NGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) — In a venue built for champions, the Los Angeles Rams carried off the crown jewel: a Super Bowl trophy.
It took a precise 79-yard drive capped by Cooper Kupp’s 1-yard touchdown reception with 1:25 remaining for a 23-20 victory Sunday over the Cincinnati Bengals to give the Rams their first NFL title since the 1999 season — and their first representing Los Angeles since 1951.
“Those guys just did a great job,” coach Sean McVay said. “They took over that game.”
They did so in their home, the $5 billion SoFi Stadium, making the Rams the second consecutive host to win the championship after Tampa Bay became the first a year ago.
“As far as building this stadium,” said Rams owner Stan Kroenke, the man who moved them back from St. Louis in 2016, “I think it turned out all right.”
The winning series, during which game MVP Kupp’s 4-yard touchdown reception was negated by offsetting penalties, ended soon after with the NFL Offensive Player of the Year easily beating Eli Apple in the right corner of the end zone for the winning score.
Kupp had four receptions for 39 yards, and a 7-yard run on fourth-and-1 from the Rams 30 on the championship drive.
“I don’t feel deserving of this,” Kupp said. “The guys standing here challenged me, they pushed me. I am just so grateful.”
Even with that brilliant, decisive march to the Lombardi Trophy, it was LA’s “fearsome fivesome” that made the difference. Led by Aaron Donald and Von Miller, they sacked Joe Burrow a Super Bowl record-tying seven times, shutting down the Cincinnati offense after a 22-second spurt to start the second half gave the Bengals the lead.
Fittingly, Burrow was under pressure on fourth-and-1 and threw incomplete, setting off a football fiesta this city has not seen since the LA Raiders won the 1983 championship.
A tearful Donald said after the crowning achievement of a certain Hall of Fame career, “I wanted it so bad. I dreamed this.”
Added McVay, at 36 the youngest Super Bowl-winning head coach: “For the offense to be able to find a way, and then Aaron to be able to finish it off, it’s poetic, man.”
The 10 quick points at the outset of the third quarter put Cincinnati ahead for the first time. Tee Higgins’ 75-yard score made it 17-13 and was followed one play later by Chidobe Awuzie’s pick. Evan McPherson tied Adam Vinatieri’s postseason record with his 14th field goal, a 38-yarder.
Higgins beat All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey on the first play of the second half — the receiver clearly tugged Ramsey’s face mask on the play. After Matthew Stafford was intercepted on the next play, the Bengals got McPherson’s field goal.
Then they tried to hold on as all of southwest Ohio held its breath.
But LA’s relentless pass rush, led by its two biggest stars, Donald and Miller with two apiece, allowed nothing more.
Then came the 15-play march in which Kupp also converted the fourth down with his run.
“We wanted to be in attack mode and pressure them as much as possible,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said. “Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.”
Kupp even earned the MVP honor despite often being double-teamed after fellow wideout Odell Beckham Jr. — who had a touchdown catch on Los Angeles’ second drive for the game’s first score — went out with a knee injury in the second period. Kupp finished with eight receptions for 92 yards.
One fear for Rams followers was ill-advised throws by Stafford, and he had two. His deep pass moving left was picked in the end zone late in the first half by Jessie Bates III. On his second interception, rookie Ben Skowronek could only deflect it — directly to Awuzie.