California Love: How the Rams’ poise and stellar defense brought a championship to LA

On the first play of the 3rd quarter, just minutes after a legendary California-themed halftime show performed by Hip Hop legends Dre Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, 50 Cent, Kendrick Lamar and Mary J Blige, the Los Angeles Rams take the field in their home stadium holding a 3-point lead against the underdog Cincinnati Bengals.

The half begins with a 75-yard-pass downfield from Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow to wide receiver Tee Higgins, giving the Bengals the lead. Then on the next possession, Rams quarterback Mathew Stafford threw a crucial interception to Bengals safety Jessie Bates. 

At this point, it appeared that the Bengals were in full control of the game, already having a four-point lead and possession of the ball in Rams territory. It was at this point, however that the Rams defense led by defensive end Aaron Donald and linebacker Von Miller took over the game. The Bengals were able to score a field goal, making the score 20-13.  After that field goal, the Bengals accumulated just 52 yards of total offense for the remainder of the game.

The Bengals notoriously weak offensive line, had given up just one sack in the first half, once the offense stalled. Then the Bengals were forced to try and throw the ball downfield, meaning quarterback Joe Burrow needed more time to let his receivers downfield.

This strategy change opened up the floodgates for the Rams defense, who were able to accumulate six sacks in the second half and completely stop the Bengals in their tracks. The lockdown defense from the Rams gave the offense the opportunity to take the lead with under two minutes left with a touchdown pass to wide receiver Cooper Kupp. On the final possession, with 3rd and 1, the Bengals handed the ball to running back Samajee Perine, who was able to make a fantastic play shoving the offense guard on to his back heals, allowing himself to wrap one arm around Perine and make the crucial tackle. The next play would determine the game. It was once again Donald, who this time, was able to get to Joe Burrow,  forcing him to throw a wild incomplete pass ensuring a victory for the Rams.