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Rams surge late to defeat Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI

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Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp catches a touchdown pass in front of Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Eli Apple.
Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp catches a touchdown pass in front of Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Eli Apple late in the fourth quarter of a 23-20 Rams win in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium on Sunday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

The Rams won their first Super Bowl in Los Angeles on Sunday in a 23-20 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals at SoFi Stadium.

When it came to earning Super Bowl ring, Rams’ Aaron Donald answered the bell

Rams defensive end Aaron Donald walks on the field after defeating the Bengals in Super Bowl LVI Sunday.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Seated behind a dais in a makeshift interview room in SoFi Stadium, Aaron Donald was now unquestionably the most accomplished defensive player of his generation, a Super Bowl win added to a resumé that already included countless individual achievements.

He was also a father who kept a promise.

By his side was his 8-year-old daughter, Jaeda, who clutched a handful of blue, yellow and white rectangular strips of paper.

“We won it!” the girl squealed in delight.

Donald smiled.

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Police crack down on unruly Rams fans in downtown L.A.

Rams fans pose on top of and in front of a Los Angeles Metro bus with a sign that reads “Go Rams!”.
Rams fans pose on top of and in front of a Los Angeles Metro bus with a sign that reads “Go Rams!”. The bus was vandalized by revelers after the Rams won the Super Bowl.
(Kevin Rector / Los Angeles Times)

Police issued a dispersal order and shot projectiles after some revelers who gathered in downtown Los Angeles to celebrate the Rams’ Super Bowl win grew unruly.

Many of the hundreds of fans who converged near L.A. Live by 8 p.m., including Michael Gillette, 31, and his partner, just wanted to celebrate with the crowd. “It’s a wild night. We are glad we are here,” he said. “In L.A., we aren’t tearing things down, we are building things back.”

But at 11th and Hope streets just before 9 p.m., police cordoned off the area as fans shot off fireworks in the middle of the intersection. Multiple people climbed nearby street lights.

Police on bullhorns told people in the area that they were “risking serious injury” if they stayed, and declared an unlawful assembly on a loudspeaker from a truck. Some revelers left immediately, while others taunted officers, throwing glass bottles in their direction. Police fired projectiles at people as the crowd fled.

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Los Angeles, you’ve got another champion. Make room for the Rams

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford celebrates after his go-ahead touchdown to wide receiver Cooper Kupp.
Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford celebrates after his go-ahead touchdown to wide receiver Cooper Kupp late in the fourth quarter of a 23-20 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium on Sunday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Amid the blaring of blue and gold horns, on a super-sized Sunday fit for an ascension, the Los Angeles sports heavens just got a little more crowded.

Make room for the Rams.

Move over Lakers, back up Dodgers, everybody clear space for the oldest of friends, the newest of heroes, the prodigal sons turned Super Bowl champions.

Six years after returning to Los Angeles with helmet in hand, the Rams raised those helmets to the sky Sunday with a 23-20 victory over Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI at Sofi Stadium.

They won it after blowing an early 10-point lead and stumbling into a 10-point deficit. They won by coming back in the fourth quarter on a 79-yard, game-winning touchdown drive featuring the two stars who have carried them all season — quarterback Matthew Stafford and receiver Cooper Kupp.

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Matthew Stafford and Rams rally to beat Bengals for first L.A. Super Bowl title

Rams defensive end Aaron Donald celebrates his tackle of Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow.
Rams defensive end Aaron Donald celebrates his tackle of Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow to secure the Rams’ Super Bowl LVI victory at SoFi Stadium on Sunday.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Throughout their all-in, boom-or-bust season, Rams coach Sean McVay and his players stuck with a common refrain.

During winning and losing streaks, after comeback victories and embarrassing defeats, they opined that they were authoring their own story, and they intended to finish with a flourish.

On Sunday, in Super Bowl LVI they penned the final chapter.

And it was a pulsating finish.

The Rams defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 23-20 before 70,048 at SoFi Stadium to win the first Super Bowl title in Los Angeles Rams history.

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Rams win Super Bowl LVI, 23-20 win over Cincinnati Bengals

For the second time in their history, and the first while located in Los Angeles, the Rams are Super Bowl champions, knocking off the Cincinnati Bengals with a dramatic 23-20 win in Super Bowl LVI.

The winning score came in the final minutes, with Matthew Stafford finding Cooper Kupp for a go-ahead one-yard touchdown with 1:25 to play.

After leading 13-3 early in the game on touchdown catches from Odell Beckham Jr. and Kupp, the Rams gave up 17 straight points to the Bengals between the second and third quarters.

Joe Mixon threw a trick-play touchdown pass late in the second quarter. Tee Higgins hauled in a 75-yard touchdown catch on the first play of the second half. And the Bengals added a field goal after Stafford threw his second interception of the game on the ensuing drive.

The Rams got back within four with a field goal later in the third quarter. But without Beckham Jr., who left the game before halftime with a scary-looking knee injury, or any consistent production in the running game, the offense looked out of sorts, going three-and-out on three straight drives.

However, they came to life again late, orchestrating a 75-yard scoring drive at the end to become the second team in NFL history to win a Super Bowl in their home building.

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Bengals turn the ball over on downs

After the Rams went ahead, the Bengals got to midfield before turning the ball over on downs, effectively ending the game.

The Rams are 39 seconds away from winning Super Bowl LVI.

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Rams retake the lead, 23-20, on a Cooper Kupp touchdown catch

With under two minutes to play, the Rams have retaken the lead.

On second and goal from the one-yard line, Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp connected for a go-ahead touchdown on a back shoulder fade, putting the Rams back in front 23-20 with 1:25 to play in regulation.

