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Super Bowl LVI: Stafford-Kupp connection drives Rams to win

Super Bowl LVI Stafford Kupp connection drives Rams to win


Entering the Rams’ final, game-winning drive Sunday, receiver Cooper Kupp had as many incompletions in the second half as catches.

One apiece.

But then, with Super Bowl LVI just asking to be won, the record-setting wideout emerged in an instant to lead his team to a 23-20 victory over Cincinnati at SoFi Stadium.

“So proud of Cooper, all the hard work,” teammate Robert Woods said. “Being able to dominate in the biggest game in the world is only right. That’s why he’s the MVP of our team.”

On that last drive, Kupp caught four passes for 39 yards and the deciding touchdown and converted a fourth and one with a sweep as the Rams scored their only touchdown of the second half when it mattered most.

He starred in the absences of Woods, who missed the game because of a season-ending knee injury suffered in November, and Odell Beckham Jr., who went down in the second quarter because of a knee injury.

“He won this thing,” Woods said. “He’s the most deserving player, not just for this year, but for all the years he has put in for us.”

Before their game-clinching series, the Rams had seen their offense mostly disappear. In the second half, they had produced only 58 total yards — just three on the ground — and three first downs.

Fans celebrate the Rams’ first Super Bowl victory in Los Angeles, a 23-20 triumph over the Cincinnati Bengals at SoFi Stadium.

Their attempts to ignite some sort of attack included a third-quarter trick play that ended with Kupp throwing too high for quarterback Matthew Stafford, who had leaked out of the backfield on a pass pattern.

That’s how much momentum Stafford and his group lacked as they trotted out with 6:13 remaining and the ball at the Rams’ 21-yard line.

After three plays, it was fourth and one. Coach Sean McVay opted to go for it knowing that failing to gain at least a yard would give the Bengals the ball already in field-goal position.

“Sometimes, you just go based on a gut feel,” he said. “I felt like, based on the way they had played some of those short-yardage situations, that Kupp would have a chance to circle the defense.”

Lined up to the left, Kupp went in motion and took the handoff from Stafford. He was fast enough to elude Cincinnati safety Vonn Bell as tight end Brycen Hopkins cleared a path.

Before that run, the Rams had not picked up a first down on the ground all day, their rushing attack largely nonexistent.

As the drive continued, the Rams went up-tempo, putting pressure on the defense and limiting Cincinnati’s between-play adjustments.

Stafford hit Hopkins on third and two for a six-yard gain as the Rams crossed midfield and the clock went under four minutes.

Then came the longest play for the series, Stafford connecting with Kupp over the middle for a 22-yard gain to the Bengals’ 24.

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford and teammates congratulate Cooper Kupp after a touchdown catch that helped give L.A. the winning margin in Super Bowl LVI on Sunday at SoFi Stadium.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

“In a lot of the third-down situations, they were doubling [Kupp], especially once Odell went out,” McVay said. “But Matthew and Cooper made the most of their opportunities in the most important and critical times.”

Stafford and Kupp hooked up for an eight-yard gain, followed by an eight-yard run by Cam Akers as the Rams moved inside the 10-yard line and the two-minute warning arrived.

After two incompletions, Stafford threw a third, which would have made it fourth and goal at the eight-yard line. But Cincinnati linebacker Logan Wilson was called for holding.

On the next play, Stafford hit Kupp for an apparent touchdown near the back of the end zone, Kupp absorbing a violent shot from Bell.

The completion was nullified, however, because of offsetting penalties — Rams’ right tackle Rob Havenstein for holding and Bell for unnecessary roughness.

Replaying first and goal from the four, the Rams benefited from a third consecutive penalty on the Bengals. This time, cornerback Eli Apple was flagged for interfering with Kupp in the end zone.

After he ran a sneak for no gain, Stafford fired a one-yard scoring pass to Kupp, who beat Apple just enough with an inside move before catching a ball thrown to his outside shoulder.

“Once we got down into that tight red area,” McVay said, “it felt like it was about 60 plays for us to finally get that one in on the fade.”

In total, the drive covered 79 yards in 15 plays, the Rams taking their three-point lead with 1:25 to go.

From there, the defense closed it out, punctuating the offense’s final statement.





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