Bengals Face The Rams In Super Bowl LVI

220130-Mixon-Joe_Chase-Ja'Marr-Higgins_Tee_endzone (AP)
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase (1) celebrates with teammates Joe Mixon (28) and Tee Higgins (85) after catching a 2-yard touchdown pass during the second half of the AFC championship NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Jan. 30, 2022, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Kickoff: 6:30 p.m. Eastern.

Television: The game will air nationally on NBC-TV. In the Bengals' home region, it will be carried by WLWT-TV (Ch. 5) in Cincinnati, WDTN-TV (Ch. 2) and WLEX-TV (Ch. 18) in Lexington. Broadcasters are Al Michaels (play-by-play announcer), Cris Collinsworth (game analyst), Michele Tafoya (sideline reporter), Kathryn Tappen (sideline reporter) and Terry McAulay (rules analyst).

Radio: The game will air on the Bengals Radio Network, led by Cincinnati flagship stations WLW-AM (700), WCKY-AM (ESPN 1530; all sports) and WEBN-FM (102.7). Broadcasters are Dan Hoard (play-by-play) and Dave Lapham (analyst).

The game also will air nationally on Westwood One Radio. Broadcasters are Kevin Harlan (play-by-play), Kurt Warner (analyst), Laura Okmin (sideline reporter), Mike Golic (sideline reporter) and Gene Steratore (rules analyst).

Setting the scene: After claiming their third-ever AFC crown on Sunday with a 27-24 win over the Chiefs in the conference championship game, the Bengals now travel to Los Angeles for a Feb. 13 matchup against the LA Rams in Super Bowl LVI.

"I'm happy for this team and everyone in the organization," said head coach Zac Taylor. "You can't help but think about the people back in Cincinnati celebrating right now, and about all the people that were here (in Kansas City). When all of our fans got down there at the end of the game, it felt like it was half the stadium. It was a special moment. 

"I'm so happy for the city of Cincinnati. They've waited for this moment. They've supported us waiting for this moment. I couldn't be happier." 

Despite the end result for the Bengals, the game did not begin in their favor. The Chiefs raced to a 21-3 lead midway through the second quarter, after putting together TD drives of 84, 75 and 72 yards on their first three possessions. Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes completed 18 of 21 passes for 220 yards and three TDs in the first half alone, good for a 149.9 passer rating. 

"It was just about us settling in and getting all the jitters out and playing our brand of football," said S Vonn Bell. "They were going to make plays — they're here for a reason. They've been in Super Bowls, they've been in big games and they know how to win, so they were going to find their guys and make plays." 

Two key plays late in the second quarter gave Cincinnati positive momentum going into the locker room. The first was a TD pass from QB Joe Burrow to HB Samaje Perine, who caught a screen pass and weaved 41 yards to the end zone to trim the Chiefs' lead to 21-10. 

Then, on the ensuring possession, Kansas City raced downfield yet again and reached Cincinnati's one-yard line with just five seconds remaining. The Chiefs, though, opted to try for a TD rather than a FG, and threw a swing pass to speedy WR Tyreek Hill in the flat. But Hill was chased down and tackled for a loss by Bengals CB Eli Apple, and since the Chiefs had used all of their timeouts, the clock could not be stopped and the first half ended. 

"That was a big play from our defense," Burrow said. "That stretch right there where we scored a touchdown and then they drove down the field in a two-minute situation and our defense prevented any points from being put on the board — I think that was really the turning point in the game."

The Bengals trailed 21-10 at the break, which matched the 11-point halftime deficit they faced in their regular-season matchup with the Chiefs on Jan. 2. In that game, Cincinnati held Kansas City scoreless in the third quarter and allowed just three points in the fourth before completing a dramatic comeback with a "walk-off" FG to secure the win. 

In the second half, history began to repeat itself. Cincinnati's defense forced two punts and an INT on Kansas City's three third-quarter drives, marking the 12th time in 20 games this season (including playoffs) that the Bengals held an opponent scoreless in the third quarter (see "D tightens after the break" on page 6). 

