NFL Review: Super Bowl LVI

Well, another year down, another season over. Always a bittersweet time of the year, because of course we love the Super Bowl and all the drama it brings, but the ecstasy we all shared during that Half-Time show is only matched by the downer we feel on Monday morning knowing it’s 6 and a half months before we have meaningful football on our screens again. At least we have draft season and this inevitable Quarterback Carousel to keep us entertained over the next few months.

Heartbreaking Ending For Cincinnati

Credit: Elaine Thompson (Associated Press)

Let me start by saying, I’m absolutely gutted for the city of Cincinnati, Bengals fans, and that entire Bengals locker room and coaching staff. I really felt like this Cinderella story deserved a happy ending. The run that Joe Burrow and the 2021/22 Bengals put together was magical, and really deserved a title to crown it. Certainly, that was my pick, my bet, and what I was invested in. Everything started well, with Mickey Guyton comfortably dragging out the last 3 lines of the National Anthem over 30+ seconds to make sure the over hit. But then… everything spiralled downwards. I should have known the game – as I wanted it to play out – was cursed from the moment Billie Jean King (a legend, an icon) landed the coin toss on Heads. Pain. How does Tails fail TWO YEARS IN A ROW?! Ugh. Then… the Opening Kickoff? 8 of the last 10 in the Super Bowl have not been a touchback. Brandon Powell allowed the ball to bounce NO MORE than 1 yard deep in the endzone, and decided not to return it. What a heartbreaker. I should have known then, this Super Bowl was not going to end happily for me, or anybody cheering for the Bengals. 

And yet, they hung in. After failing to convert a 4th down around midfield, the Rams were in control following OBJ’s opening score. But Zac Taylor’s squad didn’t blink, and even called up some razzle-dazzle with Joe Mixon becoming the 5th non-QB all-time to throw a TD pass in the Super Bowl, hitting Tee Higgins for 6. Higgins himself had a huge game, with a 2nd TD to open the second half after… maybe/definitely fouling Jalen Ramsey, but it still proved to not be enough. Evan McPherson tied Adam Vinatieri’s record for most Field Goals in a single post-season, with 14 across 4 games. What a kicker he is. Ja’Marr Chase didn’t find the endzone but still caught one long bomb over the aforementioned Ramsey early on. The Bengals gave it their all. Their D-Line stopped the run, constantly limiting Akers, Michel & Henderson to minimal gains on the ground all night… Eli Apple didn’t have his best night (and was getting roundly roasted on social media as a result), but this Bengals defense can be proud of their efforts throughout the postseason. Stopping Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, AND Derrick Henry and the Titans in back-to-back weeks is one hell of an achievement. I’d love to say I see the Bengals back in this position regularly… but with the stacked nature of the AFC… you can’t count on that. The Bills, Chiefs, Chargers, Ravens, Browns, Titans, Colts and… Dolphins (let me dream) will all be fearsome competition next season. 

The Rams Cash In On Their Gamble

Credit: Sky Sports

Give the Rams their flowers though. The Rams mortgaged their future (LA hasn’t had a first round draft pick since they drafted Jared Goff 1st overall in 2016… and won’t again until 2024) for THIS exact triumph. In their house, in front of their “fans” (and a bunch of celebrity LA people)… this was Stan Kroenke’s dream. 3 years on from the disappointment of only scoring 3 points against Bill Belichick’s Patriots defense, Sean McVay got his hands on the Lombardi trophy after jettisoning Goff, and became the youngest Head Coach to ever win the Super Bowl in the process. The 36 year old made the big trade decision last summer, and went out and got him a QB who could win the big one. They plucked Matthew Stafford from Detroit, and went on a run to a championship. Was this Stafford’s best game ever? Not by a long shot. One interception wasn’t his fault, the other was basically an arm punt… but when it really mattered… Matt Stafford delivered for LA. And when they really needed a drive to go win the game – aided by some… interesting officiating calls… Stafford showed why the Rams went all-in to get him. 

The cast around him was key too. Cooper Kupp was the MVP, capping off one of the greatest WR season’s in NFL history. OBJ – before the horrible injury – looked truly back to his best, including a highlight reel opening touchdown catch. Von Miller and Aaron Donald had a pair of sacks each, and Donald made the back-to-back game clinching plays to stop the Bengals attempted game-winning drive. Donald was the only Ram who really had a claim to the MVP over Kupp, who interestingly is the first wide receiver to win the Super Bowl MVP without going over 100 yards in the last 45 years. But that doesn’t really matter for anybody in that Rams locker room. Will they be able to run it back next year? Certainly, they’ll be without Eric Weddle who instantly re-retired post-game, but would likely welcome back Robert Woods from his unfortunate injury this year. Any Rams notable free agents, you ask? Oh, just Von Miller, OBJ, Sony Michel, Joseph Noteboom, Troy Reeder, Darious Williams and a handful of others… Could they all be back? Potentially, but the Rams will likely have to do a bit of restructuring in order to put this team back together. I’m absolutely GUTTED for OBJ, but so happy he’s able to celebrate as a champion. The way he forced his way out of Cleveland left a very sour taste, but his talent and legacy is unquestionable. Fingers crossed his knee injury isn’t too serious, but it definitely felt like another ACL… sadly. 

Half-Time Show Masterclass

Credit: Tony Gutierrez (Associated Press)

It would be bad of me to not talk about perhaps the most memorable half-time show we’ve had since the Katy Perry “Left Shark” debacle. What a performance from the Hip-Hop Avengers. From the opening beat of “The Next Episode,” it was go-time. 50 Cent hanging upside down like in the “In Da Club” video? Electric. Dre & Snoop running through the back catalogue and Snoop Dogg crip-walking on International TV? Iconic. Mary J Blige? She still got it! “Family Affair” will always be a banger. Kendrick Lamar’s continued push into the upper echelons of the Musician Hall of Fame debate. And, of course, Marshall Mathers himself (who I actually thought we’d see and hear a lot more from) doing his thing with “Lose Yourself” before leading into the magisterial “Still D.R.E.” to close things out… Fantastic. If this wasn’t “your thing,” I urge you to wake up and reconsider your life. Good luck to whoever tries to top this next year in Arizona. 

That's All Folks...

So, that wraps up the 2021/22 NFL Season. A great year, with more games than ever before, and a hell of a lot of drama throughout. Let’s hope that by next season we won’t even need “covid designations,” and that maybe… just maybe… the coin toss in the Super Bowl might land on TAILS like it’s supposed to do… ugh. All jokes aside, I’d like to thank Si and the team at The Touchdown for the platform and opportunity to contribute to the site this season. It’s always fun and a great team to be a part of. Thank YOU for taking time to read this, whether this is the first column you’ve ever read from me, or if you’ve been following along all year. Cheers. It’s been a blast. I’m @CallumJDSquires on Twitter and Instagram. Come through and say hi. Have a great off-season. See you soon.

Callum Squires