SUPER BOWL LVI:

LOS ANGELES RAMS vs. CINCINNATI BENGALS

For 54 years, no team had played a Super Bowl in its home stadium. After the LOS ANGELES RAMS (15-5) earned the right to represent the NFC in Super Bowl LVI, it’s now happened in consecutive seasons.

Those Rams will meet the AFC Champion CINCINNATI BENGALS (13-7) in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles on Sunday, February 13 (6:30 PM ET/3:30 PM PT, NBC).

For 49 years, no starting quarterbacks drafted No. 1 overall had met in a Super Bowl, until Pro Football Hall of Famer PEYTON MANNING (1998 NFL Draft) and the Denver Broncos defeated Carolina’s CAM NEWTON (2011 NFL Draft) in Super Bowl 50. Now, it will have happened twice in seven seasons, after the Bengals’ JOE BURROW (2020 NFL Draft) meets the Rams’ MATTHEW STAFFORD (2009 NFL Draft) on Sunday.

The Bengals, who were founded by Pro Football Hall of Famer PAUL BROWN and began play in 1968, are looking for their first Super Bowl title, playing in the game for the first time since the 1988 season. The Rams, who began play in 1937, have won three NFL championships: 1945, 1951 and 1999, when they captured Super Bowl XXXIV led by Pro Football Hall of Famers ISAAC BRUCE, MARSHALL FAULK, ORLANDO PACE and KURT WARNER.

Zac Taylor – Cincinnati Bengals head coach (former LA Rams assistant coach) Credit: Cincinnati Bengals / Cincinnati Bengals

The two head coaches on Sunday, Cincinnati’s ZAC TAYLOR (age 38) and the Rams’ SEAN MCVAY (age 36), will be a combined 74 years and 299 days old on Sunday, the youngest combined age for opposing head coaches in Super Bowl history. Previously, the youngest head-coaching matchup was Super Bowl XLIII with Pittsburgh’s MIKE TOMLIN (36 years, 323 days old) and Arizona’s KEN WHISENHUNT (46 years, 339 days old).

With a Rams win, McVay (36 years, 20 days on Sunday) would edge Tomlin (36 years, 323 days old in Super Bowl XLIII) as the youngest head coach to win the Super Bowl.

McVay, who was hired by the Rams in 2017 and led the team to a Super Bowl LIII appearance during the 2018 season, is the fifth individual in league history to advance to two Super Bowls within his first five seasons as an NFL head coach.

The individuals to advance to two Super Bowls within their first five seasons as a head coach in NFL history:

HEAD COACHTEAMSUPER BOWLS
Sean McVayL.A. RamsLIII, LVI
Mike TomlinPittsburghXLIII, XLV
Jimmy JohnsonHOFDallasXXVII, XXVIII
Joe GibbsHOFWashingtonXVII, XVIII
Tom FloresHOFOakland/L.A. RaidersXV, XVIII

Taylor served as an assistant on McVay’s coaching staff with the Rams from 2017-18, including a berth in Super Bowl LIII, prior to becoming the Bengals’ head coach in 2019.

With wins in each of the first three rounds of the 2021 postseason, Taylor became the third individual over the last 13 years to win each of his first three postseason games as an NFL head coach, joining DOUG PEDERSON (2017-18) and KEN WHISENHUNT (2008). With a win on Super Bowl Sunday, Taylor would become the third individual over the last three decades (1991-2021) to win each of his first four postseason games as an NFL head coach, joining Pederson and BRIAN BILLICK (2000).

SEEDS OF HOPE: Each Super Bowl team entered the 2021 playoffs as the No. 4 seed in its respective conference. Since the NFL began seeding postseason teams in 1975, Super Bowl LVI is the first that does not include at least one team seeded No. 1 or No. 2. This marks the first Super Bowl in which both teams are seeded No. 4 or lower. The last No. 4 seed to win a Super Bowl was the 2012 BALTIMORE RAVENS (XLVII).

  • For a 17th consecutive season, the NFL will have a new Super Bowl champion, extending the longest streak without a repeat winner in league history. The last team to win consecutive Super Bowls was the 2003-04 New England Patriots.
  • Including Cincinnati on Sunday, five of the last 12 teams to appear in the Super Bowl missed the playoffs the previous season. Prior to the Bengals, the 2020 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2019 San Francisco 49ers, 2017 Philadelphia Eagles and 2016 Atlanta Falcons reached that pinnacle after missing the playoffs the prior season.
  • NFL teams have a remarkable record of resiliency. Since 2000, the Bengals are the fifth team to go from “worst to first” in their division and make the Super Bowl in the same season. Three of the four prior teams to do that – the 2017 Eagles, 2009 Saints and 2001 Patriots – won the Super Bowl.

