The stage is officially set for the The NFL’s Greatest Game.
Super Bowl LVI will pit the Cincinnati Bengals against the Los Angeles Rams after both teams won the championship on Sunday. the The Bengals beat the Kansas City Chiefs 27-24 in overtime, while the Rams in the lead the San Francisco 49ers 20-17.
Now, those franchises will meet at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles and decide who wins (or keeps) the Lombardi Trophy. This will be the second consecutive year that a team will play the Super Bowl in its stadium after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won at Raymond James Stadium last February.
The Rams are no strangers to the big game, having succeeded three years ago when they lost to the New England Patriots. They are 1-3 in the Super Bowl as a franchise, with their lone victory at Super Bowl XXXIV in January 2000. Cincinnati, on the other hand, hadn’t won a playoff game since 1991 before winning three this season. season. The Bengals are 0-2 in their previous two Super Bowl appearances, losing to the 49ers in 1981 and 1988.
Even though these teams look very different on the surface, there are many connections. Here’s a look at some striking similarities between the last standing franchises:
Both teams hail from Ohio.
Wait what? That’s right, the star-studded, made-for-Hollywood Rams were born in cold Ohio. Founded in 1936, the Cleveland Rams competed in the AFL for their inaugural season before moving to the NFL in 1937. The franchise remained in Cleveland until 1945, winning the NFL Championship Game before moving to Los Angeles a month later.
The Bengals have been in Cincinnati since they were founded in 1968 by Mike Brown — the same man who founded the Cleveland Browns in 1946… a year after the Rams left town.
Both teams are the No. 4 seed in their respective conference.
The Bengals were 10-7 in the regular season, while the Rams were 12-5. Cincinnati beat the No. 5 Las Vegas Raiders to open the playoffs, then won two road games against the No. 1 Tennessee Titans and No. 2 Chiefs. Los Angeles opened with a home win over the No. 5 Arizona Cardinals, followed by a road win over the No. 2 defending champion Bucs and the NFC title win at home over the No. 6 49ers.
Both teams won their division and both of their divisions had a wild card team.
Entering this season, the Bengals hadn’t won the AFC North since 2015. That all changed in 2021, as Cincy went 4-2 in the division to edge the Pittsburgh Steelers 9-7-1 for the Crown. The NFC West was equally competitive, with the Rams winning the split in Week 18 as the Cardinals fell to 11-6. The Steelers and Cardinals made the playoffs as wildcard teams, but both lost their opener.
Both teams scored game-winning field goals in the divisional round.
This Super Bowl game almost didn’t happen thanks to a wild divisional round. The Bengals allowed nine sacks against the top-seeded Titans and appeared to have trouble with Tennessee’s conduct in the final minute. Then Ryan Tannehill threw an interception, Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase knocked the Bengals down the field, and Evan McPherson hit a 52-yard field goal to win it.
The Rams cruised against the Bucs, leading 27-3 in the third quarter before Tom Brady’s team stormed back. Tampa Bay tied the game at 27 with 42 seconds left, but Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp decided not to play for overtime. The pair connected on a 20-yard pass and then a 44-yard pass to set up a game-winning 30-yard kick from Matt Gay as time expired.
Both teams overcame double-digit deficits to win their conference championships.
Things weren’t any easier on Championship Sunday for these teams.
The Bengals trailed 21-3 in the second quarter against Patrick Mahomes and Co. With improved defense and still cool demeanor from Burrow, Cincy broke to force overtime before stopping on the Chiefs’ first possession and winning it with another McPherson field goal.
In Los Angeles, the Rams’ situation was just as dire. Down 17-7 early in the fourth quarter, the Rams scored 13 unanswered to seal a 20-17 victory over their division rivals. Gay again froze the game with a kick from 30 yards in the final two minutes before Travin Howard intercepted Jimmy Garoppolo to send LA to the Super Bowl.
Both quarterbacks wear No. 9.
Here’s an easy one. Both Burrow and Stafford have won No. 9 for their entire professional careers. Burrow also won No. 9 in college at LSU, while Stafford rocked No. 7 at Georgia.
Both quarterbacks were selected No. 1 overall.
Another one link between signal callers – they were both first choice when they left their SEC schools. Stafford went first overall to the Detroit Lions in 2009, playing there for 12 seasons before being traded to the Rams last year. Burrow is only in his second season after the Bengals took him No. 1 in 2020. It will be the second time in Super Bowl history that both starting quarterbacks have been No. 1 picks – the Super Bowl 50 between Peyton Manning and Cam Newton was the first.
Both coaches are under 40.
The youth movement is not limited to players. Sean McVay of the Rams became the youngest head coach in NFL history when he was hired at age 30. McVay, 36, will be coaching his second Super Bowl, looking for his first ring. Zac Taylor, 38, served as a Rams assistant for two years under McVay before the Bengals signed him in 2019.
Both teams employ a star wide receiver from LSU.
It’s safe to say that none of these teams would be in the Super Bowl without Ja’Marr Chase or Odell Beckham Jr. Chase, 21, was drafted No. 6 overall by Cincy in 2021, and he proceeded to the creation of the recruit. record receiving yards and be named Second-Team All-Pro. Beckham, now with his third team, was released by the Browns in November before signing with the Rams. OBJ caught 19 of 23 targets for 236 yards and a touchdown in the playoffs after scoring five touchdowns in eight regular season games with LA
Both teams’ starting tight ends were injured in conference championship games.
The Bengals’ CJ Uzomah and Rams’ Tyler Higbee have been key cogs in their attacks this season, but both couldn’t finish conference title games. Uzomah left in the first quarter of Sunday’s game, however Taylor said on Monday that his outlook was “encouraging so far”. Higbee was also injured in the first quarter and appears to have avoided a serious knee injury. It remains to be seen whether either will be able to play on February 13.
Both kickers were drafted in the fifth round.
We’ve already touched on the playoff heroics of McPherson and Gay, but here’s another connection between the kickers. The Bengals took McPherson to No. 149 overall last April, and he delivered every step of the way. He’s 12 for 12 on field goals in the playoffs after going 28 for 33 in the regular season. Gay was drafted at No. 145 by the Bucs in 2019, and has been with the Rams since 2020. He was 32 for 34 on field goals in the regular season and went 7 for 9 in the playoffs until here.
Both teams unveiled new uniforms ahead of the 2021 season.
We’re going to have some new leads in the Super Bowl, though we still don’t know who’s wearing what color.
The Bengals launched completely new uniforms for 2021. While they weren’t significant changes from their old uniforms, they were definitely an upgrade. The look is much cleaner, and now Burrow and Co. has the look that will usher in a new era.
The Rams overhauled their uniforms ahead of 2020, but added a “modern throwback” set ahead of the 2021 season.
While it’s not a totally new look, it still matters.