By Jack Cherico
Almost as quickly as it came, the 102nd NFL season has ended. The season culminated in an electrifying matchup between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Los Angeles Rams. After beating the favored Kansas City Chiefs, Cincinnati came into Los Angeles with tons of momentum. America seemed to rally behind the fun-loving duo of quarterback Joe Burrow and wide receiver Jamar Chase, and although the Bengals were underdogs, everyone thought the team had a chance. Playing at the team’s home stadium, Los Angeles used the home field to its advantage. LA is only the second team to host a super bowl in its home stadium, and this year’s Super Bowl was a celebration of everything Los Angeles. Even the halftime show featured Southern California icons such as Snoop Dogg and Kendrick Lamar and provided an excellent atmosphere for the big game.
The Bengals won the coin toss, elected to defer to the second half, and kicked off to LA to start Super Bowl 56. After both teams turned the ball over to each other via downs or a punt, LA was on the scoreboard first with a 17-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Matt Stafford to trade acquisition Odell Beckham Jr. Cincinnati answered with a field goal from rookie kicker Evan McPherson. Early in the second quarter, Stafford hit Offensive Player of The Year Cooper Kupp for an 11-yard touchdown, but the Cincinnati defense foiled the extra point attempt to keep the score at 13 – 3. At this point, the Bengals needed to answer with a bit of trickery, and running back Joe Mixon threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to tee Higgins, holding the score at 13-10
The halftime show featured Eminem, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar, and Mary J Blige, with a surprise appearance from 50 Cent and Anderson Paak. The show had an average of 103.4 million viewers in the 8:15–8:30 PM timeframe, up seven percent from Super Bowl 55’s halftime show featuring The Weeknd.
In the second half, Cincinnati started with a bang, as well as some controversy; Burrow aired out a 75-yard pass to Higgins, who may have grabbed rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey’s face mask, causing the all-pro corner to fall. However, the officials, who have called a very lax game to this point, missed the call, giving Cincinnati a 17 – 13 lead. The two teams traded field goals, setting up LA with a 4 point deficit with five minutes left in the fourth quarter. Ten plays into the drive, within the red zone on third down, the officials called a holding penalty on Bengals linebacker Logan Wilson, who was in coverage. This gave LA a fresh set of downs, and the team was able to capitalize, with Stafford hitting Kupp for a one-yard touchdown pass and giving LA a 23-20 lead with less than two minutes on the clock. While Burrows’ career has been young so far, every spectator was on the edge of their seats, wondering if the LSU product would mount a comeback. As has plagued Cincinnati all year, however, its offensive line could not hold up when the team needed to, and defensive line pressure on the Quarterback led to a turnover on downs and sealing the game for LA, 23 – 20.
Kupp was named the game MVP, whose eight receptions, 92 yards, and two touchdowns were essential to the Rams’ offense. Although everyone will miss football for a few months, this has been a great season, and NFL fans cannot wait for super bowl 57.