Super Bowl LVI: Joe Burrow and the Bengals fell at the final hurdle, but this isn’t the end of the road

The Cincinnati Bengals’ Hollywood blockbuster certainly didn’t get the fairy-tale ending the likes of head coach Zac Taylor and star quarterback Joe Burrow would have dreamed of. Instead, it turned into a horror show for the Bengals, with the Los Angeles Rams ensuring the Vince Lombardi Trophy didn’t leave California as they won 23-20 on their home field at the SoFi Stadium.

Cincinnati defied all the odds from the Betdaq bet exchange to even book their place in the play-offs, let alone going all the way and beating the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship game — which the bookmakers in Las Vegas gave them a zero percent chance of achieving prior to the season getting underway last September. However, when it came to the final hurdle, and becoming 150/1 Super Bowl champions, they fell flat on their face.

As anticipated in the build-up to the February 13th showdown, the Rams proved to be too strong for the Bengals on both sides of the line of scrimmage. The loss of Odell Beckham Jr., the scorer of the game’s opening touchdown, as the wide receiver injured his knee with just minutes left of the first half, looked to have swung the pendulum in Cincinnati’s favour as they turned around a 13-10 deficit to lead 20-16 going into the fourth quarter.

But LA’s route-one gameplan — Matthew Stafford to Cooper Kupp — which the Bengals had managed to keep under wraps thus far in the second half, came to fruition to save Sean McVey and the Rams a second Super Bowl defeat in four years. The WR made four catches for 39 yards and a rare rushing attempt on the final drive, and drew the penalty that got his side to the goal-line before making his second TD catch of the game to give the Rams a three-point lead.

With not much time left on the clock, the Bengals couldn’t respond — as their desperate drive to try and get within field goal range was brought to a halt on LA’s 49-yard line. Questions will be asked of some of Cincinnati’s play calls, like the decision to go for an inside handoff to Samaje Perine when 3rd-and-1 during their final possession, but ultimately, they are left to rue their defeat and wonder when they will finally have the Lombardi Trophy on display at the Paul Brown Stadium.

There is hope for the Bengals though. This certainly isn’t the end of the road for the ‘Who Dey Nation’, who had been starved of Super Bowl action for the best part of 30 years prior to this year’s final game. Three decades of hurt to win a play-off game were ended against the Las Vegas Raiders in the Wild Card round, and they fought in the face of adversity to topple the Tennessee Titans and the Chiefs against the moneyline to even reach the Super Bowl.

Yes, the Rams proved to be too strong, but they can learn from their experiences this season and come back even stronger themselves when the new campaign kicks off later this year. They will by no means be favourites to win the AFC again — after all, they were a 10-7 team during the regular season — but people will sit up and take notice and if Burrow can get the protection he needs from his offensive line, then they will be going down the right road.

Huynh Nguyen

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