BERNIE BITS, THE SUPER BOWL EDITION
Tales From The Crypt:
* An opening cheap shot because I feel like having fun: I’m wondering how long it took Rams staffers to unseal the coffin and pull Stan Kroenke out of there and install the necessary robot circuitry in time for him to accept the Vince Lombardi Trophy. I laughed when I saw Kroenke, looking like a straight-up cadaver, standing stiffly on that stage. Was he still breathing? Was he alive? Did Kevin Demoff have to send a Kroenke imposter to hoist the trophy? Who was the Stan stand-in? Who prepared the recorded Kroenke voice when NBC’s Mike Tirico asked a question?
* By the way: for about 30 seconds there I thought we were going to see a gross make-out session between Kroenke and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell — and I thank the heavens that this did not happen.
* The Lombardi Trophy should have been presented to Ann Walton Kroenke, who was on the stage — behind Stan and mostly out of view. Her family’s money made Stan Kroenke possible … his money wouldn’t exist without her. Therefore, Ann Walton is indirectly the No. 1 reason for the Rams’ success. Marrying into the Walton Family is still the No. 1 accomplishment of Stan’s life.
1) In my opinion, the Rams winning the Super Bowl wasn’t the worst thing about the sports-entertainment weekend.
— The worst thing: the realization, again, that we can’t count on major-league baseball to open the regular season on time. I’m to the point of thinking Memorial Day may be more in line with reality. Meanwhile, the NFL continues to increase its overwhelming domination of Major League Baseball. The final seven games of the NFL postseason featured six games decided by three points and another – the enthralling Buffalo vs. Kansas overtime thriller – determined by six points. But carry on, MLB. There’s no better way to excite and reward your fans than locking out the players, refusing to engage in meaningful negotiations, disrupting spring training, and starting your season late. I can’t wait to buy tickets.
— The second-worst thing: the passing of filmmaker Ivan Reitman at age 75. He produced Animal House, Space Jam, Beethoven and Up In The Air. And directed Ghostbusters, Stripes, and Meatballs.
— The third-worst thing: The menu of Super Bowl commercials. Just an overall disappointment, and Super Bowl commercials are as just about as big as the game itself.
This is all subjective, of course. But my five favorites were: Sopranos Chevy Silverado commercial, Amazon Mind Reader, Larry David for FTX, Barbie Dream House for Rocket Mortgage, Clydesdale’s Journey. Cable Guy was pretty good too.
— The fourth-worst thing: the people pretending to be outraged on social media when Eminem dropped to a knee, put his right hand on his head and looked downward at the end of “Lose Yourself” during the halftime show. It was a tribute to Colin Kaepernick. The NFL was aware of his plan to do so. My question: when the NFL and Pepsi hired Dre, Snoop, Eminem and Kendrick Lamar to do an old-school rap performance as a celebration of Los Angeles, did you think you were gonna get “Fun, Fun, Fun” by the Beach Boys?
Of course there would be some concocted moments of extra-light controversy. There were a few notes of protest mixed in, yes … but in terms of making a social-justice statement, a Super Bowl halftime show has no influence whatsoever on people watching the production.
If this or any other halftime show bothers you or kills any interest in watching – well, just skip the show and go to the kitchen, make some fresh guacamole and resupply the chips. No one forces any of us to watch anything that we don’t want to watch. The performers have been around forever and sold out a long time ago. They’re trying to portray their former selves, and the whole thing bordered on comedy. I thought it was great.
Mary J. Blige was celestial.
Don’t you dare say a bad word about Mary J.
— The fifth-worst thing: watching Joe Burrow take a beating in the second half of LA’s 23-20 victory. The Rams sacked him seven times overall to run Burrow’s sack count to 70 on the season in 20 games. (That’s 51 during the regular season and 19 in four postseason games.) The Bengals were fortunate that Burrow was available for all 20 games, regular-season and postseason. He was healthy but didn’t play in the final regular-season contest because the Bengals didn’t need to win the game and wanted to protect him from harm. Perhaps the Bengals should worry a lot more about protecting Burrow during games.
In 26 regular-season games during his first two seasons, Burrow has been sacked 83 times, taken 95 hits, and been pressured 254 times. He’s already had a major knee injury during his early NFL career, and was limping around late in Super Bowl 56. He won’t last long if this continues.
2) Except for examining his bank account and business holdings, Kroenke is a sad and empty man. He didn’t even look happy after his team won the Super Bowl. No juice, no obvious signs of joy, no sense of the historic moment.
A friend texted me after the game and said “I hate him.” In part I responded with this: “just remember, he hates himself.”