"We were getting pressure (on Mahomes) in the first half, but he has the best pocket presence of anyone in the league," said DE Sam Hubbard. "We just kept telling ourselves, 'Keep chopping wood, keep rushing, keep rushing.' We were being disciplined in our rush lanes, and it paid off." 

The highlight of the third quarter came when DT B.J. Hill batted and intercepted a pass from Mahomes to set up the Bengals' offense at the Chiefs' 27-yard line. Five plays later, Burrow found WR Ja'Marr Chase in the end zone for a two-yard score. The Bengals then knotted the game at 21 thanks to a successful two-point conversion on a pass from Burrow to WR Trent Taylor, who was playing his first offensive snap of the playoffs.

"That play is from the Shanahan and McVay families," Zac Taylor said of the two-point conversion. "We've repped that for a number of years, but we've never called it.  Trent has that really good lateral quickness. (Tyler Boyd) can do it too, but Trent has had a lot of reps on that play over the last five years I would imagine. We started working on it with him probably three weeks ago. That's the only play that has his name on the game plan, and he did a great job executing it." 

Cincinnati took a 24-21 lead on a 52-yard FG from K Evan McPherson midway through the fourth quarter. It was McPherson's third 50-plus yard FG of the postseason, after he hit nine such FGs in the regular season (see "McPherson from deep" on page 13). 

Down three late, Kansas City drove all the way to Cincinnati's four-yard line with 1:26 remaining in regulation and looked to be on the verge of what would've been a fourth red-zone TD on the day. But the Bengals' defense held strong, as DE Sam Hubbard sacked Mahomes on back-to-back plays — on second and third down — to force a game-tying FG from Chiefs K Harrison Butker as time expired. 

Asked after the game if he had ever recorded sacks on consecutive plays, Hubbard responded with a laugh. "I don't think I ever had sacks on back-to-back plays to send us to the Super Bowl. I guess that's just what happens when you keep getting after it and stay the course." 

The Chiefs won the coin toss and got the ball first in the extra period, which harkened memories from their divisional matchup against the Buffalo Bills at Arrowhead Stadium a week earlier. In that game, Mahomes and the Chiefs' offense drove 75 yards in eight plays for a game-winning TD on the opening possession of OT before the Bills' powerful offense even had an opportunity to touch the ball. 

But the Bengals would not suffer the same fate. After Apple dropped what looked to be a surefire pick-six on the Chiefs' second play of OT, Mahomes on third down fired a deep ball to Hill that was tipped by S Jessie Bates and then intercepted by S Vonn Bell. Each of Cincinnati's three wins this postseason have now included an interception on the Bengals' final defensive play. 

"It's fitting that they made a play on the ball like that," Taylor said. "I can't wait to see it (on film), because I didn't have great vision on the play on the field. I just saw Vonn come out of there with it. I'm proud of those guys. They've mastered this takeaway thing these last couple of weeks. It has really enabled us to play the type of game we want to play and get to the Super Bowl like we did." 

 Burrow and the Bengals' offense proceeded to convert three first downs and drove all the way to the Chiefs' 13-yard line before putting a Super Bowl berth in the hands of 22-year old rookie K Evan McPherson. And he had done four times previously this season — three times in the regular season, once a week earlier in the playoffs (see "... Make that five walk-offs" on page 13) — McPherson converted, splitting the uprights from 31 yards and sending his team to the Super Bowl. 

"We're a special team that's capable of doing special things," Taylor said. "We believed from the get-go — whether people believed us or not, we did. But we're not surprised. This is where we're meant to be, and I'm proud of the guys in that locker room." 

Next Sunday's Super Bowl will feature a number of significant connections between the two teams. Taylor was on the Rams' offensive coaching staff under head coach Sean McVay from 2017-18. McVay played collegiately at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio (50 minutes northwest of Paul Brown Stadium). And Rams veteran OT Andrew Whitworth was a 2006 second-round pick of the Bengals and spent his first 11 seasons with Cincinnati. 

