It started with a missed extra point for the Los Angeles Rams. Then Odell Beckham Jr. injured his left knee in the second quarter and was out for the rest of Super Bowl LVI. When the Cincinnati Bengals took the lead at the beginning of the second half, the prospects looked bleak.
But as darkness fell on rocking SoFi Stadium, the Rams came alive and from behind on their final drive to win it all, 23-20.
“Wow, that was an ending fitting of Hollywood,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said as he handed the Vince Lombardi trophy to Rams owner Stan Kroenke.
The Rams won on their home field and for the first time nabbed the Super Bowl for Los Angeles in their second LA iteration. They moved to St. Louis in 1993 and Kroenke prevailed on the NFL to allow the team to return after the 2015 season.
Aside from building SoFi, which opened without fans in time for the 2020 season, Kroenke put together a team that could win this season.
He helped engineer the trade with Detroit after last season for quarterback Matthew Stafford, brought in Beckham Jr. and had guys on the roster like defensive lineman Aaron Donald and wide receiver Cooper Kupp, the MVP of the Super Bowl game.
Stafford, Kupp and Donald had key roles in winning the game at the end. Stafford connected with Kupp on the winning one-yard touchdown pass to conclude an 18-play drive with a little more than a minute left in the game.
Donald chased down the Bengals’ Joe Burrow on Cincinnati’s final play as the quarterback flung the ball into the ground.
There were 36 seconds left and Donald pointed toward his ring finger indicating that he and his teammates had just captured their Super Bowl win.
It was the organization’s fifth Super Bowl trip and second victory, the first coming in 2000 over the Tennessee Titans in Miami playing as the St. Louis edition. It was the eighth Super Bowl played in LA, but the first since the Rams and Raiders left town in 1993.
For the Bengals, the league’s Cinderella team this season, it was their third Super Bowl visit and first since 1989. They’ve lost all three, including the first two in the final minutes to the San Francisco 49ers.
The win for the Rams was the second consecutive for a team playing in its own stadium; last year the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the Kansas City Chiefs at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium. In an oddity of sorts, the host city had never seen its own team play in the first 54 years of the big game.
“It’s amazing,” Kroenke said. “I’m just proud of this group. You talk about these players, but they just hung in there. It was a tough game.”
Kroenke was able to lure the Rams back to L.A. because of his plans to build this 70,000-seat stadium at the heart of a $5 billion real estate project in the town of Inglewood near the Los Angeles International Airport. The Chargers joined him by moving north at the same time from San Diego.
“As far as building this stadium, I think it turned out all right,” Kroenke said.
The Super Bowl was a spectacular production and lived up to all the hype, including postgame fireworks and a raucous half-time show that included about a half-dozen of hip-hop’s all-time stars.
Goodell was asked earlier this week when the Super Bowl might return to SoFi and even though he wasn’t specific he said there are certainly possibilities.
“The next opening is 2026,” he said.
The three upcoming in succession have already been awarded to Glendale, Arizona, Las Vegas and New Orleans.
Thus, Kroenke and his Rams had a unique opportunity to win the Super Bowl at home that may never come around again. The Rams were quasi hosts in 1980, the first time they played in the game. They lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Rose Bowl, but their home at the time was Anaheim Stadium.
“This was a great opportunity for our organization,” Rams chief operating officer Kevin Demoff said during an interview earlier in the week, referring to playing host to a Super Bowl in the team’s own stadium, and putting LA on “a platform for the world to see. When you combine those two it’s very powerful, especially after 30 years and in this market.”
The Rams didn’t punt that opportunity Sunday—they made the most of it.