This article is part of our NFL Observations series.
That was a disappointing Super Bowl. Thankfully, I went to bed early and watched the 40-minute edited version in the morning. Don't get me wrong, it could have been worse -- the Bengals +4.5 came in for me, and though I made only a modest bet ($300), the first priority is always covering the spread.
But otherwise the game was mediocre. The Rams would have had fourth-and-goal from the eight, but for a ticky-tack holding call that gave them a first down, and they got helped again by a three-yard ticky-tack PI. No matter, the Bengals got the ball back with plenty of time, but couldn't convert a first down with one-yard to go on three plays. I suppose they were only in the Super Bowl because the Titans botched a similar sequence, but what's wrong with the QB-sneak or a Joe-Mixon handoff on 4th-and-1? Why are you shotgun snapping it with a weak offensive line against a good pass rush?
But that wasn't the game's only blemish. The game's biggest play, the 75-yard TD to Tee Higgins at the start of the second half happened in part because he flung Jalen Ramsey forward by the facemask before making the play. There was also the Tyler Boyd drop on 3rd-and-9 which would have put them in 4th-and-short on a series and the Odell Beckham knee injury, which changed the dynamic entirely.
- There were some great plays, though. Cooper Kupp (10-8-92-2) not only capped off one of the all-time great WR seasons with a well-deserved Super Bowl MVP, but he was the guy they turned to for a running play on a must-have fourth down from their own 30 with five minutes left.
- Aaron Donald might have won MVP, but that both he and Von Miller each had two sacks probably muddled the voting. The Rams dropped Joe Burrow seven times in total, six of which were in the second half.
- The Rams could not run to save their lives. No wonder they turned to Kupp on the 4th-and-1 jet sweep.
- I'm happy to see Odell Beckham get a ring and hope his knee injury isn't serious. He finally started to resemble the player he was with the Giants, albeit in a smaller role. Sometimes a Real Man is prescient, too:
- I almost forgot to mention Matthew Stafford -- he had a forgettable game. You know this because when the winning QB doesn't win MVP, he usually hasn't done much. In his defense, the Rams were awfully thin at receiver after Kupp, once Beckham got hurt, especially with TE Tyler Higbee out.
- Joe Burrow played well, didn't turn it over despite seven sacks, and put the Bengals in position to win against a good defense. Hopefully, his late knee injury wasn't serious.
- Ja'Marr Chase (8-5-89-0) made a spectacular catch on a deep throw for which he had to extend with one hand. He's my WR1 next year, as he might set records if Burrow ever has time to throw.
- Tee Higgins (7-4-100-2) scored the two TDs, and as I mentioned, got away with an offensive PI on his long TD catch.
- It was a disappointing finish as the Bengals needed 10 yards to get into Evan McPherson's range, and had they handed it off to Joe Mixon on any of those downs, and he got, say two or three yards to pick up the first, it would only have taken seven yards on three more plays. That was doubly bad because I was rooting for the Bengals and also because I had made the final score prediction 26-23 Cincinnati. A made FG sends it to overtime at 23-23.
- Condolences to Jeff Erickson who was at the game with his daughter. While there's no point in dwelling on shoulda/woulda/coulda, obviously the Bengals were no fluke.