The Super Bowl Report: Sorry Bengals, it’s a guaranteed victory for the Rams
Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.
Bill Plaschke on the Super Bowl: No doubt about it, Rams will win the Super Bowl.
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This one is so basic, even the buzz that surrounds my 5-17 Super Bowl prediction record can be ignored.
Yes, I was once wrong 11 straight times. Yes, I once picked the Buffalo Bills for three straight years. Yes, in the last Super Bowl, I was as flattened as the Kansas City Chiefs.
No, I’m not very good at this.
But, yes, truly, this one is different, this one is simple, this one is Plaschke-proof.
The winner of Super Bowl LVI on Sunday between the Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals at SoFi Stadium will be decided by something as obvious as a punch in the mouth.
The Rams have the bigger swing. The Rams have the stronger jab. The Rams are heavyweights. The Bengals are not.
Quite simply and rather quickly, the Rams are going to knock them out.
Rams 38, Bengals 10.
All the hype this week has been about the Bengals’ cool quarterback Joe Burrow and hot receiver Ja’Marr Chase and a surprisingly stifling defense. All the trendy narratives have the Bengals making every big play, peaking at the right time, a team of destiny.
“You could also say the same about us,” Rams safety Eric Weddle said.
Exactly. Precisely. Lost in all the Super Bowl week histrionics is the fact that everything the Bengals do, the Rams do better, and have done better, and will be doing so on their home field.
”Destiny and all that other stuff?” Weddle said. “All I see is us winning with zeros on the clock.”
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HEY, SLOW DOWN
From Mike DiGiovanna: The tone for a comeback that erased a 14-point halftime deficit in San Francisco’s 27-24 overtime win over the Rams on Jan. 9 was set in the final 38 seconds of the first half, when the 49ers drove 61 yards in six plays for a field goal to cut the Rams’ lead to 17-3.
The 49ers received the second-half kickoff and scored touchdowns on their next two possessions to tie the score at 17 before winning the regular-season finale in extra time.
The Rams can’t afford a similar letdown in Sunday’s Super Bowl LVI against the Cincinnati Bengals, who are extremely dangerous in the final two minutes before halftime.
The Bengals outscored opponents 80-49 in the last two minutes of the first half in 20 games this season — that’s 80 points in a total of 40 minutes. Their 63 points in that time frame of 17 regular-season games was the fourth highest in the NFL.
Quarterback Joe Burrow has thrived in hurry-up situations, completing 50 of 67 passes for 654 yards in the final two minutes before halftime, and rookie Ja’Marr Chase ranked first in the NFL in receiving yards (248) and catches of at least 20 yards (five) and tied for second in receiving scores (three) in that stretch.
“We have guys who can hit a home run at any time,” running back Joe Mixon said this past week. “Joe Burrow can slice and dice his way through defenses. We have receivers — Chase, [Tee] Higgins, [Tyler] Boyd — who at any moment can be a home run threat.”
SPEAKING FROM EXPERIENCE
From Sam Farmer and Gary Klein: Kurt Warner and Boomer Esiason have been there, done that.
Warner played in the Super Bowl three times, twice with the St. Louis Rams, including a victory over the Tennessee Titans in Super Bowl XXXIV to cap the 1999 season.
Eleven years earlier, Esiason started for the Cincinnati Bengals in a loss to the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XXIII.
So, Warner and Esiason know what Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford and Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow are experiencing as they prepare to play in the NFL’s marquee game for the first time.
Burrow, 25, was the top pick in the 2020 draft. Stafford, 34, was the top pick in 2009 — by the Detroit Lions.
“You got the young, gunslinging, next-generation [quarterback] against the guy who’s been in the league for 13 years,” Esiason, a CBS Sports analyst, said in a phone interview.
Stafford and Burrow weathered the two-week buildup to the Super Bowl with a poise similar to what they showed during their teams’ heart-thumping playoff runs. Now they will play in the biggest game of their careers.
Warner was in his second NFL season when he led the Rams to the Super Bowl for the first time.
“I just remember that I really wasn’t prepared for what was the Super Bowl,” Warner, an analyst for the NFL Network, said in a phone interview.
THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP
Gary Klein on the Rams: 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.”
The Rams began plotting for this day in January 2021 when they traded for star quarterback Matthew Stafford, adding him to a roster that included All-Pro players such as Donald and cornerback Jalen Ramsey. During the season they traded for star linebacker Von Miller and signed star receiver Odell Beckham Jr., and then topped it off by signing retired star safety Eric Weddle before the playoffs.
“Hey, we got one more game to go,” general manager Les Snead said. “We know the opportunity we have.”
In the traditional Super Bowl bet between competing elected officials, Cincinnati Mayor Aftab Pureval and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti agreed that the losing city’s mayor will wear the victorious team’s jersey, while the winning city’s mayor will personally donate to the children’s hospital in the city that falls short.
BEST PRO FOOTBALL TEAM TOURNAMENT
Just for fun, over the next two weeks we will be running a tournament to determine the best Super Bowl/NFL/AFL champion of all time. The teams have been seeded 1-64 (using a combination of regular season record, regular season point differential and playoff point differential) and put into four regions, just like the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Using the Second And Ten computer game, we will run the games to determine the best team of them all. Since there are only 55 Super Bowl winning teams, we chose nine teams from before the Super Bowl era to compete, all champions of either the NFL or the AFL. They are: 1950 Cleveland Browns, 1951 Los Angeles Rams, 1953 Detroit Lions, 1960 Philadelphia Eagles, 1961 Houston Oilers, 1962 Green Bay Packers, 1963 San Diego Chargers, 1963 Chicago Bears and the 1964 Buffalo Bills.
