NFL Super Bowl Preview and Championship Week Recap



A preview of the two teams facing off in this years super bowl as the Los Angeles Rams prepare to play host to the visiting Cincinnati Bengals.

Chris Carr, Contributing Writer

AFC Championship Recap: Cincinnati Bengals vs Kansas City Chiefs

Like the last time when these two teams faced off in week 17, the Chiefs and Bengals showcased their high-powered offenses in a shootout that took an extra overtime period to determine the victor. Similarly to last time, the Chiefs remained in control for the first half of the game, scoring on the first three drives of the game and keeping the Bengals offense off the field. After a Mecole Hardman touchdown, the Bengals found themselves trailing 21-3. However, a quick score before the half coming from a 41-yard screen pass to backup running back Samaje Perine limited the deficit to 11.

The Chiefs were left with 65 seconds on the clock, but any NFL fan knows that any amount of time left is too much for Patrick Mahomes and his explosive offense. Mahomes drove the Chiefs all the way down to the Cincinnati 1 yard line; however, a touchdown-saving tackle from cornerback Eli Apple on receiver Tyreek Hill kept the score 21-10 as time expired in the first half.

After scoring touchdowns on their first three drives of the game, the Chiefs offense hit a roadblock to begin the second half as they came up empty on their first three drives of the third quarter, leaving the door open for the Bengals to take advantage. Just like that, Cincinnati erased their 18 point deficit, tying it up at 21-21 after a field goal, interception, and a touchdown in the third quarter. Later on, in the fourth quarter, a pair of field goals, one from each team, left the game tied 24-24 at the end of regulation. The Chiefs won the coin toss, but their offense was swallowed up by the Cincinnati D and a deflection and interception of Patrick Mahomes marked the last straw for him and his offense. Joe Burrow marched the offense down the field, setting up a game-winning field goal for rookie kicker Evan McPherson who was good from 33 yards away. 


NFC Championship Recap: San Francisco 49ers vs Los Angeles Rams

Unlike in the AFC, the NFC championship began relatively quiet with an uneventful first quarter and a clean scoreboard. However, in the second quarter, the Rams capped off a methodical 18-play 97-yard drive with a touchdown reception from star wideout Cooper Kupp.

San Francisco was quick to respond as receiver Deebo Samuel found the end-zone after a 44 yard run after the catch on a screen pass. While Rams kicker Matt Gay was short on a 54 yard field goal try, 49ers kicker Robbie Gould ended the half with a successful 38 yard field goal, leaving the 49ers on top 10-7. On the first throw of the second half, Jimmy Garropollo was nearly intercepted by Jalen Ramsey, and after a series of penalties by the Rams defense, the 49ers were set up in ideal field position. However, they were forced two punt after two incompletions from Garropollo.

On the Rams side, wide receiver Odell Beckham continued his best performance of the season with two catches combining for nearly 40 yards. A gutsy call by head coach Sean McVay prompted Matthew Stafford to run a quarterback sneak on 4th and 1, but he came up just inches short of the first down marker. San Francisco was finally able to get their star tight end involved as George Kittle hauled in a 16 yard touchdown catch, giving them a 17-7 advantage. On the next drive, Cooper Kupp struck again for the Rams with his second touchdown grab of the night and a 40 yard field goal from Matt Gay followed that, tying the game at 17. Near midfield, quarterback Matt Stafford tossed an absolute laser to Kupp, finding him again, this time for 25 yards. After the first down, San Francisco’s front 7 remained strong, sacking Stafford to force 3rd down and 18. Matt Gay kicked one right down the middle from 30 yard out, making it 13 unanswered from LA and giving them their first lead of the game since the very first quarter. However, time was still left for Jimmy Garropollo and the 49ers to win or at least tie the game, but their hopes were quickly shut down. San Francisco didn’t get far before the Rams were able to pressure Garropollo into a panic throw on 3rd down and 13, resulting in a tipped pass that was picked off by linebacker Travin Howard, officially concluding a terrific comeback victory for the Rams. 


Super Bowl Preview: Cincinnati Bengals vs Los Angeles Rams

This years Super Bowl features two unlikely heroes in the Rams and Bengals as this year marks the very first time in Super Bowl history that both teams have entered as the 4th seed in their respective conferences. Also, Super Bowl 56 is the youngest matchup of super bowl head coaches ever. The Rams, led by their electric and enthusiastic 36 year old head coach Sean McVay, are coincidentally the hosts of this year’s super bowl, which takes place in Sofi Stadium, located in Los Angeles. LA is led by two superstar duos on each side of the ball.

Exactly one year before their victory in the NFC Championship game, quarterback Matt Stafford was shipped off in a trade from the Detroit Lions in exchange for Jared Goff and three draft picks. Stafford seems to have found his rhythm in LA and this year has marked a resurgence in his career, his best one yet. His connection to wide receiver Cooper Kupp has been a major reason as to why he has been so successful. Kupp is having a historic season, tearing it up with nearly 2,000 yards in the regular season and 16 touchdowns. Defensively, Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey have been recognized as the leagues best pass rushing and lockdown cornerback duo for years now and the pair has continued their strong play this season, especially in the playoffs.

On the other hand, the Bengals are coached by 38 year old Zac Taylor who is in his third season with the team. Taylor is one of many head coaches in the NFL today who have previously coached as a coordinator under Sean McVay. Next Sunday will mark a reunion between the two offensive gurus as Taylor formerly coached quarterbacks and receivers under McVay when he was with the Rams a few years ago. Cincinnati is powered by a young and energetic roster, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Quarterback Joe Burrow and rookie receiver are familiar with each other from their days at LSU where the two won a national championship together. It’s safe to say that both Burrow and Chase are not scared of the spotlight as both have majorly stepped up their play in this years playoffs.

However, the real story is at how much progress this team has made in just the past year. Picture this: your rookie quarterback is undergoing constant rehab and physical therapy sessions after tearing his ACL, your star running back is dealing with a nagging foot injury that has now kept him out for most of the season, your offensive line cannot protect the quarterback or block for the running backs, and the rest of your offense and your defense are extremely inexperienced and struggling, your coach is on the hot seat after only two seasons, and you finished last in your division at 4-11-1 and preparing for a top 5 pick in this years upcoming draft. Now, this team is game-planning for Super Bowl 56 in Los Angeles. Joe Burrow is healthy and better than ever. He is also being helped by running back Joe Mixon and a trio of young and capable receivers. Also, he is backed up by an extremely talented defense, especially in the secondary, which continues to make plays and cause turnovers. In my opinion, I think this game will depend on two things: Can the Bengals offensive line hold up against the Rams talented front 7? And can the Rams minimize the turnovers and take care of the football? Overall, throughout this years playoffs I have learned that crazy things can happen every given Sunday.

However, I have to go with what I feel is the more talented and experienced team in the Los Angeles Rams. I believe that the home field advantage will help tremendously and that Sean McVay will be able to out-coach his former assistant Zac Taylor. I have no doubt that the Rams will be able to put up points but I am slightly concerned about how their defense will be able to limit Joe Burrow and take away his offensive weapons. Nonetheless, I have confidence in the Rams to win the Super Bowl this year and return home with a Lombardi Trophy.