It was the end of a methodical 15-play, 75 yard drive that gives the Rams the lead for the first time since the start of the second half.

Prior to the score, the Rams had to convert a fourth and one from deep in their own territory and a third and two near midfield.

Facing another third down at the Bengals eight-yard line, the Rams got a reprieve thanks to a Bengals defensive holding penalty.

On the next play, Matthew Stafford connected with Kupp in the end zone for what initially seemed like a go-ahead touchdown, only for offsetting penalties by both teams to wipe away the down.

But finally, after another Bengals holding call put the ball at the one-yard line, the Rams punched it in, leaving just 85 seconds left for the Bengals to try and come back.

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When was the last time the Super Bowl went into overtime?

Of the first 55 Super Bowls, only one went into overtime, the New England Patriots’ 34-28 comeback victory over the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI.

The Falcons famously held a 28-3 lead late in the third quarter before the Patriots, three-point favorites, scored three touchdowns and a field goal on their final four drives of regulation to tie the score 28-28.

New England won the overtime coin flip and easily moved down the field, covering 75 yards in eight plays, the last of which was a two-yard touchdown by running back James White, his third of the game. Under the NFL’s overtime rules, a touchdown on the opening drive automatically ends a game. This has become a great source of controversy in recent years, especially in the 2022 postseason.

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Rams defense applying pressure, but offense struggling without Odell Beckham Jr.

Rams running back Cam Akers is tackled by Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Logan Wilson.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The Rams’ defense forced a third straight punt from the Bengals after once again burying Joe Burrow with pressure.

The unit has six sacks this half — including two from Von Miller, who has tied a Super Bowl record with 4 1/2 career sacks in the game — and seven in the game (Burrow appeared to be limping after the latest sack but is staying in the game).

The Rams’ offense, however, continues to struggle, going three-and-out for their third consecutive possession since the failed trick play led to a field goal.

With 9:58 to go, the Bengals are getting the ball back leading 20-16.

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Odell Beckham Jr. exits Super Bowl with knee injury, will not return

Rams wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is attended to by trainers after sustaining a knee injury.
Rams wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is attended to by trainers after sustaining a knee injury against the Bengals on Sunday.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

With the clock ticking down in Sunday’s Super Bowl, the Rams are playing without one of the best playmakers.

Sprinting across the middle of the field, star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. — who’d come up huge already with a leaping touchdown grab and another long catch — prepared to haul in a short pass from Matthew Stafford. The ball went careening off his fingertips, however, as his left knee appeared to buckle.

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Bengals lead Rams 20-16 entering fourth quarter

Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) leaves the field
Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford leaves the field during the third quarter.
(Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times)

The Rams settled down after allowing 10 quick points to begin the third quarter, but still trail entering the fourth.

The Rams defense has forced two straight punts, the first time the Bengals have punted on consecutive drives tonight, and L.A. currently has the ball just across midfield. But its offense hasn’t looked the same since the knee injury to Odell Beckham Jr., whom the team has officially ruled out for the rest of the game.

Rams receiver Odell Beckham Jr. falls after injuring his knee during the first half of Super Bowl LVI.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

With 15 minutes to play, it remains 20-16 Bengals.

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Dr. Dre leads giant win for hip-hop in electrifying, ambitious Super Bowl halftime show

Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg perform during the Super Bowl LVI halftime show at SoFi Stadium.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Hip-hop finally came to the Super Bowl on Sunday when Dr. Dre led a team of his closest collaborators in a festive, funky, thoroughly trunk-rattling halftime show.

Decades into the genre’s domination of pop music — but not too soon for the famously conservative National Football League — Dre took over the field at Inglewood’s SoFi Stadium, close to where he grew up in Compton, alongside Snoop Dogg, Mary J. Blige, Eminem and Kendrick Lamar for a nearly 14-minute spectacle that included some of the biggest rap hits of the last 30 years. 50 Cent, who hadn’t been announced in advance, also showed up to do his indelible “In Da Club,” which Dre co-produced.

The show, which came midway through the Los Angeles Rams’ hometown championship game against the Cincinnati Bengals, was a proud celebration of Black L.A. from the get-go, playing out on a set done up with architectural replicas of Tam’s Burgers, Randy’s Donuts and the Compton courthouse.

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Rams get a field goal, but still trail 20-16 after failed trick play

After a couple of key first-down conversions got the Rams inside the Bengals’ 25-yard line, Sean McVay dialed up a trick play their third third-down of the drive.

On third and 5, the Rams did a double reverse that ended with Cooper Kupp trying to throw a pass to quarterback Matthew Stafford out of the backfield. Stafford was open in the flat, but Kupp missed him, forcing the Rams to settle for a field goal.

It’s now 20-16 Bengals with 5:58 left in the third quarter.

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Bengals get interception, add a field goal to make it 20-13

Things are going from bad to worse for the Rams to begin the third quarter.

After the Bengals’ go-ahead touchdown, the Rams turned the ball over on the first play of their ensuing drive when Matthew Stafford’s pass hit off the hands of receiver Ben Skowronek and was picked off by Bengals cornerback Chidobe Awuzie.

That set the Bengals up for another score, as kicker Evan McPherson nailed a 38-yard field goal to make it 20-13.

The Bengals might have found the end zone on the drive — which had been extended by Joe Burrow’s fourth-down scramble earlier in the possession — if not for an Aaron Donald sack with the Bengals at the Rams’ 11-yard line.

Still, that’s now 17 unanswered points from the Bengals, whose fans are making all the noise in SoFi Stadium with 10:15 to play in the third quarter.