"If you would've told me coming into the league, when I got drafted, that we would be here this year, it would be a shock," Burrow said after the game. "But now, I'm not surprised. I've been playing this whole year, and I knew we'd have a chance to be here. 

"Today was a great win for the organization, ownership, the city, and me personally as well. It's a very exciting moment."

The Bengals are heading to Super Bowl LVI! Look back at the journey with some of the best images of the 2022 postseason.

The series: The Bengals lead 8-6 overall in regular season and have won three of the past four meetings. The teams have not met in postseason. 

Next week's game will be the second consecutive played between the two teams at a neutral site, as the Rams won 24-10 in 2019 at Wembley Stadium in London. While the Rams were considered the home team in the London game, it's the Bengals who will be considered the home team for Super Bowl LVI. 

This week's game will be just the Bengals' second against the second Los Angeles edition of the Rams. The Bengals were 5-2 against the first Los Angeles edition of the Rams and were 2-3 against the St. Louis Rams. The Rams franchise originally played in Cleveland from 1936-45, and then L.A. from '46-94, and then St. Louis from '95-2015. They returned to L.A. in '16. 

Bengals-Rams connections: Bengals head coach Zac Taylor was on the Rams' coaching staff from 2017-18. He served as assistant wide receivers coach in 2017, and quarterbacks coach in '18 ... Rams OT Andrew Whitworth originally was a second-round pick (55th overall) of the Bengals in 2006, and was with Cincinnati through the '16 season ... Rams head coach Sean McVay played wide receiver at Miami (Ohio) University ... Bengals WR Mike Thomas originally was a sixth-round pick (206th overall) of the Rams in 2016, and was with the team through the '19 season ... Bengals LB Clay Johnston originally was a college free agent signee of the Rams in 2020 ... Bengals QB Brandon Allen was with the Rams from 2017-18 ... Rams DL Marquise Copeland played at the University of Cincinnati ... Bengals DT Josh Tupou is from Long Beach, Calif. (Buena Park High School) ... Bengals CB Jalen Davis is from La Mesa, Calif. (Helix High School) ... Bengals WR Trenton Irwin is from Valencia, Calif. (Hart High School) ... Rams DL Michael Hoecht is from Oakwood, Ohio (Oakwood High School) ... Bengals G Xavier Su'a-Filo (practice squad) played at UCLA ... Rams RB Javian Hawkins (practice squad) and WR TuTu Atwell (Reserve/Non-Football Injury) both played at the University of Louisville ... Rams S Jordan Fuller (Reserve/Non-Football Injury) played at Ohio State University ... Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan played QB at UCLA from 2002-05, and also coached there from '06-07 ... Bengals defensive quality control coach Jordan Kovacs was with the Rams as a player during the 2016 offseason ... Rams linebackers coach Chris Shula is the son of former Bengals head coach Dave Shula, and he also played LB at Miami (Ohio) University from 2004-08 ... Rams run game coordinator/defensive line coach Eric Henderson played DE for the Bengals from 2007-08 ... Rams assistant quarterbacks coach Zac Robinson played for the Bengals from 2011-13 ... Bengals strength and conditioning coach Joey Boese coached at Fresno State University from 2012-15 ... Bengals assistant strength and conditioning coach Todd Hunt played DE at Fresno State University from 2012-15, and also coached there from '16-17 ... Bengals assistant strength and conditioning coach Garrett Swanson is from Riverside, Calif., and was a punter/kicker at Fresno State University from 2012-15 ... Rams offensive line coach Kevin Carberry played DE at Ohio University from 2001-04 ... Rams assistant secondary coach Jonathan Cooley is from Columbus, Ohio and played at the University of Kentucky.

Uniform watch: The Bengals are scheduled to wear black jerseys, white pants (orange stripes) and orange socks in Super Bowl LVI against the L.A. Rams. The team over the offseason unveiled new uniforms, marking Cincinnati's first significant uniform redesign since 2004.