We continue with the semifinals and finals of the John Madden region:
1985 Chicago Bears d. the 1984 San Francisco 49ers, 27-24
Jim McMahon connected with Walter Payton on a three-yard touchdown pass with 1:24 to play for the margin victory.
1962 Green Bay Packers d. the 1989 San Francisco 49ers, 27-20
A tough day for 49ers fans. Bart Starr threw three touchdown passes and the Packer defense intercepted Joe Montana two times and held Jerry Rice to two receptions for 11 yards.
Tomorrow: The Championship Game
The 1962 Green Bay Packers vs. the 1985 Chicago Bears
ROAD CLOSURES AROUND SoFi STADIUM
—Prairie Avenue’s northbound lanes will be closed from Century Boulevard to Arbor Vitae Street from 1 a.m. Sunday until Monday at 2 a.m. Also, its northbound lanes from W. 106th Street to Century Boulevard will be closed from 2 p.m. to Monday at 2 a.m.
—Century Boulevard will have lane closures in both directions from Yukon Avenue to Airport Boulevard from 7 a.m. until Monday at 2 a.m.
—98th Street will have its curb lane closed for about one block from Bellanca Avenue west from 7 a.m. to Monday at 2 a.m.
—Pincay Drive will be closed from Prairie Avenue to Kareem Court from 1 a.m. Sunday until Monday at 2 a.m. During the same period, the eastbound lane of Prairie Avenue will be open only to local traffic from Kareem Court to Crenshaw Boulevard.
—Kareem Court will be open only to rideshare vehicles from Manchester Avenue to Pincay Drive from 10 a.m. to Monday at 1 a.m.
—Manchester Boulevard’s eastbound lane from Prairie Avenue to Crenshaw Boulevard will be open only to local traffic from 4 p.m. Sunday to Monday at 2 a.m.
SUPER BOWL: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Super Bowl Sunday
at SoFi Stadium, Inglewood
Rams vs. Cincinnati, 3:30 p.m. PT, Rams favored by 4 points
TV: NBC and Telemundo.
Radio: Westwood One radio (AM 570 in Los Angeles), SiriusXM NFL Radio, NFL GamePass.
Streaming: NFL app (iOS, Android), Peacock app (iOS, Android), Telemundo app (iOS, Android), Yahoo Sports
To buy tickets (after mortgaging your house to afford them): Ticketmaster, OnLocation, HOFExperiences, VividSeats, SeatGeek
Halftime show: Recording artists Dr. Dre, Mary J. Blige, Snoop Dogg, Eminem and Kendrick Lamar are scheduled to perform in the Super Bowl halftime show. The NFL has yet to announce who will sing the national anthem before the game.
Coronavirus guidelines if you attend: Under Los Angeles County’s coronavirus health and safety guidelines, all fans in attendance must be vaccinated. Fans attending the game will be required to wear masks and will be given KN95 masks. For further coronavirus rules and guidelines, click here.
WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE FOOTBALL PLAYER?
I asked you to send me the name of you favorite football player and why, and I was deluged with answers. Answers will be printed starting today. Keep sending them in by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Include a couple of sentences explaining why that player is your favorite. It’s your chance to be read by the tens of thousands of people who subscribe.
Kirk Pieper: Jack Youngblood. When I was 12 years old I lived in Fullerton. The Rams had their summer workouts at Cal State Fullerton. After practice I chased Youngblood walking to the locker room. If you were lucky you would carry their helmet and get an autograph. It was a treat because you could talk to to him. What a a great guy. Not everyone would spend that much effort to do that.
David Nordby: Walter Payton. Growing up in Green Bay, Wisc., during the Brett Favre era, Walter Payton became my favorite football player despite never having seen him play live. He passed away in 1999 when I was 6, and I became enthralled with the news coverage and highlights of him. Until the power of the internet took over where highlights and old games became readily available, it was books and photos that helped make Walter my hero. He somehow combined beauty and violence for his running style to earn the nickname “Sweetness.” The famous quote ‘Never die easy’ he used to describe his running style became too appropriate in his personal life, but the phrase continues to inspire.
Joe Barr of Las Vegas: My favorite football player is “Mean” Joe Greene because he was featured in the greatest television commercial ever.
SUPER BOWL POLLS
We asked readers of our special Super Bowl newsletter to vote in a survey asking them for their prediction on the Super Bowl winner and MVP. After 15,283 votes, here are the results:
Who will win the Super Bowl?
Who will be named Super Bowl MVP?
Cooper Kupp, 37.1%
Matthew Stafford, 28.2%
Joe Burrow, 15%
Aaron Donald, 10.1%
Odell Beckham, Jr., 3.2%
Ja’Marr Chase, 1.7%
Someone else on Bengals, 1.3%
Cam Akers, 1.1%
Someone else on Rams, 1%
Joe Mixon, 0.7%
Tee Higgins, 0.4%
Jalen Ramsey, 0.1%
Sony Michel, 0.1%
Highlights from Super Bowl XLIX (Patriots vs. Seahawks). Watch and listen here.
Highlights from Super Bowl L (Broncos vs. Panthers). Watch and listen here.
Highlights from Super Bowl LI (Patriots vs. Falcons). Watch and listen here.
Highlights from Super Bowl LII (Patriots vs. Eagles). Watch and listen here.
Until next time...
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