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Photos: Celebrities show up in force for Rams-Bengals match-up in Super Bowl LVI

There’s nothing like a big event in L.A.

And Super Bowl LVI featuring the Los Angeles Rams playing in their home stadium brought out the stars.

A masked man holds up his cellphone to show a photo on its screen.
Rapper Jay Z shows a photos on his cellphone before Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Two women and a man have a group hug.
Charlize Theron, center, is greeted by Matt Damon and Luciana Barroso as they attend Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium.
(Ronald Martinez / Getty Images)
Two women seated at a football game.
Ellen DeGeneres, left, and Portia de Rossi attend Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium.
(Kevin Mazur / Getty Images)
A serious-looking man with a black face mask under his chin.
Big Boy attends Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium.
(Steph Chambers / Getty Images)
A smiling woman in a blue shirt sits at field level at a football game.
Issa Rae attends Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium.
(Kevin Mazur / Getty Images)
A hooded man dressed entirely in black next to two men in colorful shirts at a football game.
Ye, left, Tyga and YG attend Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium.
(Kevin Mazur / Getty Images)

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Bengals take 17-13 lead on first play of second half

Cincinnati Bengals celebrate after a touchdown
The Cincinnati Bengals celebrate after a touchdown in the third quarter of Super Bowl LVI.
(Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times)

The second half is underway ... and the Bengals have taken the lead.

On the first play from scrimmage in the second half, Joe Burrow connected with Tee Higgins for a 75-yard touchdown pass that puts the Bengals in front for the first time today, 17-13.

Burrow rolled out of the pocket and seemed to have a running lane, but instead aired a pass deep down the sideline for Higgins, who hit the brakes to free himself from Jalen Ramsey before running the ball to the house.

Ramsey, whose facemask appeared to be grabbed by Higgins during the play, looked for an offensive pass interference flag, but none came. Instead, the momentum has shifted moments into the third quarter.

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Photos: Rams vs. Bengals in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium

The Rams lead the Bengals 13-10 at halftime in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium.

Here’s a look at some of the best photos of the game so far from the Los Angeles Times’ team of photographers at the stadium.

 Rams wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is tended to after being injured.
Rams wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is tended by team trainers during the second quarter.
(Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)
Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford avoids a tackle in first quarter.
Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford avoids a tackle by Bengals defensive end Sam Hubbard during the first quarter.
(Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)
 Rams defenders gang tackle Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon.
Rams defenders gang tackle Bengals running back Joe Mixon during the first quarter.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase makes a one-handed catch while defended by Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey.
Bengals wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase makes a one-handed catch while defended by Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey during the first quarter.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
 Rams wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. pulls in a touchdown reception.
Rams wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. pulls down a reception in front of Bengals cornerback Mike Hilton for the first touchdown of the game.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Bengals cornerback Chidobe Awuzie (22) tackles Rams running back Cam Akers on a sweep.
Bengals cornerback Chidobe Awuzie tackles Rams running back Cam Akers on a sweep during the first quarter.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

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SoFi Stadium may have the Super Bowl, but Inglewood Park Cemetery has the legends

Etta James' marker at Inglewood Cemetery, final resting place to a number of famous singers and actors.
Etta James’ marker at Inglewood Cemetery, final resting place to a number of famous singers and actors.
(Mary McNamara / Los Angeles Times)

A phalanx of black Escalades stuttered down Prairie Avenue, their police escorts bleating and blaring, but Big Mama Thornton paid them no mind.

Tour buses belched and hooted west on Florence and Manchester, shimmying their way to SoFi Stadium, but Etta James, Ray Charles and Ella Fitzgerald remained unperturbed. And if Chet Baker, Billy Preston and T-Bone Walker were at all impressed by the hullabaloo of Super Bowl LVI, they did not say.

The shadows of aircraft, so large they count as shade on a hot day, act as constant reminder that SoFi’s biggest and most demanding neighbor is LAX. But far closer than that bustling tangle of humanity is Inglewood Park Cemetery.

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Mary J. Blige is — really, seriously, finally — done with drama (for now)

Mary J. Blige answers a question during a news conference on Thursday.
(Morry Gash / Associated Press)

When Mary J. Blige turned 50 last year, the best birthday present she received didn’t come from a friend or a colleague or a member of her family.

“Man, the best present was the one I got me,” the R&B star says with a laugh, recalling a lavish trip to Turks and Caicos that she documented with a series of striking swimsuit photos that quickly went viral online. “I remember I was just playing music all day long — ‘Alright’ by Kendrick [Lamar] — and me and my girlfriends were bouncing and dancing and having a good time.

“But really I was just happy that I made it to 50. I cried happy tears.”

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What is the record of teams who led at halftime of the Super Bowl?

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase, top, is tacked during the first half.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Teams that have taken a halftime lead at the Super Bowl are 40-11 (four Super Bowls have been tied at the half). Teams who have led by three points or fewer at the half, however, are 4-5.

In their four previous Super Bowls, in Los Angeles and St. Louis, the Rams — who led the Cincinnati Bengals 13-10 at halftime of Super Bowl 56 — have led in two Super Bowls, ultimately losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1980 and defeating the Tennessee Titans in 2000. They trailed in their two other Super Bowl trips, losing to the Patriots both times, in 2002 and 2019.

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Halftime stat check: Little separating Rams, Bengals through two quarters

Snoop Dogg, performs during halftime of the Super Bowl at SoFi Stadium
Snoop Dogg performs during halftime of the Super Bowl at SoFi Stadium.
(Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times)

As Dr. Dre and company take the stage for the Super Bowl halftime show, here are a couple notable stats from the first 30 minutes.

