collinsworth were there, he would know. Oh wait... 6. Or maybe we could give him a few dozen Tom Brady? He seemed poised to have a big game and then... phew... he was gone, sidelined with a knee injury that looks serious. Watching him on the sidelines, I wasn't sure which was worse: the Rams missed him or he missed playing. All I know is that it was a great loss for both of them. In half a season with L. 8. Also, feel for the nameless dude who would have won $120,000 at BetMGM had Aaron Donald been named the game's MVP. He finished second. 9. Joe Burrow was sacked 19 times in this year's playoffs, including nine times in a game (Tennessee) and seven times on Sunday. Memo to Bengals' Mike Brown: Use offensive linemen who can pass protection. Quick question for 345 Park Ave.: How on earth can the league's best officials — because that's who edits Super Bowls — blow an obvious facemask penalty like those blowing the 75-yard burrow-to-tee Higgins TD in the first game produced the second half? "It was a contested catch," replied referee Ron Torbert, "and the crew didn't see any contact going as far as pass interference." I'm sorry. There was no "grab and twist," Torbert said, that warranted a face mask penalty. Watch the replay, Ron. Better yet, New York will. Coming soon to a cinema near you: Jordan Peele's "Nope" starring Eli Apple. The Rams' Jalen Ramsey said last week he was "the best defenseman in the National Football League." Check the game tape. He returns to the NFL after nearly two years, taking over to safety for a jaded Rams secondary and walking away with a ring in his final game. It doesn't get any better than that. With Super Bowl ads reportedly costing $6.5 million for a 30-second spot, someone should be asking for refunds. With rare exceptions, commercials have been as captivating as the Rams' running game. No Ram should be happier - no, happier - than Rams punter Johnny Hekker. He gambled away a botched extra point that put his team in a precarious position where victory was ultimately at stake. Instead of a field goal to tie, the Rams needed to get the touchdown to win. 1. Arizona Cardinals. For 54 years, teams whose home stadiums hosted Super Bowls never made it to the NFL championship game. Then Tampa Bay broke that hex in Super Bowl LV. Now the Rams are doing it in Super Bowl LVI. And both won. So where is Super Bowl LVII? You guessed it: State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Az., home of the Cards. 2. Raheem Morris, Rams defensive coordinator. He's the guy who made the second-half adjustments that rocked Burrow and the Bengals. "He's a big brother to me," said the Rams' McVay. Congratulations. Big brother just got you a ring. 3. Rams coach Sean McVay. A year ago, he championed Matt Stafford and convinced GM Les Snead to dish out multiple first-round picks (and quarterback Jared Goff) to bring him in from Detroit. He's also the prodigy who scored 19 points in two Super Bowls until the last Rams' final touchdown. 4. Cincinnati run defense. The Rams ran 23 times for 44 yards, averaging 1.9 per attempt. They were quarterback Matt Stafford and wide receiver Cooper Kupp. 5. Rams' Quarterback Matthew Stafford. Until he showed up in Los Angeles, he was known as a quarterback who produced lots of yards, lots of touchdowns, but not many wins. He was 74-93-1 in 12 years in Detroit, including 0-3 in the playoffs, and only had four winning seasons. Well, he's been 4-0 in the playoffs, beat Tom Brady, won a Super Bowl and some are wondering if he's Hall of Famer worthy. It's a game. Joe Flacco was also 4-0 in the playoffs and was Super Bowl MVP. 1. Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow. Not only did he suffer his first playoff loss since an Ohio state championship game; He literally suffered from the experience, being sacked seven times - including once where he was injured when his knee was twisted. Burrow became the first quarterback to win a Heisman and a Super Bowl in a minute, but no problem. He has plenty of time to get there. Unfortunately, he picked the Bengals to win. Had he won, he would have taken home $7,708,800. Sorry, but you can't lock him up, mano-a-mano, with Cooper Kupp and the game at stake. 4. Lawn in the SoFi Stadium. There is no artificial turf in Vegas. The same applies to Arizona. But there is in the $5 billion Rams house, and it cost Odell Beckham a Super Bowl. He suffered a knee injury in the first half when his foot caught the grass while reaching for a pass. He never played again, and that sparked an outcry from players past and present when the 49ers' Deebo Samuel tweeted, "Turf should be banned @NFL." I agree. At the start of the game, the teams winning the turnover bout were 38-5. With two interceptions, the Bengals won 2-0 on Sunday. Update: Teams that win the Turnover Battle are now 38-6. Matthew Stafford is one of only three quarterbacks to throw 40 or more TDs in a season and win the Super Bowl this year. Tom Brady in 2020 and Kurt Warner in 1999. The Rams averaged 1.9 yards per rush. According to ESPN Stats & Info, they are the fifth team in Super Bowl history to average fewer than two yards per carry. They're the only ones who win. The Rams were 14-1 that season when Cooper Kupp received one or more TDs. "I don't know, man. He did everything that can be done.” — Rams' linebacker Von Miller on Aaron Donald's potential retirement. "I didn't get out." — Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow on the extent of his knee injury. "We believe we have a very special group that will continue to grow and fight to return to games like this." - Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor. (Tie) Rams' DT Aaron Donald and WR Cooper Kupp. Kupp made the game-winning catch, but it was Donald who took over the second half - seemingly full of energy as he shoved Burrow wide and then mistook it for the Bengals' touchlines. As a doubles and trebles team, he finished the tournament with a total of four tackles, two sacks, three quarterback hits, two tackles for losses and a Super Bowl ring. "Guys like him are why you train," said Rams coach Sean McVay. Kupp was named MVP of the game, the second wide receiver in the last four Super Bowls to win the honor (Julian Edelman, Super Bowl LIII), but Donald deserved it just as much — if not more.

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