February 25, 2022 | SPORTS | By Charlie Rounaghi | Illustration by Kira Schulist
The Los Angeles Rams beat the Cincinnati Bengals 23-20 in Super Bowl LVI on Feb. 13, 2022. Numerous celebrities attended the matchup that took place in the Rams’ home stadium, including LeBron James and Tobey Maguire.
The Bengals, led by quarterback Joe Burrow (also known as Joe Shiesty), were this year’s NFL “team of destiny.” Heading into the season, Vegas had Cincinnati’s Super Bowl betting odds set at 150-1, making them the biggest underdog to ever appear in the big game.
The Rams, on the other hand, were built for this season — and this moment. General Manager Les Snead had made an all-in push for a championship, trading future draft picks for current players. With risky mid-season acquisitions of Odell Beckham Jr. and Von Miller, the Rams had clearly adopted a “win-now” strategy, and it certainly paid off.
After the Cleveland Browns released him in November, Odell Beckham Jr. signed with the Rams for a $1.25 million base salary, despite other teams offering him more money elsewhere. Beckham bet on both himself and the Rams, with up to $3 million in postseason incentives written into his contract.
Not only did the star finish the season having earned the full $3 million, he also walked away with a Super Bowl ring. Before a second-quarter knee injury sidelined Beckham, he had tallied two receptions for a total of 52 yards, including a 17-yard touchdown from Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford.
A potentially bigger storyline than the actual game was the halftime show. Dr. Dre headlined an ensemble that also included Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige, 50 Cent, and Kendrick Lamar. Dre, only a year removed from being hospitalized with a brain aneurysm, masterfully constructed a show that reached audiences of all ages and had the entire country simultaneously bobbing their heads to the sounds of 1990s West Coast Hip-Hop.
In past years, artists have avoided the halftime show in support of Colin Kaepernick, the former NFL quarterback who knelt during the national anthem in protest of police brutality and racial injustice. However, this year, after performing his hit song “Lose Yourself,” Eminem knelt with his head held in his hand to demonstrate his support for Kaepernick.
Unlike the halftime show, the actual football game was largely uneventful until the Ram’s game-winning 15-play drive in the 4th quarter. All season long, Stafford had a special connection with his number one wide receiver, Cooper Kupp. Known as “The Breakfast Club,” the two spent countless hours together both on and off the field during the year. They often ate breakfast together.
The morning meals spent developing their relationship were ultimately worth it, and culminated in a Super Bowl winning touchdown with less than 90 seconds left on the clock . Kupp was named Super Bowl MVP to cap off one of the best seasons ever by a wide receiver, as the 28-year-old led the league in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns while winning the Offensive Player of the Year award in the process.
Unlike his teammates, who commemorated the win by attending an after party, Rams receiver Van Jefferson and his wife Samaria Jefferson spent the hours following the final whistle in the hospital welcoming the birth of their second child. The Jeffersons named their newborn “Champ” in recognition of the baby boy being born just minutes after the Rams were declared victorious.
Immediately after the game ended, online speculation began circling about key pieces to this Rams super team and whether they’d be back in the Super Bowl next year. At their Super Bowl Parade on Feb. 17, Rams Head Coach Sean McVay and star defensive lineman Aaron Donald answered many of these concerns. McVay began chanting “Run it back” while Donald spoke into the mic “We built a super team…why not run it back?”
With a Super Bowl in L.A., it is only fitting the game had a Hollywood ending. Despite the championship, the Rams are already looking forward to next season for the production of the sequel.