Bengals fall just short as Rams win Super Bowl LVI

Rams 'all-in' approach pays off, Stafford leads team to late score

INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP/ESPN) — Even the star-studded Los Angeles Rams have a limit to the number of injuries they can withstand, and they were all but out of playmakers in the second half of the Super Bowl.

They still had Super Bowl MVP Cooper Kupp, and they still had Matthew Stafford. They were enough to win a championship.

Los Angeles’ 23-20 victory on Sunday night was a remarkable story of perseverance through injury setbacks that would have crushed most teams — including the Rams, if not for one final scoring drive catalyzed by Kupp and Stafford.

The Rams played the fourth quarter of their home Super Bowl with rookies Ben Skowronek and Brycen Hopkins logging significant playing time. That’s because Odell Beckham Jr. went down with a knee injury in the second quarter, leaving the Rams to finish their final game without four of their top six pass-catchers by yardage from the regular season.

In their place, the Rams sent out their two rookies along with tight end Kendall Blanton, a borderline third-stringer when the season began. Running back Darrell Henderson, who hadn’t played since Dec. 26 because of an injury, was used extensively as a pass-catching target partly because the Rams had no other bodies to do it.

Improbably, they made it work: Stafford targeted Kupp repeatedly on the final drive, all the way to Kupp’s decisive TD catch with 1:25 to play.

The Rams won the Super Bowl with nobody other than Kupp catching more than four passes. For an offense built on star power and variety of attack, this scenario probably wasn’t ideal for coach Sean McVay — but the Rams made it work.

The Rams’ lack of depth is an unfortunate side effect of loading the top of an NFL roster with big names and huge paychecks. When injuries hit the Rams this season, the depth players that they could afford were not up to the same standard.

The Rams lost Robert Woods, their steady veteran receiver, at midseason with a torn knee ligament. Right before that injury, disgruntled veteran DeSean Jackson asked to leave the team after just seven games.

Los Angeles then lost tight end Tyler Higbee to a knee injury in the NFC championship game, depriving Stafford of one of his most reliable targets. And then in the second quarter of the Super Bowl, Beckham fell to the turf holding his left knee without a defender near him.

The Rams’ passing problems were compounded by their utter inability to run the ball — and McVay’s insistence on continuing to try. Los Angeles repeatedly ran first-down plays into the immobile line for setbacks and minor gains, but McVay continued to run it with Henderson, Cam Akers and Sony Michel.

Los Angeles had 23 rushing attempts for 43 yards — and it still won the Super Bowl.

Meanwhile, the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills head into the offseason as the favorites to win next year’s Super Bowl.

Caesars Sportsbook has the Chiefs as the favorites at 13-2, followed by the Bills at 7-1. DraftKings, FanDuel and WynnBET have the Chiefs and Bills as co-favorites to win Super Bowl LVII, and BetRivers and the SuperBook have Buffalo as the sole favorite. The Chiefs and Bills are the only teams with odds in the single digits.

The champion Los Angeles Rams, who knocked off the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI on Sunday night, are 10-1. The Bengals are 12-1, followed by the San Francisco 49ers at 14-1.

The Green Bay Packers, who are once again on Aaron Rodgers watch this offseason, are 15-1. The Dallas Cowboys are 16-1, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are looking to replace quarterback Tom Brady, are 18-1.

The Houston Texans and New York Jets are the biggest long shots, each at 200-1. One of the first bets Caesars Sportsbook took on its odds to win next year’s Super Bowl was $5,000 on the Jets at 200-1 from a bettor in New York. If the Jets win the Super Bowl, the bettor would win $1 million.

Super Bowl LVII will be held Feb. 12, 2023, in Glendale, Arizona.

Odds to win Super Bowl LVII (via Caesars Sportsbook as of Sunday): Chiefs 13-2; Bills 7-1; Rams 10-1; Bengals 12-1; 49ers 14-1; Packers 15-1; Cowboys 16-1; Buccaneers 18-1; Titans 20-1; Ravens 20-1; Broncos 22-1; Patriots 25-1; Cardinals 25-1; Colts 25-1; Chargers 25-1; Vikings 30-1; Saints 35-1; Seahawks 40-1; Browns 40-1; Eagles 40-1; Dolphins 40-1; Raiders 50-1; Falcons 60-1; Commanders 60-1; Steelers 60-1; Bears 80-1; Panthers 80-1; Giants 100-1; Jaguars 125-1; Lions 150-1; Texans 200-1; Jets 200-1.

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