Super Bowl LVI takeaways: Kupp saves the day

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February 14th, 2022

Super Bowl LVI delivered a near-perfect Hollywood ending for the Los Angeles Rams, who lifted the Lombardi Trophy on their home field in SoFi Stadium Sunday night, following a thrilling 23-20 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.

The title signified redemption for head coach Sean McVay, who lost 13-3 on this stage in Super Bowl LIII in 2019, and handed offseason acquisition Matthew Stafford his first Super Bowl ring, after he previously wallowed in misery in Detroit from 2009 to 2020.

For Cincinnati, the defeat was a devastating conclusion to a shocking postseason run that almost no one saw coming, but left plenty of hope for this once-forlorn franchise.

Now that the next NFL champion has been named and the offseason is officially underway, let's look at five key takeaways from Super Bowl LVI.

Cooper Kupp showed up when it mattered most

The 2021 Offensive Player of the Year had a fairly quiet night for much of Super Bowl LVI, but when his team needed a touchdown to keep their title hopes alive, Cooper Kupp did what he did better than any other receiver this season — he found the end zone.

The NFL's leader in receptions (145), receiving yards (1,947), and touchdown catches (16) reeled in a one-yard touchdown pass to lift LA over Cincy, 23-20, with 1:25 remaining in regulation. On the 79-yard scoring drive, Kupp had four catches for 39 yards, and added a seven-yard run on fourth-and-1.

After Odell Beckham Jr. went down with injury in the second quarter, Kupp was the only reliable weapon left at LA's disposal. Tight end Tyler Higbee was already out with injury, backup Kendall Blanton hurt his shoulder early in the game, wideout Van Jefferson was largely ineffective, and the run game was non-existent.

None of that mattered, though, because the Rams had Kupp. Despite being double-teamed by the Bengals once Beckham was sidelined, he finished with eight catches for 92 yards, two scores, and went home with the Super Bowl MVP award.

Penalties overshadowed the finish

While Kupp undoubtedly is the premier receiver in the NFL, his second touchdown of the night came with a bit of controversy.

In a game that was mostly devoid of penalties, the referees became whistle-happy in the closing minutes, and flagged Cincinnati (who committed the second fewest penalties all season) three times in the span of nine seconds of game clock.

Two of those penalties (unnecessary roughness and pass interference) appeared valid, but the defensive holding call on Logan Wilson was questionable.

That flag turned an incomplete pass on third-and-goal into first-and-goal for LA, before two more penalties placed Stafford & Co. on Cincinnati's one-yard line.

The Bengals' offensive line was too great a liability

On the other side of the ball, Cincinnati's offense got strong performances out of wideout Tee Higgins, who had two touchdown catches, running back Joe Mixon, who ran for 72 yards and threw a touchdown, and rookie receiver Ja'Marr Chase (89 receiving yards).

Unfortunately their production wasn't enough to overcome the team's weakest link, its offensive line, which allowed second-year quarterback Joe Burrow to get sacked seven times, which tied a Super Bowl record.

The Comeback Player of the Year, who was injured last season on a sack, was hit 11 times on the night, and was pressured by three-time Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald on Cincinnati's final play of the contest, in which Burrow threw an incomplete pass as he attempted to evade yet another sack.

Burrow and Chase are poised to lead Cincy back to the Promised Land

Outside of the O-line, the good news for Who Dey Nation is the core of this Cincinnati team will remain intact for the foreseeable future.

Burrow, who finished with 263 yards and a touchdown on 22-of-33 passing, will still have his same talented assortment of playmakers by his side, including Chase, Higgins, Mixon, receiver Tyler Boyd, and tight end C.J. Uzomah.

Another player Cincy will be happy to have back is rookie kicker Evan McPherson, who tied Adam Vinatieri's playoff record with 14 field goals and was perfect in the postseason.

The Rams, on the other hand, will likely lose Pro Bowl tackle Andrew Whitworth to retirement, and even Donald may retire now that he can add an NFL title to his long list of accolades and achievements.

Historic halftime show left us wanting an encore

Outside of the epic conclusion to Super Bowl LVI, the action on the field between the halves will be remembered for decades to come.

In what many fans hailed as "the greatest halftime show ever," Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige, Kendrick Lamar, and surprise guest 50 Cent dazzled at SoFi Stadium in the NFL's first halftime show centered around rap.

Some music fans likely groaned over the headliner, but many of the those watching — particularly Millennials — were giddy with excitement and a sense of nostalgia. 

From the intricate set to the choreography and almost all of SoFi Stadium rapping "Lose Yourself" word for word when Eminem took the stage, the Super Bowl LVI halftime show was an electrifying jolt of energy in the midst of a game that lulled for much of the second quarter.

The show was so compelling, even McPherson felt it was more important to stay out and watch instead of joining his team for halftime notes in the locker room.

Just as Michael Jackson helped revive the halftime experience the last time the Super Bowl was held in LA, this latest halftime rendition and its multifaceted lineup will likely set a new precedent for the type of performances we can expect in many Super Bowls to come.