The teams to appear in the Super Bowl the season after finishing in last place in their divisions since 2000:

SEASONTEAMSUPER BOWLPRIOR SEASON RECORD
2021CincinnatiLVI4-11-1
2017Philadelphia*LII7-9
2009New Orleans*XLIV8-8
2003CarolinaXXXVIII7-9
2001New England*XXXVI5-11
*Won Super Bowl   

NOT YOUR AVERAGE JOES: Cincinnati quarterback JOE BURROW guided LSU to a College Football Playoff national championship in 2019. With a win on Sunday, he would join Pro Football Hall of Famers JOE MONTANA and JOE NAMATH as the only starting quarterbacks to win both a consensus college football national title and a Super Bowl.

Burrow, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, is expected to become the first quarterback ever drafted first overall to start a Super Bowl within his first two seasons. He is also the third quarterback selected in the first round of the NFL Draft to start a Super Bowl within his first two seasons in NFL history, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer DAN MARINO (Super Bowl XIX) and BEN ROETHLISBERGER (Super Bowl XL).

FIRST YEAR WITH HIS TEAM: Only two quarterbacks have won the Super Bowl in their first years with their teams, the Ravens’ TRENT DILFER (2000, Super Bowl XXXV) and Tampa Bay’s TOM BRADY (2020, Super Bowl LV). The Rams’ MATTHEW STAFFORD, acquired by Los Angeles in an offseason trade, could join them on Sunday.

Stafford has at least two touchdown passes in each of the Rams’ three postseason games. With two touchdown passes on Sunday, he would join Pro Football Hall of Famer KURT WARNER (2008), JOE FLACCO (2012) and TOM BRADY (2020) as the only players in NFL history with at least two touchdown passes in four postseason games within the same season.

JA’MARR CHASING A THIRD ROOKIE RECORD: Cincinnati wide receiver JA’MARR CHASE had 1,455 receiving yards in the regular season, most ever by a rookie in the Super Bowl era. He followed that accomplishment with an NFL rookie postseason record 279 receiving yards through the Bengals’ first three playoff games this season. The only rookie record he has left in the receiving-yards category is the single-game Super Bowl record, held by TORRY HOLT, who had 109 in the Rams’ Super Bowl XXXIV victory.

SUPER COOPER: Rams wide receiver COOPER KUPP led the NFL in each of the three major receiving categories –  receptions (145), yards (1,947) and touchdowns (16) – and is the first player in league history to lead the NFL in those three categories for a team that advanced to the Super Bowl. He is the third player to lead the league in receiving yards and appear in the Super Bowl in the same season, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer JERRY RICE (1989 and 1994) and DREW PEARSON (1977).

Kupp has totaled 25 receptions for 386 yards and four touchdowns during the 2021 postseason. On Sunday, he can surpass TRAVIS KELCE (31 receptions during the 2020 postseason) for the most receptions in a single postseason all-time and become the second player ever to reach 500 receiving yards in a single playoff run, joining LARRY FITZGERALD (546 receiving yards in 2008).

HERE’S THE TAKEAWAY: Cincinnati has a plus-five turnover ratio this postseason, on the strength of six Bengals interceptions by six different players, including safety VONN BELL, whose overtime interception of PATRICK MAHOMES set up Cincinnati’s game-winning field goal in the AFC Championship Game.

  • Bengals defensive end TREY HENDRICKSON ranked fifth in the NFL with a career-high 14 sacks this season. He is one of two NFL players with at least 13 sacks in each of the past two seasons.
  • Linebacker LOGAN WILSON, who led the team this season with four interceptions, had an interception in Cincinnati’s win at No. 1-seeded Tennessee in the AFC Divisional Round. The second-year player also led the team with 98 tackles.

DEFENSIVE STALWARTS: Led by AARON DONALD, a three-time Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year who is seeking his first Super Bowl victory, the Rams ranked sixth in rushing defense (103.2 yards per game allowed) and third with 50 sacks.

  • Donald had 12.5 sacks in the regular season and became the fourth player since 1982, when the individual sack became an official statistic, to register at least eight sacks in each of his first eight NFL seasons. He also has 1.5 sacks during the 2021 playoffs.
  • Linebacker VON MILLER makes his second Super Bowl appearance after registering 2.5 sacks to earn Super Bowl 50 MVP honors with Denver. Including the playoffs, Miller has a sack in six of his last seven games.

David M. Higgins II, Publisher/Editor

David M. Higgins was born in Baltimore and grew up in Southern Maryland. He has had a passion for journalism since high school. After spending many years in the Hospitality Industry he began working in...

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