Super Bowl LVI Los Angeles Rams vs. Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday February 13, 2021
The Bengals trailed 21-10 at the break, matching the 11-point halftime deficit they faced in their regular-season game with the Chiefs on Jan. 2. In that game, Cincinnati held Kansas City scoreless in the third quarter and allowed just three runs in the fourth before finishing a spectacular comeback with a walk-off FG to secure the win.
In the second half, history started to repeat itself. The Cincinnati defense forced two punts and an INT on Kansas City’s three third-quarter drives, marking the 12th time in 20 games this season (including the playoffs) that the Bengals have held an opponent scoreless at the third quarter (see “D tightens after the break” on page 6).
“We had pressure (on Mahomes) in the first half, but he has the best pocket presence of anyone in the league,” said DE Sam Hubbard. “We kept saying to ourselves, ‘Keep chopping wood, keep rushing, keep rushing. We were disciplined in our top lanes, and it paid off.”
The highlight of the third quarter came when DT BJ Hill hit and intercepted a pass from Mahomes to set up the Bengals’ offense at the Chiefs’ 27-yard line. Five plays later, Burrow found WR Ja’Marr Chase in the end zone for a two-yard score. The Bengals then tied the game at 21 with a successful two-point conversion off a pass from Burrow to WR Trent Taylor, who was playing his first playoff offensive snap.
“This game comes from the Shanahan and McVay families,” Zac Taylor said of the two-point conversion. “We’ve been doing that for a number of years, but we’ve never called him. Trent has this really good lateral quickness. (Tyler Boyd) can do that too, but Trent has had a lot of reps on that game at the last five years, I guess. We started working on it with him probably three weeks ago. It’s the only game that has his name on the game plan, and he’s done a great job in the performer.
Cincinnati took a 24-21 lead on a 52-yard FG from K Evan McPherson midway through the fourth quarter. It was McPherson’s third 50-yard FG in the playoffs, having hit nine such FGs in the regular season (see “McPherson from the Deep” on page 13).
Trailing three, Kansas City drove to the Cincinnati four-yard line with 1:26 remaining in regulation and appeared to be on the verge of what would have been a fourth red-zone TD that day. But the Bengals defense held firm, as DE Sam Hubbard sacked Mahomes in back-to-back plays – on second and third downs – to force an equalizing FG from Chiefs K Harrison Butker as time expired.
When asked after the game if he had ever recorded sacks on back-to-back plays, Hubbard replied with a laugh. “I don’t think I’ve ever had back-to-back sacks to send us to the Super Bowl. I guess that’s exactly what happens when you keep chasing it and staying the course.”
The Chiefs won the coin toss and got the ball first in extra period, bringing back memories of their division game against the Buffalo Bills at Arrowhead Stadium a week earlier. In that game, Mahomes and the Chiefs offense rushed for 75 yards in eight plays for a game-winning TD on OT’s opening possession before the powerful Bills offense even had a chance to touch the ball. .
But the Bengals will not suffer the same fate. After Apple dropped what looked like a surefire pick on the Chiefs’ second game in OT, Mahomes on third down fired a deep ball to Hill which was knocked down by S Jessie Bates and then intercepted by S Vonn Bell. Each of Cincinnati’s three playoff wins now includes an interception on the Bengals’ last defensive play.
“It’s normal that they played with the ball like that,” Taylor said. “I can’t wait to see it (in film), because I didn’t have a great view of the game on the pitch. I just saw Vonn walk out of there with it. I’m proud of those guys. They “I’ve mastered this take-out thing for the past few weeks. It’s really allowed us to play the type of game we want to play and get to the Super Bowl like we did.
Burrow and the Bengals offense converted three first downs and drove to the Chiefs 13-yard line before putting a Super Bowl berth in the hands of 22-year-old rookie K Evan McPherson . And he had done it four times before this season – three times in the regular season, once a week earlier in the playoffs (see “…Do that five forfeits” on page 13) – McPherson converted , splitting the 31-yard studs and sending his team to the Super Bowl.
“We’re a special team that’s capable of doing special things,” Taylor said. “We believed from the start – whether people believed us or not, we did. But we’re not surprised. This is where we’re meant to be, and I’m proud of the guys in that dressing room. ”
Next Sunday’s Super Bowl will feature a number of important ties between the two teams. Taylor was on the Rams’ offensive coaching staff under head coach Sean McVay from 2017-18. McVay played college at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio (50 minutes northwest of Paul Brown Stadium). And Rams OT veteran Andrew Whitworth was a second-round pick from the Bengals in 2006 and spent his first 11 seasons with Cincinnati.
“If you had told me coming into the league, when I was drafted, that we would be here this year, that would be a shock,” Burrow said after the game. “But now I’m not surprised. I played all year and I knew we would have a chance to be here.
“Today was a big win for the organization, the property, the city and me personally too. It’s a very exciting time.”