KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Who Dey!? Not those same ol’ Bungles. Not even close.
Joe Burrow and these young, hungry Cincinnati Bengals are Super Bowl-bound as unexpected and tenacious AFC champions.
Evan McPherson kicked a 31-yard field goal with 9:22 left in overtime after Burrow kept his cool while leading a furious second-half comeback. They got the Bengals to the NFL’s big game for the first time in 33 years with a 27-24 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs for the AFC championship on Sunday.
“It’s a special team that’s capable of doing special things,” said coach Zac Taylor, who was in elementary school the last time the Bengals went to the Super Bowl.
“We’ve said that from the get-go, whether people believed us or not,” he added. “We believed. So we’re not surprised.”
And who could blame them?
The Bengals erased an 18-point deficit — tying an AFC title game record for largest comeback — to take a late 24-21 lead on McPherson’s 52-yarder.
“I’d say nobody blinked an eye,” the rookie kicker said of the Bengals falling behind big early. “I think we all thought we were going to come back and win the game.”
But Harrison Butker’s 44-yard kick as time expired in regulation sent it to overtime a week after his 49-yarder on the final play of regulation did the same against Buffalo.
And after the Bills’ Josh Allen called tails and it came up heads for the overtime coin toss in that one — giving Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs the ball to seal a wild 42-26 victory — Cincinnati backup quarterback Brandon Allen called heads and the coin came up tails.
The Chiefs opened overtime again with the ball, but Vonn Bell intercepted Mahomes on the third play, and Burrow and the Bengals took over.
And now they’re heading to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1989 after winning their first playoff overtime game.
“Usually when you lose the coin flip to those guys, you’re going home,” said Burrow, the Bengals’ second-year quarterback. “Our defense really stepped up and made plays in the second half. And on offense we made plays when we had to. I thought the offensive line played really well all day. We started running the ball there at the end and that’s exciting.
“Big win for us.”
You might say that.
The Bengals (13-7) will play the Los Angeles Rams (15-5) in the Super Bowl at the Rams’ home stadium on Feb. 13. Cincinnati lost to the 49ers in both of its previous trips to the Super Bowl.
Mahomes and the Chiefs (14-6) will be left to lament blowing a chance at a third straight Super Bowl appearance.
“When you’re up 21-3 at any point in the game, you can’t lose it,” Mahomes said. “I put that on myself.”
The Chiefs had a chance at a winning touchdown in the closing seconds of regulation, but sacks by Sam Hubbard on consecutive plays forced Kansas City to settle for the tying field goal.
“We’re going to the Super Bowl,” Hubbard said. “It sounds crazy to say that.”
The Bengals have won six of their last seven games against the Chiefs, including two this season. But it didn’t look good for Cincinnati early in this one.
The Chiefs got a touchdown on their first three possessions, with Mahomes finding Mecole Hardman for a 3-yard score that made it 21-3 — and had this one looking very much like a rout. Mahomes joined Tom Brady (2014), Joe Flacco (2012) and Aaron Rodgers (2010) as the only players with three games with three or more TD passes in a single postseason.
But Burrow kept the Bengals in it.
He tossed a short pass to Samaje Perine, who avoided a tackle attempt by Charvarius Ward and raced into the end zone for a 41-yard touchdown with 1:05 left in the opening half.
The Chiefs appeared headed for their fourth straight touchdown drive to open the game, especially after Byron Pringle’s 10-yard catch put Kansas City at the 15 with 13 seconds left — setting off chants from the fired-up Arrowhead Stadium crowd of “13 seconds!” who were still reveling in the Chiefs’ stunning comeback last week against Buffalo.
A pass interference call on Eli Apple in the end zone put the ball on the 1, but the Chiefs couldn’t get into the end zone on two tries, with Mahomes’ pass to Tyreek Hill losing a yard and ending the half. It ended up costing them.
“I was hoping we could get the ball in the end zone,” coach Andy Reid said. “I probably gave the wrong play, first of all. I could have given them something better than that. I’ll take responsibility for that one.”
