Los Angeles – A star-studded Los Angeles Rams team will seek to deny the giant-killing Cincinnati Bengals a Hollywood ending in the Super Bowl on Sunday, as an NFL season full of plot twists reaches its climax.
The perfectly scripted season finale will see a duel between two talented quarterbacks playing in the Super Bowl for the first time, with Rams veteran Matthew Stafford pitted against the Bengals’ rising star Joe Burrow.
A Bengals victory would complete one of the most striking turnarounds in NFL history.
The team finished 4-11 last season, which was only slightly better than its 2019 campaign, which ended with a dismal 2-14 record.
But under head coach Zac Taylor and buoyed by the arrival of Burrow, taken with the No. 1 pick in the 2020 draft, the Bengals are a team transformed.
The team secured its Super Bowl berth with a postseason characterized by a never-say-die approach and upsets of the Tennessee Titans, the top seed in the AFC, and the mighty Kansas City Chiefs.
Whether Burrow is afforded the time and space to craft another upset is another question altogether, however. Cincinnati’s porous offensive line allowed him to be sacked a whopping nine times during the playoff win over Tennessee.
That is a stat the formidable Rams defensive front, led by human wrecking ball Aaron Donald, the best defensive player in the NFL, and veteran pass rusher Von Miller will work to use to their advantage.
On the offensive side, meanwhile, the Rams have more than enough weapons to puncture the Bengals defense.
The 34-year-old Stafford, playing in his fist Super Bowl, has an array of targets to aim for, including Cooper Kupp, the best wide receiver in the NFL this season, and Odell Beckham Jr., the charismatic former New York Giants and Cleveland Browns star who has flourished since joining the Rams midseason.
In addition to homefield advantage, the Rams also have the benefit of recent Super Bowl experience.
Many members of Sunday’s lineup were on the losing side when the Rams were beaten 13-3 by the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl in 2019.
Rams head coach Sean McVay who at 36 years and 20 days would become the youngest head coach to win a Super Bowl — was upbeat after overseeing the final team walkthrough on Saturday.
“We’re very confident,” McVay said. “We’re ready to go. There’s a good look in their eyes.
“I think there’s a good urgency, but also I just have a good feel about this team. I feel excited to watch them go and do their thing.”
The Rams will be playing in front of a packed crowd of 70,000, a stark contrast with last season’s Super Bowl in Tampa, where attendance was limited to around 25,000 fans due to COVID-19.
While the Omicron variant surge is in retreat in Los Angeles, authorities will require all attendees on Sunday to provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test, with masking mandatory.
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Source: The Japan Times