Cooper Kupp scored two touchdowns and Aaron Donald spearheaded a fearsome defensive display as the Los Angeles Rams defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 23-20 to win the Super Bowl.
Kupp scored a decisive touchdown with less than 90 seconds remaining to give the Rams the lead at SoFi Stadium before Donald grabbed the Rams’ record-breaking eighth sack of Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow to effectively seal the victory.
Donald’s sack of Burrow was the dramatic final act of a gripping contest between the star-studded Rams and the Bengals, whose bid to win a maiden Vince Lombardi Trophy fell agonisingly short.
“I’m just so happy,” said Donald. “I wanted this so bad. I dreamed this.
“One play and we’re world champs,” Donald added of his crucial late sack. “Any way to get to him. We made it.”
Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford, meanwhile, paid tribute to his team’s never-say-die approach.
“I’m so proud of this team,” Stafford said. “There are so many guys on our team that deserve this, so many guys who gave their heart and soul to this team.
“That game today is the story of our season. It’s up and down it’s tough. We’re a tough team. We showed up late and got it done.”
The Bengals had stormed into a 20-13 lead early in the second half after a controversial Tee Higgins touchdown and an Evan McPherson field goal.
But the Rams, who had struggled to build momentum on offence after a game-ending injury to Odell Beckham Jr, clawed their way back thanks to their rampant defence led by Donald.
Burrow was sacked repeatedly at key moments to prevent the Bengals from extending their lead.
Matt Gay’s field goal pulled the Rams back to 20-16 heading into the fourth quarter.
Stafford then led a 15-play, 79-yard drive that benefitted from three crucial Bengals penalties near the goal line before Kupp plucked a one-yard pass in the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown.
The defeat was brutal on Bengals quarterback Burrow, the 25-year-old rising star who has helped transform Cincinnati’s fortunes this season.
Burrow finished with 263 passing yards and one touchdown but was buffeted all night and sacked eight times, a record for a Super Bowl.
Stafford, meanwhile, finished with 283 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions.
It was the Rams second franchise Super Bowl victory and their first since returning to Los Angeles from St. Louis in 2016. Their previous win came in 2000.
It was the third Super Bowl defeat in as many appearances for the Bengals, who lost the decider in 1982 and 1989.