The magic for the Cincinnati Bengals ran out at the worst time.
In a back-and-forth Super Bowl 56, the Bengals fall to the Rams 23-20.
The Rams battled injuries throughout the night. Odell Beckham Jr. suffered a knee injury in the second quarter and Matthew Stafford got his ankle rolled up on late in the third.
But it was the Bengals’ offensive line that proved to be too tough for Zac Taylor’s team to overcome. Burrow was sacked a Super Bowl record seven times, and the game ended with him being hit as he threw.
Surprisingly enough, Trey Hendrickson, not Aaron Donald, recorded the game’s first sack as he dipped under former Bengal great Andrew Whitworth and met Matthew Stafford in the backfield.
After Joe Burrow’s first drive ended in a four-and-out, the Bengals’ defense conceded the first score of the game when Odell Beckham Jr. climbed the ladder over Mike Hilton on a slot fade.
The Bengals were down, but far from out. It took one of the greatest catches of Ja’Marr Chase’s football career to get Cincinnati going offensively. Chase smoked Jalen Ramsey down the right sideline and hauled in a one-handed grab 46 yards downfield.
That was as close as the Bengals could get to the end zone that drive, which led to Evan McPherson’s first field goal of the day from 29 yards out.
Stafford and the Rams continued to cook early on. Los Angeles responded quickly with a Cooper Kupp touchdown that was set up in part by a big 35-yard catch and run by Beckham. The 12th-year quarterback was killing the Bengals with play action and the Offensive Player of the Year in Kupp was bound to find pay dirt at some point.
Down 13-3, the Bengals found their comfort zone. Burrow found Chase, Tyler Boyd, and Tee Higgins for three separate first down conversions. Joe Mixon also got himself going with positive runs and ended up concluding the drive in style. For the first time in his career, Mixon was tasked with throwing the ball instead of carrying it. A toss to Mixon turned into a pass to Tee Higgins in the back of the end zone.
Zac Taylor’s brother, Press, came up with the Philly Special. It’s only fitting Zac came up with his own razzle dazzle.
Cincinnati kept the score at 13-10 thanks to a Jessie Bates interception right before halftime. It only took one play out of the half for the lead to change. Burrow stepped up into a pressured pocket and launched a rainbow to Higgins down the left sideline. Once more, a Bengals receiver beat Ramsey deep (this time with a little incidental contact) and Higgins waltzed into the end zone for his second touchdown of the day with Ramsey begging for a flag 20 yards behind him.
Stafford’s answer to this was throwing Ben Skowronek too far out in front and seeing the ball land in the hands of Chidobe Awuzie. With their backs against the wall on the ensuing drive, the Rams’ pass rush found some life and held the Bengals to another McPherson field goal. McPherson tied Adam Vinatieri with 14 field goals in a single postseason.
A failed Philly Special and subsequent Rams’ field goal later, sacks started dominating the game. Burrow found the ground again thanks to a blitzing linebacker Ernest Jones, and while the Bengals responded with a drive-ending sack of their own on Stafford, Burrow was sacked twice more after that. Stafford’s ankle needed tape, and Burrow’s line started to show signs of incompetence.
It continued for Cincinnati’s next drive, when Burrow’s right knee got tangled while taking his seventh sack of the night. Burrow limped off the field as he tied Roger Staubach’s record for most sacks taken in a Super Bowl.
After another Kevin Huber punt, Stafford and Co. got the ball back with 6:13 remaining and took off the clock before 4:48 off the clock before finding Kupp in the end zone for the second time to take the game-winning 23-20 lead.
The Bengals got some yardage on their final drive, but it wasn’t enough as they couldn’t get one more yard on fourth down.
A historic season for Cincinnati ends in their third Super Bowl loss in franchise history.