Matthew Stafford started the game well, completing 12 of 18 passes for 165 yards and two touchdowns. He did throw one interception, but it was on a third and long on a deep pass into the Cincinnati end zone.

Stafford also spread the ball around, finding seven different receivers. Odell Beckham Jr. led the way with 52 yards and a touchdown, but his status for the second half is in question after exiting the game with a knee injury.

Cooper Kupp had three grabs for 40 yards and a touchdown.

The Rams’ running game wasn’t nearly as effective, amassing just 26 yards on 12 carries.

Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow also had a strong first half. He completed 12 of 18 throws for 114 yards — most of them going to Ja’Marr Chase (three catches, 62 yards), Tee Higgins (three catches, 25 yards) and Tyler Boyd (three catches, 23 yards).

Running back Joe Mixon ran the ball seven times for 40 yards and also threw a touchdown pass on a trick play late in the second quarter that got the Bengals back within three points.

Most of the clubs’ team stats were close to equal. The Rams had 184 total yards, the Bengals 155. The Rams had eight first downs, the Bengals nine. And the Rams possessed the ball for only 2:20 longer than Cincinnati.

The biggest difference so far: The Bengals had to settle for a field goal on one of their trips to the red zone. The Rams punched it in each time they got close (though they did miss an extra point).

The Bengals will get the ball first in the second half.

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Rams lead 13-10 at halftime

The Bengals couldn’t take advantage of Matthew Stafford’s interception, instead forced to punt after Leonard Floyd recorded the Rams’ first sack of the game.

The Rams got the ball back on their own 41-yard line with 30 seconds remaining, but couldn’t get into field-goal range before halftime.

At the break, the Rams lead 13-10.

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Odell Beckham Jr. exits Super Bowl with knee injury, will not return

Rams and Bengals players kneel as Rams wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is attended to by trainers.
Rams and Bengals players kneel as Rams wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is attended to by trainers during the Super Bowl.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

With the clock ticking down in Sunday’s Super Bowl, the Rams will be without one of their top playmakers the rest of the way.

Sprinting across the middle of the field, star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. — who’d come up huge already with a leaping touchdown grab and another long catch — prepared to haul in a short pass from Matthew Stafford. The ball went careening off his fingertips, however, as his left knee appeared to buckle.

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Matthew Stafford pass picked off in end zone

Cincinnati Bengals free safety Jessie Bates (30) catches an interception
Cincinnati Bengals safety Jessie Bates intercepts a pass by Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford in the end zone.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Despite an apparent knee injury to Odell Beckham Jr., the Rams got across midfield again before Matthew Stafford made his first mistake of the game, tossing an interception on a long pass into the end zone.

On a third and 14 from the Bengals’ 43-yard line, Stafford scrambled to his left and tried to hit Van Jefferson on a deep throw, but the pass was cut off by Jessie Bates III. It was Stafford’s second interception of the playoffs, though it effectively amounted to no more than an arm punt.

The Bengals were assessed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty during the celebration, so they’ll only start from their 10 on the other side of the two-minute warning.

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Jay-Z’s Roc Nation remade the Super Bowl halftime show, but NFL’s record on race casts long shadow

The team behind the Super Bowl halftime show at SoFi Stadium.
The team behind the Super Bowl halftime show, from left, Jeannae Rouzan-Clay, producer; Adam Blackstone, musical director; Dionne Harmon, co-executive producer; Desiree Perez, CEO, Roc Nation; Jesse Collins, executive producer; Bruce Rodgers, production designer; Jana Fleishman, executive vice president, Roc Nation; and Lila Nikole, wardrobe stylist.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

The paint was still wet on the field at SoFi Stadium as Desiree Perez strode toward the 50-yard line, a pair of ringing-and-dinging smartphones tucked inside her boxy leather handbag.

Perez, the chief executive of Roc Nation, superstar rapper Jay-Z’s wide-ranging entertainment firm, had dropped in at the Inglewood stadium last week as part of preparation for the Super Bowl halftime show her company is producing for Sunday’s game — an all-star hip-hop blowout featuring Dr. Dre, who helped pioneer West Coast rap while coming up in nearby Compton, along with Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige and Kendrick Lamar.

It was just past 8 a.m., but already there were set pieces to approve, musical mixes to hear, sight lines to investigate — and, as one NFL rep gently reminded Perez, freshly sprayed turf to avoid spiking with her stiletto heels.

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Bengals score on trick play, cut Rams lead to 13-10

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins catches a touchdown pass in front of Rams safety Nick Scott.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins catches a touchdown pass in front of Rams safety Nick Scott during the second quarter of Super Bowl LVI.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Just when it looked like the Rams were gaining control of the game, the Bengals used a trick play to find the end zone for the first time today.

On second and goal from the Rams’ six-yard line, running back Joe Mixon took a pitch from quarterback Joe Burrow and pulled up to throw, finding Tee Higgins in the corner of the end zone to cut the Rams’ lead to 13-10.

It capped a much-needed 12-play, 75-yard drive that included a long run by Mixon and key third-down receptions by Tee Higgins and Ja’Marr Chase.

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase is tackled by Rams safety Nick Scot.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The Rams are getting the ball back with 5:47 remaining in the second quarter.

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Rams lead 13-3 after Cooper Kupp touchdown grab

Inglewood, CA - February 13: Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9)
Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford is back to pass during the second quarter.
(Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times)

The Rams opened the second quarter with their best possession of the game, going 75 yards on a six-play drive that was capped by a 10-yard touchdown pass from Matthew Stafford to Cooper Kupp.