McPherson’s 31-yarder cut the Bengals’ deficit to 21-13 with 2:58 left in the third quarter.
Cincinnati got the ball back at the Chiefs 27 moments later when B.J. Hill intercepted Mahomes’ short pass intended for Demarcus Robinson. Two plays after Joe Mixon gained 2 yards on first-and-goal from the 5, Ja’Marr Chase went up over Rashad Fenton in the end zone to catch Burrow’s toss for a touchdown. Burrow then found a wide-open Trent Taylor for the 2-point conversion to tie it at 21 with 14 seconds left in the third quarter.
The 18-point comeback by Cincinnati tied Indianapolis (vs. New England in 2006) for the largest in AFC championship history.
“I wouldn’t call it surreal, I would say it’s exciting,” Burrow said. “I think if you would have told me before the season that we’d be going to the Super Bowl, I probably would have called you crazy. Then, you know, we play the whole season and nothing surprises me now.”
Burrow finished 23 of 38 for 250 yards with the two TDs and an interception. … Mixon rushed for 88 yards on 21 carries, including 28 yards on the final 42-yard drive. … Mahomes went 26 of 39 for 275 yards and TDs to Hardman, Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill, and was intercepted twice.
Bengals: TE C.J. Uzomah twisted his left knee in the first quarter and didn’t return. He was on the sideline in the second half using crutches.
Chiefs: Backup TE Noah Gray left with an ankle injury and was ruled out in the second half.
Bengals: Head to Los Angeles to play the Rams in Cincinnati’s third Super Bowl, and first since 1989.
Chiefs: Head home for the offseason.
Stafford, Kupp, Donald Anchor and Lead L.A. Rams to 23-20 Super Bowl LVI Win Over Bengals
INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Super Bowl LVI came down to three men: Aaron Donald, Cooper Kupp and Matt Stafford.
This win checked a lot of boxes for the L.A. Rams: this is their first Super Bowl win in L.A.; Kupp, Donald and Stafford enjoyed their first-ever Super Bowl wins, and Sean McVay is one of the (if not the) youngest coach(es) to win a Super Bowl. Additionally, the Rams continued the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ precedent of winning a Super Bowl in their own home stadium.
The L.A. Rams had an aggressive start to the big game, scoring the first touchdown with 6:26 left in the first quarter thanks to Stafford’s 17-yard deep right pass to Odell Beckham Jr.
The Bengals answered with McPherson’s 29-yard field goal with 31 seconds left, and the scoring remained 7-3 for the quarter.
In the second quarter, Stafford led the Rams to a second touchdown with an 11-yard pass to Cooper Kupp, but unfortunately the extra point failed due to the a ball drop before Matt Gay could get his foot on it.
The Bengals scored their first touchdown with Mixon’s six-yard touchdown pass to Higgins in the second quarter, heading into halftime with the Rams leading 13-10.
After an explosive Pepsi Halftime Show featuring Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, and Mary J. Blige, the game resumed and the Bengals brought the pressure, scoring twice in the third.
Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow opened the quarter with an explosive drive, throwing a 75-yard touchdown bomb to Higgins, flipping the lead to Cincinnati, 17-13. They got on the board again with McPherson’s 38-yard field goal just five minutes after the touchdown, giving them a 20-13 lead at the end of the third quarter.
The Rams came into the fourth quarter with a deficit and the triad of Stafford, Kupp and Donald buoyed the Rams to their historic come-from-behind win. Matt Gay’s 41-yard field goal put the Rams back on the board 20-16.
The final two minutes of Super Bowl LVI were by far the most electric, given the flurry of penalties, but the talk of the night will forever focus on Cooper Kupp and Aaron Donald. Stafford had found Kupp with 1:44 left in the game for a four-yard touchdown pass, but it was nullified due to penalties on both sides: holding for the Rams and unnecessary roughness for the Bengals.