During the postgame trophy ceremony retired New England and NY Jets offensive lineman Damien Woody tweeted this: “Stan Kroenke has NO energy! Cmon bruh…your team just won a (championship)!!!
The handlers should have just left Kroenke in the crypt, and made him happy by feeding him $100 bills through a tube. Money is the only thing he likes.
3) In addition to the seven sacks the Rams generated 26 pressures, 16 hurries and three hits on his 43 dropbacks. According to ESPN Stats & Info, the Bengals’ 18 percent win rate in pass blocking was the worst by any NFL team in any game this season. I think we know what Cincinnati’s scouts and front office will be looking for in free agency and the draft. The team’s offensive line was a glaring liability in pass protection all season. That’s my concern with the Bengals. Their front office did a terrific job of signing free-agent talent and drafting wisely to build a Super Bowl contender. But will owner Mike Brown spend the money to make sure that the team has an offensive line that can make the difference between winning and losing the Super Bowl?
4) Rams coach Sean McVay nearly cost his team the game by forcing running plays in a stubborn desire to stick with his game plan. It wasn’t working; the Bengals held LA to an average of 1.9 yards per rush. Despite the loss of WR Odell Beckham Jr. to a knee injury in the second quarter, the Rams still were plenty dangerous in their passing attack. As long as Cooper Kupp is on the field, the Rams can burn any defense by throwing the ball. But the Rams targeted Kupp only two times in the third quarter and waited until their final, desperation drive to make Kupp the focal point of the offense.
5) Trailing 20-16, the Rams went on a 15-play drive for the winning touchdown. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was the longest go-ahead drive in the second half in Super Bowl history.
5a) On the game-winning march, Kupp had four catches for 39 yards and the touchdown that gave LA the lead. He also romped for a 7-yard run on fourth down to save the Rams. And he drew two penalties on the drive. You can’t play any better than that late in the game with the Super Bowl outcome on the line.
5b) Combining the regular season and playoffs, Kupp finished with a total of 2,425 receiving yards, 22 touchdowns and 108 first downs. No receiver has had a season like this. And Kupp really paid off in the playoffs. The Rams had very close calls in their postseason wins over Tampa Bay, San Francisco and Cincinnati, taking all three games by exactly three points. When Rams QB Matthew Stafford targeted Kupp in the fourth quarter during the playoffs, he was 12-for-12 for 208 yards, nine first downs and two touchdowns. Kupp had 33 catches for 478 yards and six TDs in the Rams’ four postseason victories.
5c) One other note on Kupp: This season he won the receiving triple crown with most catches, most receiving yards, and most TD passes caught. He also won Offensive Player of the Year, and was voted Super Bowl MVP. The great Jerry Rice is the only wide receiver in NFL history to accomplish all of those things in an entire career. Kupp did it in a single season.
6) After the loss, Burrow was asked about his disappointment of coming so far, getting so close, and losing the big game by three. In answering the question Burrow cited Kurt Warner and the 2001 St. Louis Rams team that lost Super Bowl 36 to the Patriots on a last-seconds field goal.
“I kind of thought about this in the locker room,” Burrow said. “When (the Rams) lost one and later within the documentary they said, or (Kurt) said, that they let it sting too much and that they didn’t celebrate what they accomplished. So, we are going to … obviously it stings, but you know we had a great year, and it didn’t come out this last game like we wanted to, but I think we still have something to celebrate.”
7) Super Bowl 56 began to turn in LA’s direction as soon as the Rams defensive coaching staff woke up and began running stunts that prevented the Bengals from double-teaming (or even triple blocking) Aaron Donald. With Donald finding less obstruction on the way to Burrow, he finished with seven pressures and two sacks on 40 pass rushes. That’s a strong 17.5% pressure rate. His second sack of the game – on fourth down – clinched the victory. But Donald’s play on third down was just as important. He pulled Cincy running back Samaje Perine down short of the first down marker with a one-armed tackle from the side on a third-and-one play. With any other defensive lineman reaching for him, Perine gets the first down – easily … and the Bengals are moving closer to field-goal range for a possible tie game and overtime.
(I don’t know why Bengals coach Zac Taylor called an inside run for Perine there; he had only 56 carries all season and only four were short-yardage runs that resulted in little success. Joe Mixon had a strong game, is the team’s top back, and should have handled the assignment.)
At the end, Donald won his Super Bowl ring with back-to-back plays that showcased his greatness. Donald, who turns 31 in May, may retire. He certainly appears to be thinking about it.