The Rams only got six points, after holder Johnny Hekker dropped the ball on the extra point, but still extended their lead to 13-3 with 12:51 to play before halftime.

Stafford is already 9 for 10 with 127 yards and two touchdowns. Kupp has 31 yards on two catches. And Odell Beckham Jr, who had a key 35-yard reception on a third and 11 earlier in the drive, has 52 yards on two grabs.

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Two Rams fans had a lot riding on Odell Beckham Jr. scoring game’s first TD

Rams wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. makes his way to the field during pregame warmups before Super Bowl LVI.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

When Odell Beckham Jr. hauled in the game’s first touchdown, Joey Keenan and Maguire Kelly erupted in joy — more so than the other Rams fans surrounding them. The reason, the two Florida State graduate students explained, was that they’d both bet on Beckham scoring the first touchdown. Keenan won $140, Kelly won $70.

“That was a euphoric experience, an out-of-body experience,” Kelly said.

Keenan, who grew up in West Hills, said he never would have believed that a Los Angeles team would be playing in the first Super Bowl hosted by the city in nearly 30 years.

“We just got the team five, six years ago — I never would have thought we’d be here,” he said. “But you know what, some dreams do come true.”

Keenan and Kelly, a Jacksonville resident, were at the Super Bowl with other students from Florida State’s sports management program. Tara Coffen, a Pasadena native, organized the trip with about 20 students.

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Ja’Marr Chase makes big catch, but Bengals settle for field goal

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase makes a catch as Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey defends
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase makes a catch as Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey defends during the first quarter of Super Bowl LVI.
(Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times)

After the Rams took the lead, the Bengals had a chance to respond with a touchdown of their own late in the first quarter thanks to a terrific, 46-yard catch from star receiver Ja’Marr Chase that put them in the red zone.

The Bengals’ drive stalled after that, though, with Joe Burrow throwing three straight incompletions from the 11-yard line and forcing his team to settle for a field goal.

It’s now 7-3 Rams at the end of the first quarter.

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Matthew Stafford is the first L.A. Rams quarterback to throw a Super Bowl touchdown

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford drops back to pass against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Matthew Stafford is not the first Rams quarterback to throw a touchdown in Super Bowl history.

Matthew Stafford, however, became the first Los Angeles Rams quarterback to throw a touchdown in the Super Bowl when he connected with Odell Beckham Jr. on a 17-yard strike in the first quarter of Super Bowl LVI.

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Rams lead 7-0 on Odell Beckham Jr. touchdown catch

Rams wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. pulls in a touchdown pass in front of Bengals cornerback Mike Hilton.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Gifted with great field position following the Bengals’ turnover on downs, the Rams marched straight down the field to open the scoring with a touchdown.

After a 20-yard Cooper Kupp catch-and-run helped the Rams get into the red zone, Matthew Stafford floated a perfect pass to Odell Beckham Jr. in the corner of the end zone for a 17-yard score.

It marks the first passing touchdown in Los Angeles Rams Super Bowl history and gives them a 7-0 lead with 6:22 remaining in the first quarter.

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Bengals turn the ball over on downs

Rams head coach Sean McVay congratulates defensive end Aaron Donald during the first half of Super Bowl LVI.
(Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

It didn’t take long to get the game’s first big coaching decision. And it backfired on Zac Taylor.

With his team facing a fourth and 1 from midfield on its opening drive — following a Rams punt to begin the game — the Bengals coach elected to keep him on the team and go for it.

Quarterback Joe Burrow’s pass, however, was broken up by linebacker Ernest Jones, forcing a turnover on downs that gives the Rams the ball in great field position.

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Rams and Bengals take the field; Rams will get ball first

The Rams and Bengals are on the field for Super Bowl LVI.

As part of the introduction of the two squads, Hall of Fame former Rams offensive lineman Orlando Pace and legendary Bengals running back Ickey Woods were shown on the videoboard. To the delight of Bengals fans, Woods did his famous “Ickey Shuffle” football spike.

Perhaps the one time today both fans will cheer together: When current Rams offensive lineman and former Bengals player Andrew Whitworth was recognized moments later for winning the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.

After that, Mickey Guyton sang the national anthem to conclude the pregame festivities.

The Bengals won the coin toss (the Rams, as the designated road team, picked tails but it was heads) and deferred to the second half. The Rams will begin the game with the ball.

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Bengals fans making noise at SoFi Stadium as kickoff nears

A Cincinnati Bengals fan walks to his seat before Super Bowl LVI begins.
A Bengals fan walks to his seat before Super Bowl LVI begins.
(Tony Gutierrez / Associated Press)

Less than an hour from kickoff, the stands at SoFi Stadium are almost halfway full. And so far, there is no shortage of black and orange in attendance.

With their team making its first Super Bowl appearance in more than 30 years, Bengals fans have shown up in force at the Rams’ home stadium and roared to life just at the sight of their players taking the field for warmups.

In both the tailgate lots and the stadium concourses, chants of “Who Dey!” have also echoed around Inglewood throughout the afternoon.

It won’t be a comforting sight for Rams fans, who were drowned out at home in Week 18 by visiting San Francisco 49ers fans.

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Aaron Donald said there’s a ‘strong possibility’ he’ll retire if Rams win Super Bowl

Rams defensive end Aaron Donald participates in a practice drill Friday in Thousand Oaks.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Aaron Donald told former player Rodney Harrison that if the Rams win the Super Bowl, he might retire.