It didn’t matter. On the Rams’ next possession, Stafford made the turnaround play of the game, tossing to Kupp for one-yard for the touchdown, making the score 23-20 for the Rams.
On the Bengals’ next possession, Aaron Donald shone on defense, death-gripping the offense for yards lost. His play of the night was the final sack on Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow on the Bengals’ fourth down, putting the ball back in LA’s possession. Despite 39 seconds being left in the game, Stafford took a knee to end the game and secure the win for the Rams.
Odell Beckham Jr. got injured and couldn’t finish out the game, and he cried epic tears in the end as he watched his team win the Super Bowl.
Mellissa Thomas is Editor for Florida National News. | email@example.com
Rams Coach Sean McVay Talks Super Bowl Prep in First and Only In-Person Interviews
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (FNN SPORTS) – The L.A. Rams trained for an hour and 40 minutes at California Lutheran University’s William Rolland Stadium. As is the case during the course of the season, the Rams went through the non-padded regimen tabbed “Fast Friday,” which began with a walk-though and ended with fast reps on both practice fields.
“Here’s what I’d say: The players, the stillness, the calmness that they have, the confidence in their preparation, I feel really good,” McVay told the press Friday. “I’m excited to be able to go watch these guys compete to the best of their ability. As coaches, we’ll try to be poised, make good decisions and that’s all we’re going to do. And we’re going to enjoy the moment.
“We just kind of tightened up, went over any little last-minute reminders and a couple of little situational things,” McVay said. “Our guys did a good job with that.”
McVay shared that tackle Joe Noteboom and tight end Tyler Higbee would be placed on injured reserve with chest and knee injuries respectively. The move was expected for Higbee, who hasn’t practiced since being injured in the NFC title game. Noteboom practiced on a limited basis on Wednesday and Thursday, but was a non-participant on Friday.
McVay said both Darrell Henderson, Jr. and defensive lineman Sebastian Joseph-Day will be activated from IR.
In the narrow window of time left before kickoff Sunday, McVay advised his players: “Do your last little preparation, but trust your preparation. Trust your process. Trust yourself and your teammates. Understand that we have a little time until kickoff. It’s great to be a little excited about it, but just be in the moment.”
L.A. Rams’ Andrew Whitman Named Walter Payton Man of the Year
INGLEWOOD, Calif. (FNN SPORTS) – Source: NFL // Los Angeles Rams tackle ANDREW WHITWORTH has been selected as the 2021 WALTER PAYTON NFL MAN OF THE YEAR PRESENTED BY NATIONWIDE, the NFL announced today. The League’s most prestigious honor, the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, recognizes an NFL player for outstanding community service activities off the field, as well as excellence on the field. First established in 1970, the national award was renamed in 1999 after the late Hall of Fame Chicago Bears running back WALTER PAYTON. The announcement was made during NFL Honors, the League’s annual two-hour primetime awards special held that aired nationally on ABC tonight.
Prior to the kickoff of Super Bowl LVI, all 32 Man of the Year nominees, one representative for each club, will be recognized for their contributions to the game and to their communities. The Man of the Year Nominee Pregame Moment will include the 2020 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year, Seattle Seahawks quarterback RUSSELL WILSON, handing the award to Whitworth as he is introduced as the 2021 recipient.
“Since the start of his career, Andrew Whitworth has dedicated himself to making a lasting impact in his communities and his teams,” said NFL Commissioner ROGER GOODELL. “During his five seasons in Los Angeles, he has dedicated his time and resources to social justice efforts that are working to tackle food insecurity, homelessness, and education inequities, including a $160,000 donation just this year as part of his ‘Big Whit For LA Families’ program. These are just a few examples of an extensive philanthropic legacy that Andrew has created. He is incredibly deserving of this prestigious award and we’re proud to name him this year’s Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year.”