There are three different color options for the new jerseys — black, white and orange. The pants also feature three different options — black with orange stripes, white with orange stripes, and white with black stripes. And there are three options for sock color — black, white and orange. The team's iconic striped helmet was unchanged.

Career postseason record watch: Here's a look at possible upcoming movement in the Bengals' career postseason record book. 

  • K Evan McPherson has scored 40 points, 12 behind Jim Breech (52) for first place in Bengals postseason history. McPherson has made four PATs, tied with Dave Green, Shayne Graham and Mike Nugent for second place in Bengals postseason history. K Jim Breech is the all-time leader (25).
  • HB Joe Mixon has 52 rushing attempts, nine shy of Pete Johnson (61) for second place in Bengals history. Ickey Woods (89) is the all-time leader. Mixon has 190 rushing yards, second-most in Bengals postseason history and 201 shy of Woods (391) for the all-time lead.
  • QB Joe Burrow has 109 pass attempts, 49 shy of Andy Dalton (158) for second place in Bengals postseason history. Ken Anderson (166) is the all-time leader.
  • Burrow has 75 completions, 13 behind Dalton (88) for second place in Bengals postseason history. Ken Anderson (110) is the all-time leader.
  • Burrow has 842 passing yards, 31 shy of Dalton (873) for second place in Bengals postseason history. Anderson (1321) is the all-time leader.
  • Burrow has four TD passes, tied with QB Boomer Esiason for second place in Bengals postseason history. Anderson (nine) is the all-time leader.
  • WR Ja'Marr Chase has 20 receptions, one shy of WR Cris Collinsworth (21) for second place in Bengals postseason history. TE Dan Ross (28) is the all-time leader.
  • Chase has 279 receiving yards, 54 shy of TE Dan Ross (333) for second place in Bengals postseason history. Collinsworth (354) is the all-time leader.
  • WR Trent Taylor has four punt returns, fourth-most in Bengals postseason history. Brandon Tate (10) is the all-time leader, followed by Ira Hillary (six) and Mike Fuller (five).
  • WR Trent Taylor has 48 punt return yards, 14 shy of Mike Fuller (62) for second place in Bengals postseason history. WR Brandon Tate (67) is the all-time leader.
  • HB Chris Evans has nine kickoff returns, tied with CB Adam Jones for second place in Bengals postseason history. WR David Verser (17) is the all-time leader.
  • Evans has 211 kickoff return yards, fourth-most in Bengals postseason history. Verser (302) is the all-time leader, followed by Stanford Jennings (240) and Jones (233).

Single-game postseason records set: Here's a look at the Bengals single-game postseason records that have already been set during this year's playoffs.

  • K Evan McPherson's 14 points in the Wild Card Playoff vs. Las Vegas were the most-ever in a Bengals postseason game. His 13 points in the Divisional Playoff at Tennessee were second-most, and then he tied that mark with 13 again in the AFC Championship at Kansas City.
  • McPherson's four FGs in the Wild Card Playoff vs. Las Vegas were the most-ever in a Bengals postseason game. He then tied that mark the next week in the Divisional Playoff at Tennessee, and then again in the AFC Championship at Kansas City.
  • McPherson has made 12 FGs, most for a career in Bengals postseason history. K Jim Breech (nine) held the previous Bengals postseason record.
  • QB Joe Burrow has two games — Wild Card Playoff vs. Las Vegas, AFC Championship at Kansas City — with two TD passes. Those are tied for the most-ever in Bengals postseason game, alongside Ken Anderson (four times) and Boomer Esiason (once).
  • Burrow completed 75.68 percent of his passes (28 of 37) in the Divisional Playoff at Tennessee. That counts as the highest completion percentage ever in a Bengals postseason game.
  • WR Ja'Marr Chase averaged 21.8 yards (on five catches) in the Divisional Playoff at Tennessee. That counts as the highest yards-per-catch average ever in a game in Bengals postseason history.