The Rams All-Pro defensive tackle was interviewed by Harrison for a 12-minute pregame segment on NBC. After the interview aired Sunday, Harrison said that Donald told him off the air that he would consider retirement — if the Rams win.

Harrison was asked by Jac Collinsworth on the air what Donald thinks about his legacy. Harrison answered that Donald doesn’t want to be a defender that accomplished so many individual things but never won a Super Bowl.

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Super Bowl strategy: Rams’ primary objective for secondary is to tackle Bengals receivers

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase warms up before Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium on Sunday.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

With the fifth pick of the 2021 NFL draft, Cincinnati selects …

Back in April, a lot of experts thought the Bengals would go offensive lineman, specifically Penei Sewell.

Instead, they took wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, bolstering a group that already featured Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd. Nearly 1,500 receiving yards, 13 touchdowns and a Super Bowl berth later, no one is debating the decision to add Chase any longer.

With Joe Burrow as distributor, Cincinnati finished seventh in the NFL in passing offense and eighth in points during the regular season.

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Who is the SoFi Stadium architect?

The view from the lake at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles on Feb. 9 as workers make last-minute preparations for Super Bowl LVI.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

SoFi Stadium began allowing fans into the site last spring, but Sunday’s Super Bowl LVI, with an expected global viewership of more than 145 million, is in many ways the venue’s true debut. And what a debut it will be.

The 3.1-million-square-foot $5-billion arena has plenty of superlatives attached to it. It’s the largest stadium in the NFL. It’s the league’s first indoor-outdoor stadium. And the stands’ steep vertical pitch allows fans to get startlingly close to the action. Hell, if you bathe in money and can afford one of the field cabanas, you could very well have a defensive lineman land in your beer.

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Bengals’ Joe Mixon is weapon the Rams must load up to stop

Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon runs through the Kansas City Chiefs defense.
Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon runs through the Kansas City Chiefs defense during the AFC championship game on Jan. 30.
(Reed Hoffmann / Associated Press)

Cincinnati had one Pro Bowl player in its backfield this season, and that player wasn’t Joe Burrow.

Instead, it was another Joe — Joe Mixon — who finished third in yards rushing (1,205) and fourth in rushing touchdowns (13) in the NFL.

“It’s heartwarming, honestly,” Mixon said this week about his season. “I truly feel like I’m living in a movie right now.”

The only question remaining is this: Can Mixon turn the game Sunday into a horror show for the Rams?

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Super Bowl strategy: Behind weak Bengals line, Joe Burrow must be in rush vs. Rams

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow warms up at SoFi Stadium before Super Bowl LVI on Sunday.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

Isaiah Prince will appear in his 23rd career NFL game — including the playoffs — on Sunday in Super Bowl LVI.

None of the first 22 included Aaron Donald.

“He plays with that aggression, that passion,” Cincinnati’s 24-year-old right tackle said. “His talent. His technique. His hands. He’s always playing hard. It’s what everybody speaks about.”

At this stage, it is pretty safe to assume that imagining what it’s like to play against Donald, the Rams’ all-universe defensive tackle, is nothing like actually playing against him.

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Super Bowl-bound Bengals have taken the city of Cincinnati by storm

Jim Foster (center, with glasses) cheers on his Cincinnati Bengals.
(Courtesy of Jim Foster)

He sat in the bar he owns, the one just down the street from Paul Brown Stadium, the one that opened nearly 11 years ago but never has been more perfectly named than now.

The Holy Grail.

Jim Moehring first described the victory that caused him to tear up, then the one that netted his bar a game ball, and finally the triumph that stunk of sweet cigar smoke.

Three weeks. Three wins. One topic.

Cincinnati’s NFL team.

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Super Bowl fans and merchants get fired up outside SoFi Stadium

Rams and Bengals fans stand outside of SoFi Stadium before the start of Super Bowl LVI on Sunday.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Sunday afternoon may be all about football, but Super Bowl Sunday morning was all about commerce.

On the streets leading up to SoFi Stadium, where the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals take to the field at 3:30 PST, intrepid entrepreneurs held up cardboard signs hawking parking spots for $200. And $250. And $400. And, for the truly desperate, $450.

Residents stood outside their homes selling tacos for $10, Fireball shots for $5, popcorn, snacks, even phone chargers. Warned one vendor voice of doom: “Your phone’s gonna die, I promise.”

Disinformation, however, was free. A woman in a T-shirt proclaiming, “Where there is risk there must be choice,” brandished a big, black sign that said, “COVID-19 vaccines have no long term safety data.”

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Have the Cincinnati Bengals ever won a Super Bowl?

Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow wearing sunglasses.
Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow speaks during media day at UCLA on Friday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

When the San Francisco 49ers held a 10-point lead over the Los Angeles Rams in the second half of the NFC Championship game on Jan. 30, it appeared the Cincinnati Bengals were headed for a rare triple: a third Super Bowl showdown against the 49ers.

In 1982 the Bengals and 49ers, both coming off losing seasons, were playing in their first Super Bowl. Each team had reached the Super Bowl by winning memorable conference championships games, one famous for the cold, the other for The Catch (called by Vin Scully). In the Super Bowl the Bengals fell behind 20-0 at the half to the Joe Montana-led 49ers before rallying behind three Ken Anderson touchdowns in the second half of a 26-21 loss.

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Scorching Super Bowl might get slight reprieve as Santa Ana winds die down, heat tempers

Fans gather outside SoFi Stadium before the start of Super Bowl LVI on Sunday.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

The scorching Super Bowl in Inglewood could get a bit of a reprieve.

