Cooper Kupp capped a dominant season with two Super Bowl LVI touchdowns to guide the short-handed Los Angeles Rams past the Cincinnati Bengals in LA.
The Rams were heavily reliant on Kupp at their SoFi Stadium home after Odell Beckham Jr. was ruled out with a first-half knee injury, joining tight end Tyler Higbee on the sideline.
But the triple crown wide receiver had just enough to inspire a 23-20 win and deny the Bengals their first championship – with a little help from Aaron Donald.
Before Beckham went down, the Rams' superstar receiving talent had a telling impact, as their second drive ended with a 17-yard touchdown pass from Matthew Stafford to the former Cleveland Brown.
The Bengals could only come up with a field goal in response – Evan McPherson's record-breaking 13th consecutive successful conversion in a single postseason – and Stafford soon found Kupp for a fifth TD in four playoff games.
But the remainder of the first half did not play out nearly so smoothly for the Rams, who were pegged back by a career-first Joe Mixon pass – to Tee Higgins for a TD – and then lost Beckham to injury before Jessie Bates III picked off a deep Stafford pass in the endzone.
The Rams still took a three-point lead into halftime, yet that was gone within 12 seconds of the third quarter when an apparent foul by Higgins on Jalen Ramsey was not spotted, allowing the receiver to run in a 75-yard score from Joe Burrow's pass.
Burrow was quickly back on the field, too, as a Stafford throw bounced off Ben Skowronek – promoted in place of Beckham – and into the arms of Chidobe Awuzie for a second interception. Aaron Donald's second sack limited the Bengals to a McPherson field goal.
The Rams were also forced to settle for a field goal after Kupp overthrew a pass to Stafford as they ran the Philly Special, although some heavy punishment dished out to Burrow limited the Bengals' effectiveness on offense, giving Stafford one last drive with a four-point deficit.
After numerous penalties in the red zone, Stafford finally picked out Kupp for another TD, setting the stage for Donald to stall Burrow's reply and spark home celebrations.
Burrow on brand with big plays and sacks
Burrow's 51 sacks in the regular season set a record for any QB to start that year's Super Bowl, but he was largely kept clean in the first half – albeit he did not throw a TD either.
The second half was much more like what we have come to expect from Burrow and the Bengals' offensive line, however.
The NFL leader in passing plays of 50 yards or more (12 in 2021) added another with his TD pass to Higgins, although the controversy around that play – Higgins' hand grasped at Ramsey's facemask – appeared to contribute to a determined Rams response on defense.
Donald soon had his first sack and Burrow took seven in all, tying Roger Staubach's Super Bowl X record.
Kupp comes up trumps as only option
The reason for backing the Rams pre-game over the Bengals was their wealth of options, as evidenced by Beckham's early TD after a drive in which Kupp carried the ball into Cincinnati territory.
But when Beckham was ruled out, with Higbee and Robert Woods (two of five remaining Rams from their Super Bowl LIII defeat) already sidelined, Stafford turned his focus to Kupp alone.
This year's premier wideout was the target of a game-high 10 pass attempts and reeled in eight of them – another high – for 92 yards and those two decisive TDs.