“Nationwide is pleased to congratulate Andrew on earning this elite honor for his exemplary service to community and commitment to driving positive change,” said Nationwide’s Chief Marketing Officer RAMON JONES. “Andrew’s extensive work across a broad range of causes that support kids and families has made an incredible impact and, as a company that shares this commitment to giving back, Nationwide is very proud to shine a light on his ongoing efforts to improve the lives of others.”
This was the fourth time Whitworth was nominated for the award over his 16-year NFL career. Whitworth remains a core pillar of a Rams offense – becoming the first 40-year-old offensive lineman to start an NFL game in nearly two decades. His 2020 season was shortened after suffering sprains in his left knee halfway through the season. Andrew rehabilitated the injury and made a postseason run. Before that injury, he started every crucial game for the Rams since joining the team in 2017 (aside from the season finale Coach McVay decided to rest starters.) A four-time Pro-Bowler and two-time All-Pro, Whitworth has over 239 career games with 235 starts.
Andrew’s work in the community addresses the often-unseen issues that continue to plague underserved communities in Los Angeles and beyond. Most recently, at the beginning of the 2021 season, Andrew launched his “Big Whit for LA Families” program and committed to donating $20,000 after each home game to repair homes in his home state of Louisiana and move Angelenos facing housing insecurity into affordable homes. In Los Angeles, Andrew works with non-profits to help individuals pay for rent and groceries, support down payments for homes, and furnish homes.
Every year, Andrew actively recruits teammates to join him and Make-A-Wish to help grant wishes for children battling life-threatening illnesses. Over the past three years, he has been a significant catalyst in raising more than $875,000 to grant wishes. For the holidays last year, Andrew and his family purchased wish list items for 53 families living in crisis motels and shelters. The Whitworths bought gifts for nearly 100 children and provided each of the 53 families with a $500 local grocery store gift card along with individually packaged holiday meals.
In the wake of civil unrest that struck the nation following the death of George Floyd, Andrew agreed to match all proceeds raised through the team’s Social Justice Fund throughout the 2020 season, which resulted in a $215,000 personal donation. Collectively, through his leadership, the social justice player fund provided $750,000 to 25 social justice non-profits. In March 2020, Andrew made a $250,000 donation to the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank to kick off the team’s virtual Te’LA’thon for Los Angeles and support COVID-19 response efforts. Andrew’s contribution financed a total of 1 million meals that were distributed to Angelenos in need. Andrew has also funded STEAM Labs at elementary and middle schools to help close the technology gap for low-income students and provide them opportunities to achieve upward mobility.
From 2017 – 2019, Andrew purchased 50 tickets for every Rams home game and donated them to local charities and schools. During the 2021 season, he continued this tradition and purchased game tickets for community members who otherwise might not have had an opportunity to experience the thrill of an NFL game at SoFi Stadium. Aside from his efforts in Los Angeles, Andrew was also a community steward in Cincinnati during his time with the Bengals. Before joining the Rams, Andrew started The Big Whit 77 Foundation, which impacts the lives of youth and families in his home state of Louisiana. One of the foundation’s programs, Whit’s Warriors, offers financial assistance to high school seniors in Louisiana. The program has awarded $400,000 in scholarships and school supplies.
Whitworth will receive a donation of $250,000, which will go to a charity of his choice. All other 31 nominees will receive a donation of $40,000 in their name to their charity of choice. All donations are courtesy of the NFL Foundation and Nationwide.
To complement the physical award, the NFL, in collaboration with Panini America, will launch the Walter Payton Man of the Year Trading Card NFTs beginning with Walter Payton.
A 1-of-1 trading card will be minted and gifted to the Walter and Connie Payton Family Foundation with a parallel base set (500 units) being made available for public auction at 11AM ET on 2/11. The public auction will benefit the Walter and Connie Payton Family Foundation. Past and future Walter Payton Man of the Year winners will have the option to participate in this NFT program with all proceeds of each initial sale going to the player’s selected foundation.
To learn more about all 32 team nominees, visit nfl.com/manoftheyear.