This morning Santa Ana winds have died, and by Super Bowl game time at 3:30 pm. an 8-10 mph westerly wind should start cooling things.

“A typical sea breeze kind of wind,” said David Sweet, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard.

Temperatures at kickoff will be about 80 degrees, falling to 68 by the end of the game, while humidity will rise to 40% in the evening, Sweet said.

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Rams fanatic, 91, shows deep roots Super Bowl team has in Los Angeles

Lewis Lazarus, 91, attends a game at SoFi Stadium.
Lewis Lazarus, 91, is one of many old-time Rams fans who have been around long enough to see them come to town, leave and come back. And win a title in 1951.
(Gary Klein / Los Angeles Times)

Lewis Lazarus would go to the game, but he doesn’t get around so well anymore.

“Three days ago, I started using a cane and it already bugs the hell out me,” he said. “I want to throw that cane in the ocean.”

He would watch the game on television with his immediate family, but his parents have passed, his sister has passed, his son has passed, and he no longer has any living relatives.

“I guess the Rams are the last family I have,” he said.

Like all the most longtime of Los Angeles Rams fans — an ancient and resilient bunch unmatched in this city’s sports landscape — the 91-year-old Lazarus will watch Super Bowl LVI on Sunday between the Rams and Cincinnati Bengals surrounded mostly by memories and dreams.

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How long will Mickey Guyton take to sing the Super Bowl national anthem? Why the answer is trending

Country singer Mickey Guyton
Country singer Mickey Guyton is performing the national anthem at Super Bowl LVI on Sunday.
(William DeShazer / For The Times)

Country superstar Mickey Guyton is performing the national anthem at this year’s Super Bowl, and there’s more than one reason viewers will be tuning in to the trailblazing singer-songwriter‘s powerful take on “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

The length of the national anthem — how long Guyton’s version will last — is the subject of many sports wagers Sunday.

In the last 15 years, piano man Billy Joel has clocked the shortest national anthem performance at 1 minute and 30 seconds; pop superstar Alicia Keys delivered the longest rendition at 2 minutes and 35 seconds, according to statistics provided by TheScore.com. On average, Super Bowl national anthems tend to go for 1 minute and 56 seconds. Before the game, the betting line set Guyton’s over-under at 1 minute and 38 seconds, according to CBS News.

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Photos: Fans get their game face on as Rams, Bengals meet in Super Bowl LVI

Game on.

For the second year in a row, a team playing in the Super Bowl gets to play in its own stadium.

Advantage: fans.

Fans sit on a sign for Super Bowl LVI outside of SoFi Stadium
Fans sit on a sign for Super Bowl LVI outside of SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday before the game between the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals.
(Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times)
Football fans in colorful hats watch players warm up on the field before Super Bowl LVI game
Football fans watch players warm up on the field before the Super Bowl LVI game between the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals in SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday.
(Lynne Sladky/Associated Press)
Rams and Bengals fans sport their team's colors before Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium.
Rams and Bengals fans sport their team’s colors Sunday before Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood.
(Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times)

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Do players get extra money for playing in and winning the Super Bowl?

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow stretches before a team practice session.
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow stretches before a team practice session Saturday.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

According to the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement, players can line their pockets with a few extra thousand depending on if their side hoists the Lombardi Trophy on Sunday.

Players on the winning team will receive $150,000, while the losers will get $75,000. In stark defiance of the Notorious B.I.G.’s famous 1997 hit, more money actually represents fewer problems for players Sunday.

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Rams fan believes Super Bowl win will put team on the L.A. map

A Rams fan looks over the field before the start of Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium on Sunday.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Nelson Quintanilla bought his ticket to the Super Bowl in August. A Rams fan, Quintanilla, 52, hoped his team would be playing but planned to go whether they made it or not. That they’re competing for a title Sunday made it all that sweeter, he said.

It’s critical that the Rams win Sunday, Quintanilla said. He’s tired of seeing the stands at SoFi Stadium half-filled with fans of the visiting team.

When Quintanilla bought his ticket in August, it cost $8,500, he said, compared with the $3,500 his cousin paid for a ticket this weekend. The drop in price, he said, underscores the apparent indifference of many Angelenos when it comes to supporting the hometown team.

But a Rams win on Sunday, he said, would grow its fan base and win the allegiance of a city that values results over anything else.

“L.A. is about winning. The Kings, the Lakers, the Clippers — they have to be on top,” he said.

Quintanilla took an Uber Black from Glendale to SoFi, paying $56, he said. The ride took just 25 minutes, but “the walk to get in took longer than the ride,” he said.

“It’s beautiful,” he said, standing in front of the lake outside SoFi Stadium, surrounded by crowds of people who, like him, were sporting blue and gold. “Perfect weather. Perfect people.”

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Why are the Rams the road team vs. Bengals in Super Bowl LVI?

Rams team takes the field on Jan. 30.
Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford, right, and his teammates take the field to play the 49ers on Jan. 30.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

That’s right. Time for the Cincinnati Bengals to toe their familiar turf at SoFi Stadium in front of the hometown Los Angeles fans, as the visiting Rams march in.

Wait ... what?

The Rams, despite playing Sunday’s Super Bowl on their home field, are not officially the home team. That honor would go to the Bengals, because the NFL has fun quirks.

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‘Patriotism is inclusion’: Mickey Guyton on performing the national anthem at the Super Bowl

Mickey Guyton strikes a pose.
“I want to be able to proudly wave my American flag and sometimes it’s really difficult to do, watching what’s going on in this country,” says Mickey Guyton.
(Phylicia J. Munn)

Mickey Guyton is known to most as the country singer who broke barriers with her Grammy-nominated song “Black Like Me,” and for her career dedicated to diversifying the overwhelmingly white and male genre. But, in high school back in Texas, she was known as the “national anthem girl.”

