Super Bowl preview: Rams and Bengals bring offensive power

After a run of five Super Bowls featuring Tom Brady or Patrick Mahomes, Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow and Matthew Stafford of the Rams made su...

After a run of five Super Bowls featuring Tom Brady or Patrick Mahomes, Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow and Matthew Stafford of the Rams made sure that trend didn’t continue.

In two weeks, the Cincinnati Bengals will face the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif., in the Super Bowl on February 13. It will only be the second time that two quarterbacks who were first draft picks have faced each other in the championship game (Peyton Manning and Cam Newton were the first pair in 2016).

Both quarterbacks survived close calls Sunday to get there. Burrow led the Bengals to a second-half comeback against Kansas City in the AFC Championship Game to access its first Super Bowl, the third in the history of the Cincinnati franchise. Hours later, the Rams qualified for their second Super Bowl since the 2018 season after overtake San Francisco in the NFC Championship Game.

In only his second season as an NFL starter, Burrow fulfilled the Bengals’ playoff aspirations, ending the team’s 31-year winless streak in the playoffs. Cincinnati finished the regular season with a 10-7 record and one of the hottest offenses in the league, powered by Burrow’s poise, a record-breaking season by rookie wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, and a career season. rushed by running back Joe Mixon. Chase, who exceeded 1,400 receiving yards in the regular season, caught an tying touchdown in Sunday’s AFC Championship game.

The group, which is as young and inexperienced as any team in the playoffs, passed Derek Carr and the Raiders in the wildcard round. Next, the Bengals used a field goal against the AFC’s top-seeded Tennessee Titans to win the divisional round. On Sunday, the team stunned two-time defending AFC conference champion Kansas City in the conference title game — thanks to a defense that stifled Kansas City’s superstar quarterback Mahomes.

Burrow’s success in his final season at LSU foreshadowed the successful and electrifying NFL quarterback he had the potential to be. His confidence was praised by his teammates and he was credited with establishing a winning culture in Cincinnati, despite not even playing a full season his rookie year.

After tearing multiple ligaments in his left knee in week 11, he faced a test to find out how he would react.

“I’m sure there was a lot of uncertainty on his part,” Bengals head coach Zac Taylor told reporters this week. “He wanted to respond in the right way.”

Rams general manager Les Snead brought in Stafford in the offseason after the team decided Jared Goff, who led the Rams to a Super Bowl after the 2018 season, was not its quarterback for the future. Stafford, who was known for his big arm, had built a formidable reputation as a quarterback for the Detroit Lions. Still, he had never won in three playoff appearances with Detroit, which many attributed to a lack of talent around him.

In Los Angeles, he forged a connection with one of football’s most productive receivers, Cooper Kupp, and found another weapon in receiver Van Jefferson. After the deep threat that Robert Woods tore his anterior cruciate ligament during the season, Stafford was given another reliable target in Beckham, who was one of the most talented receivers in the NFL but who had been poorly suited to his previous team, the Cleveland Browns.

Snead’s methods of building this Super Bowl-caliber team have been unconventional and aggressive. He decided to forgo draft picks for established, hard-hitting players like Beckham, which gave Stafford a reliable second target to replace Woods. Los Angeles picked a former Super Bowl MVP, Von Miller, from the Broncos to play alongside dominant defensive lineman Aaron Donald. The Rams also added running back Sony Michel in a trade with the Patriots when Cam Akers tore his Achilles tendon before the season.

This added to a team that many believed had too much talent not to get to this stage.

Los Angeles’ road to the Super Bowl was not smooth, however, as Stafford racked up late-game turnovers in the final game. But after throwing 17 interceptions during the regular season, he turned the ball over just once in the playoffs.

The Rams passed Arizona in the wildcard round and survived a comeback attempt at Tampa Bay in the Divisional Round, with Stafford using a long pass to Kupp late in the game to set up a winning field goal. Then, on Sunday, Los Angeles outlasted the 49ers in a tight NFC Championship game.

The Super Bowl game appears to favor the Rams, who indeed opened as a 4-point betting favorite in the sportsbooks. Taylor, who has served as the Bengals’ head coach since 2019, was previously the Rams’ quarterbacks coach under head coach Sean McVay. He was with the team from 2017 to 2018 and was part of the Los Angeles Super Bowl run.

Los Angeles appears to have the edge in terms of the pass rush, with Donald, Miller and Leonard Floyd waiting to take on Cincinnati’s much-maligned offensive line.

The Bengals allowed the most sacks (51) during the regular season, but that only made Burrow’s high assist count even more impressive. He passed for 4,611 yards and 34 touchdowns during the regular season, and added 842 extra yards and four touchdowns in the playoffs.

Stafford, after throwing for 41 touchdowns in the regular season, had six passing touchdowns in the playoffs, including two straight 300-yard passing games.

After Sunday’s conference championship games ended, both quarterbacks had entered uncharted territory for them.

“It’s a lot better than I thought,” Stafford said after the Rams win.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Super Bowl preview: Rams and Bengals bring offensive power
Super Bowl preview: Rams and Bengals bring offensive power
Newsrust - US Top News
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