This is one of the greatest defensive players in NFL history. And to think that 12 picks went off the board in the first round until the St. Louis Rams chose Donald (from Pitt) with the 13th overall selection of the 2014 draft. Among those drafted ahead of Donald were offensive tackle Greg Robinson (Rams, No. 2), quarterback Blake Bortles (Jaguars, No. 3), defensive back Justin Gilbert (Browns, No. 8) and tight end Eric Ebron (Lions, No. 10.)
Sheesh … Greg Robinson over Aaron Donald?
If Donald shuts it down and calls it a career, he’d retire with one Super Bowl championship, the 2014 Defensive Rookie of the Year award, three NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards, eight Pro Bowl selections, seven first-team All-Pro honors, and a spot on the All-2010s Decade Team. And he deserved to win at least two more Defensive Player of the Year honors. And Donald did enough to win the Super Bowl MVP award, but I can’t knock voters that went with Kupp.
8) There are also rumblings that McVay may retire — yes, at 36 years old. I’d be surprised, but he’s getting married this offseason, wants to start a family, and is concerned about balancing professional and personal life. He’s reportedly interested in a TV career, a la Jon Gruden.
The Rams gave up a load of draft choices and a big part of their future to make future-is-now trades to put everything into winning it all this season. Mission accomplished. But the Rams will have some tough challenges in 2022 and beyond, and it won’t be as easy to win. That could be influencing McVay’s thinking. And Donald’s.
McVay was a great hire by GM Les Snead. In his first five NFL seasons as Rams head coach he has a 55-26 regular-season record (.679) with four trips to the postseason, a 7-3 postseason record, two NFC Championships and a Super Bowl title. He’s the youngest NFL head coach to win the Lombardi Trophy.
9) The Rams traded two first-round draft picks, a third-round choice and out-of-favor quarterback Jared Goff to rescue Matthew Stafford from Detroit. It was a daring but successful move. Yes, Stafford imperiled the Rams by throwing two interceptions Sunday. But in reality the damage was limited to three points scored by Cincinnati. Stafford passed for three touchdowns in Sunday’s win and led the memorable, high-pressure drive to win the game. In his 4-0 postseason Stafford completed 70% of his throws for nine touchdowns, three interceptions, 1,188 yards and a 108.3 passer rating. I find it impossible to be happy for Stafford and his family.
10) I won on Super Bowl Sunday because I refused to give into angry emotions, get consumed by obsessive Kroenke hate and allow Kroenke to ruin my day. This works very well for me. Watch the Super Bowl, launch some cheap shots for giggles. What’s the point of letting Kroenke defeat me and cause unhappiness, time and time again? Good grief, isn’t enough that we’ve gone through multiple stages of a pandemic? I watched a football game, I rooted for Team Burrow, I served our guests a variety of delicious food, we checked out the commercials, took in the halftime show, made fun of the Rams owner, drank a few tasty cocktails, and I laughed a lot … then I went to bed early and slept peacefully. Got to work on this column, made more fun of Kroenke, and smiled again. Winning feels good.
BONUS SUPER BOWL BITS
After taking a 20-16 lead early in the fourth quarter, this is what the Bengals did on their final five possessions: three plays and punt, three plays and punt, five plays and punt, seven plays and punt, and five plays and a loss of downs. A total of 23 plays and 50 net yards… Stafford became one of only three quarterbacks to throw 40 or more touchdowns in a season and go on to win the Super Bowl in the same campaign. The others: Kurt Warner in 1999 and Tom Brady in 2020 …
Historically the Bengals are 0-3 in Super Bowls and have lost the three games by a total of 12 points … what’s up with the Super Bowl coin toss? For the eighth consecutive season the team that won the Super Bowl coin toss proceeded to lose the game … teams that wore the white jerseys have won 18 of the last 21 Super Bowls. Strange … a Super Bowl champ hasn’t repeated since Brady and the Patriots in 2003 and 2004 … one note from the interwebs: an unnamed investor would have won $120,000 at BetMGM had Aaron Donald been voted Super Bowl MVP. He finished second to Kupp in the voting …
This was Joe Burrow’s first postseason loss since 2014, when Athens High School fell to Toledo Central Catholic in a 56-52 heartbreaker in the Ohio state high school championship. Since then Burrow defeated Central Florida in the Fiesta Bowl to cap his first season (2018) at LSU, defeated Oklahoma 63-28 in the national semifinal for the 2019 LSU team, followed with a 42-25 win over Clemson for the national championship, and defeated Vegas, Tennessee and Kansas City in the postseason before losing by three to the Rams …
The Rams went 14–1 this season when Kupp caught at least one touchdown pass in a game … before Sunday teams that won the Super Bowl turnover differential were 38-5. Make it 38-6. The Rams defied that trend, winning the Super Bowl after losing the turnover battle 0-2.
Thanks for reading …
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