“The national anthem is my song,” says Guyton, 38, who will sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Sunday’s Super Bowl at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood. “The first time I sung it was at a basketball game when I was 13, and I kept my eyes closed the whole time. But then they asked me to sing at every game after that.”

Guyton’s musical ambitions began with the anthem, in fact: it was watching LeAnn Rimes belt the song, as a little girl at a baseball game, that hooked Guyton into country music, and it was listening to Whitney Houston’s famous interpretation that showed her that Black women could not only succeed in entertainment but be the best in the game.

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Inglewood residents taking in the Super Bowl experience with good food and optimism

Less than a block away from the stadium along East Arbor Vitae, two Inglewood residents sat comfortably in the shade outside of their home.

Next door, their neighbors put out a wooden table to watch the Super Bowl game on their flat-screen TV.

The aroma of Jerk chicken and tacos masked the smell of gasoline exhaust of shuttles driving up and down the street to transport the media.

“Ooooh! You drew me here!” a women working the Super Bowl event told the man grilling chicken.

“It’s smelling good up in here!” said a group of women wearing Rams jerseys as they headed for SoFi Stadium.

Locals cruised on bicycles up and down the street designated to funnel media into the stadium.

Lisa Smith couldn’t get a ticket to the big game, but she wasn’t missing out on today’s festivities. The way her neighbors were celebrating, she felt like she right in the middle of it.

“Good energy,” she said. “The weather plays a big part.”

She sat outside with January, who declined to give her last name. They sat on lawn chairs and sold water bottles for $2.

“Cincinnati turned out,” said Smith, who has lived in the area for 15 years. “I’ve seen more of them walk by than Rams.”

Although she’s rooting for L.A., she said the turnout for Cincinnati is good news for the city.

“The big turnout means more money for the city,” she said.

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Ready to cheer on the Bengals and ... Chargers?

Alida Campbell and son PJ Campbell stand outside SoFi Stadium before Super Bowl LVI on Sunday.
(Brittny Mejia / Los Angeles Times)

Alida Campbell, 49, came with her 19-year-old son, PJ Campbell. Both of them are Huntington Beach residents, but you wouldn’t be able to tell that from Alida’s Bengals jersey.

“I’ve been a fan for 25 years,” she said, drawn to what she called the underdog team. “I’ve waited for this day for 25 years.”

She attended every playoff game, even going to Nashville alone.

“It would be bad luck to not come to the Super Bowl, right? Because I was at every game,” she said.

PJ, however, wore a Chargers jersey. He wanted to wear it “because it’s my stadium.”

“I’ve always messed around with her about the Chargers being the better team,” he said. “I realized this year that the Bengals actually had a good shot of coming all the way here.”

On the shuttle ride to the stadium, he told his mom, “Who’d have thought we’d be coming to the Super Bowl in L.A. for a Bengals game.”

“It’s the year of the tiger,” she said, before using an oft-used phrase from Bengals fans: “Who Dey.”

Alida said she’s heard all the jokes about being a local cheering for who people call the “bungles.”

“I never wavered. This is my team.”

She even has a shirt that says, “This California girl is loyal to Cincinnati.”

“This means everything to me,” she said.

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Rams eager to ‘finish this deal’ and win Super Bowl on home turf vs. Bengals

Rams coach Sean McVay stands on the field before a win over the Minnesota Vikings in December.
(Bruce Kluckhohn / Associated Press)

There could not be a more perfect scenario for the star-studded Rams.

Six years after returning from St. Louis, they fulfilled a mandate to play in Super Bowl LVI at owner Stan Kroenke’s $5-billion SoFi Stadium. Coach Sean McVay and his team have spent two weeks preparing at their own practice facility — and sleeping in their own beds.

On Sunday, they will play the AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals with an opportunity to celebrate a victory on their home turf.

All they must do is complete the final step and win.

“Just like any other Sunday — it just happens to be a Super Bowl and the biggest game of our lives,” Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald said, adding, “One last game to let everything hang out and find a way to win …. Couldn’t write it no better.”

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Have the Los Angeles Rams ever won a Super Bowl?

The Rams have won a Super Bowl.

The Los Angeles Rams, however, have yet to win a Super Bowl.

During the franchise’s 22-year L.A. sabbatical, the Rams went to two Super Bowls in St. Louis, winning the 2000 title on a Mike Jones tackle of the Titans’ Kevin Dyson at the one as time expired, and losing two years later to the Patriots on Adam Vinatieri’s field goal as time expired.

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Bengals fans showing up in force at SoFi Stadium

Bengals fans were out in full force at the Player’s Tailgate event at SoFi Stadium, their cheers slightly muffling those of Rams fans after a DJ’s call. Bunches of people dotted the venue’s red carpet, and shade from the sweltering sun was hard to find.

“Hot,” said Bengals fan Julie Wirtz when asked about her first impression of Los Angeles.

A Cincinnati resident, Wirtz was on a family vacation in Florida when she made a spur-of-the-moment decision to attend the game. Leaving her husband with their 1-month-old and 5-year-old children, she packed her Bengals jersey and hopped on a plane to watch her team in the big game.

“I left my family on the beach in Naples, Florida, boarded a plane last night and got in at 10 p.m.,” she said. “I stay till tomorrow morning when I board the plane hungover.”

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The team America is rooting for in Super Bowl LVI according to Twitter is ...