The Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals will meet up on Sunday, February 13, for Super Bowl LVI. It’s not the matchup most would have predicted, not even two weeks ago before the conference championship games. The Bengals have been underdogs going back to the preseason, and they’re 4.5-point underdogs in this game. But they just keep finding ways to win, and they can do it again for the Super Bowl. Here’s how.
The most important, and most obvious, thing for the Bengals to do is stop the Rams’ pass rush, particularly Aaron Donald. At the very least, they have to limit the damage he can do. The Bengals offensive line let quarterback Joe Burrow get sacked nine times against the Titans in the Divisional round, and they gave up 16 pressures against the Chiefs. It’s impossible to take away the Rams’ pass rush entirely, but the Bengals can beat them with quick throws from Joe Burrow.
Fortunately for Cincinnati, Burrow has excelled at getting the ball out with all haste this season. With Tee Higgins running quick slants and tight end CJ Uzomah working into the middle, he’s usually got a ready option to throw to. The Rams defense tends to be vulnerable in the middle of the field too, which gives Burrow another edge on quick passes. Burrow is also playing well under pressure. Against the Chiefs, he completed seven of 12 throws under pressure. He’s a smart scrambler too. In the AFC Championship, Burrow converted three third downs with his legs.
Another key to beating the Rams defense will be keeping them off balance with the running game. Joe Mixon has done more than just keep the chains moving. In their last game, against Kansas City, he finished with 88 yards on 21 carries. He’s not putting up the kind of numbers you’d want to see in a fantasy league, but Mixon will be crucial to keeping the Rams defense on its toes, ultimately, giving the passing game more breathing room.
Bengals defense: Keys to limit Rams offense
Sure, Joe Burrow and the Bengals offense gets all the attention, but let’s not overlook the fact that the most impressive thing Cincinnati did against the Chiefs in the AFC Championship game was to limit Patrick Mahomes and Co. to just three points in the second half. That started with clamping down on Tyreek Hill, and they’ll need to do that again in the Super Bowl with Cooper Kupp.
An excellent route runner with an offense scheme that gets him freed up to make catches, the Bengals will want to keep Kupp in man coverage as much as possible. That means he’ll be seeing a lot of Mike Hilton. One of the best slot corners in the game right now; it was Hilton who kept Hill tied up against the Chiefs. He’s got one interception and four passes defended in the playoffs so far. Hilton’s also got a track record against Kupp. Back in 2019, when he was still with the Steelers, Hilton shadowed Kupp during a Week 10 game, holding him catchless on four targets.
Turnovers have been another key part of the Bengals’ defensive approach. They picked off Mahomes twice in the AFC Championship, including on the Chiefs’ first overtime possession, which pushed them to the win. They’ve had seven takeaways in the playoffs so far, tied with Tampa Bay for the most, and they have a +5 turnover differential heading into the Super Bowl. They’ll need to make the world remember Matthew Stafford’s interception struggles that plagued the Rams during the middle of the regular season.