How does that old Prince song go? Something like… “Tonight we’re gonna party like it’s 1999.” For Los Angeles Rams faithful across the globe, go crazy why don’t ya? Earning the franchise’s second Super Bowl title in a year in which Sean McVay pushed all his chips to the center of the table in an attempt to hoist the Lombardi Trophy, all fantasies came true for the 36-year-old head coach and his veteran-laden roster headlined by two of the most dominant players in the game. It was the culmination of a campaign that looked, on paper, to be Super Bowl-bound before quarterback Matthew Stafford ever suited up in the blue and gold—expectations were parallel with mid-February football before Week 1 ever kicked off. For an organization that hasn’t had a first-round pick since Jared Goff came off the board No. 1 overall in 2016—and won’t have another until 2024—the Rams, although unorthodox, have reached the pinnacle of the sport in a way contrary to the rest of the league. Free agency and mid-season trades have reigned supreme. Rather than expensing assets on potential impact players in April, McVay and general manager Les Snead have opted for players with years of NFL experience under their belt, and in turn, the wisdom to push them over the hump of a grueling 17-game schedule and the postseason sprint to the top of the Super Bowl stage. The examples range from Odell Beckham Jr to Von Miller to postseason addition Eric Weddle; all players with years of NFL play in their back pocket, each with massive impacts in the Rams’ 23-20 victory over Zac Taylor’s Bengals. For Beckham, a talent lost in the chaos of Cleveland, he made his way to Los Angeles and following his Week 10 debut, continued to progress and evolve into the weapon he was in years past as a New York Giant. The Robin to Cooper Kupp’s Batman within Los Angeles’ high-flying aerial attack, he quickly became WR2 after Robert Woods went down, becoming the safety blanket and third-level threat for Stafford. While his Super Bowl performance was cut short in the first half due to injury, he kicked off the scoring with a leaping 17-yard grab in the first quarter and looked destined to put up gaudy totals considering the game plan of Cincinnati to limit Kupp in any way possible. However, this is about Stafford, the “over the hill veteran” who “can’t win in the postseason” that has rid of his past demons and finally put critics to bed. While Stafford’s rapport with McVay was obvious from the get-go and we expected the Rams to finish among the league’s elite from an offensive standpoint, Stafford’s chemistry with the exquisitely detailed McVay and one-of-one talent in Kupp presented an unstoppable trio the league will continue to attempt to counter for years to come. The second wideout in history to both lead the league in every major receiving category, and win Super Bowl MVP (Jerry Rice), Kupp competed at a different tempo than the 11 defenders tasked with stopping him All. Season. Long. A one-man show during the Rams’ 79-yard, game-sealing touchdown drive, capped by a beautifully thrown fade-route from Stafford to Kupp in the back corner of the endzone, it was a lot of No. 9 to No. 10 late on Sunday, and the Bengals had no remedy for Los Angeles’ dynamic offensive tandem. And as good as Stafford was, and as exceptional as Kupp was—and has been—the play of Aaron Donald, arguably the most dominant defensive lineman to ever play the game, cannot be thrown under the rug compared to the offensive headliners of Sunday’s matchup. A figure of folklore considering his herculean athletic ability and pure brute strength, while No. 99 didn’t need a larger chip on his shoulder to prove anything to anyone as a three-time DPOY honoree, his performance against Cincinnati showcased the separation of the elite compared to the legends of the game. Double and triple-teamed at times throughout the matchup, it didn’t matter how Taylor looked to slide protections toward Donald, the seven-time All-Pro set up shop in Joe Burrow’s hip pocket all evening long, capping off what was a standout performance via a fourth-down pressure to seal the Rams’ title. It usually doesn’t work like this. While the tactic may work in the NBA, adding superstar, headlining talent in waves may boost sales in the team store, but as a recipe to win a Super Bowl? It’s just not how this is supposed to work… right? For McVay, however, similar to how he’s been his entire coaching tenure, his maneuverability to swim upstream, against the trends, and toward the gleaming light at the end of the tunnel that, at times, looked only visible to him, has placed him atop the NFL totem pole… just like we all envisioned.
- Aug 05, 2022
- Aug 01, 2022