Mary J. Blige is out next, wearing a somewhat Beyonce-esque outfit but wielding her own distinctive voice.
Then, Kendrick Lamar comes out to peform “Alright.” This is certainly star-studded.
And we have 50 Cent. In Da Club which will be 20 years old next year. Just in case you wanted to be reminded of your mortality for some reason.
Snoop Dogg comes out first, with Dr Dre emerging to do a brief version of California Love that just makes me miss 2Pac.
And here we have the NFL’s ridiculously calculated all-hip-hop half-time show. I can already tell I’m going to enjoy this musically and loathe the cynical reasons that the NFL selected Dr Dre, Snoop Dogg and company to perform today.
An email from Graham Searles entitled “Mixon MVP”:
Its on! Let’s go Joe!
Hope the live blog’s going well Hunter
Thanks, it’s … uh, going. If the Bengals make a comeback, I will say that Mixon might just earn the hardware for that TD alone.
Email from Ben Bronx:
This Cincinnati Bengals team reminds me of the New York Giants that won Super Bowl XLII. Constantly defying the odds each week in the playoffs and starting the Super Bowl as massive underdogs.
They started off a bit rusty here, but I guess they get better as the game goes on.
Again: Burrow has yet to throw a touchdown pass and this is still just a three-point deficit. They’ll take that.
The Rams looked in-control early, but the Bengals punched back with a nifty trick play. Meanwhile, the Beckham injury looms very, very large here. He was making an early case for game MVP before getting hurt. A three-point game at halftime is essentially a tie in the NFL.
End of the first half! (Rams 13-10 Bengals)
Rams 13-10 Bengals, end of the first half
Stafford throws incomplete on first down and then finds Kupp for a nine-yard gain that takes them to midfield. LA take a timeout here before this third and one situation. Stafford tries a deep throw that’s incomplete. On fourth and one, the Rams go conservative and bring out the punting unit.
Hekker’s punt goes into the end zone. It’s a touchback but it doesn’t matter because there’s only a few seconds left and there’s no reason for the Bengals to risk anything here.
Rams 13-10 Bengals, .42, second quarter
After the timeout, Brandon Powell takes Huber’s punt nine yards to the Rams 41-yard line. That’s decent opening field position, but the Rams don’t have much time to work with here.
Rams 13-10 Bengals, :48, second quarter
Okay, the penalty was that one of the Bengals came onto the field when they weren’t allowed.
On first and then, Burrow finds Higgins for a five-yard gain. Second and five, Burrow finds C.J. Uzomah for a six yard gain. First and ten, Burrow is going shotgun as the clock winds down. He throws incomplete. Second and ten, Burrow finds Boyd for four years.
The Bengals take a timeout. Whatever they discussed didn’t work, as Burrow gets sacked on the next play and they have to punt. The Rams take a second timeout.
Rams 13-10 Bengals, 2.00, second quarter
Akers picks up a single yard to put the Rams at their own 43. Then, however, Stafford’s ball control problems flare up at a very bad time as his deep pass to Jefferson is picked up by safety Jesse Bates III in the end zone! It’s Bengals ball and they will start at their own 20.
Never mind, make that their own 10-yard line after an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Cincinnati.
Rams 13-10 Bengals, 2.46, second quarter
It’s a third and nine situation, Stafford finds Brycen Hopkins for a 16-yard gain that puts them at the Bengals 39. That’s a new set of downs as well, obviously.
On the next play, the Rams get hit with a five-yard false start penalty. On first and 15, Stafford’s pass is incomplete.
Email from Paul Mack:
Cocky by the Rams to go for a two pointer in the second quarter …while they were ahead. Hope it comes back to bite them.
Well it’s now a one field goal game because of that failed conversion. Beckham is being taken to the medical tent, which is never a great sign.
Rams 13-10 Bengals, 3.54, second quarter
On 4.38, Akers picks up a yard. It’s second & nine on the Rams 45 and Stafford’s pass is … incomplete and we go to commercial as Beckham was hurt on the play.
Rams 13-10 Bengals, 4.38, second quarter
That’s Mixon’s first pass in the NFL? Wow.
Okay, McPherson’s kickoff goes for a touchback. The Rams start again at their own 25. Akers picks up six yards on first and 10. On second and four, Stafford finds Jefferson for a 13-yard gain and a new set of downs.
Touchdown (Bengals) (Rams 13-10 Bengals)
Rams 13-10 Bengals, 5.47, second quarter
Mixon picks up four yards on two straight possessions and the Burrow-to-Chase connection gets them to the LA seven-yard line. Mixon gets them one yard closer. It’s second and goal and … Mixon gets the ball and the running back tosses a pass to Higgins for the first Bengals touchdown!
Who had their first TD pass coming from anybody but Burrow? This game is going to break Vegas. Meanwhile, the extra point is good!
Rams 13-3 Bengals, 8.58, second quarter
Mixon picks up 14 yards to the LA 37. First and ten, Mixon picks up four to the 33-yard line. The Bengals are putting together a drive. Second and six, Burrow finds Mixon for no gains. Key third and six here and … Burrow fins Tee Higgins for a 14-yard gain that puts them in the Rams’ red zone.
Rams 13-3 Bengals, 11.34, second quarter
Correction: that actually goes in the books as a failed two-point conversion! Sorry for the confusion, bettors, but it’s the same score.
In any case, after a Gay kickoff, the Bengals start at their own 25. Burrow finds Boys for a 11-yard gain and a first down. Mixon then picks up three yards to the Bengals 39 where Burrow finds Chase again for a 10 yard again. The Bengals are already at their own 49.
Touchdown! Rams. (Rams 13-3 Bengals)
Rams 13-3 Bengals, 12.56, second quarter
Sorry, that’s a second down and four, not that it really matters. Stafford finds Kupp in the end zone and that’s the second Rams touchdown. The Bengals, yet again, are going to have to come from behind if they want to win this one.
They do, however, block the extra point attempt! That’s something you don’t see often in the Super Bowl.
Rams 7-3 Bengals, 12.56, second quarter
Stafford finds to Henderson, who can run and catch, and he takes for 25 yards to the Bengals 16. Henderson gets the ball again and takes it to the Bengals 11. Second and five … the Rams take a timeout.
Rams 7-3 Bengals, 14.56, second quarter
Stafford’s second and 11 pass is incomplete, but his third and 11 pass finds OBJ again for a 35-yard gain that puts them at the Bengals 41 yard line.
It was really just a lost opportunity there for the Bengals.
Rams 7-3 Bengals, end of the firstquarter
McPherson’s kickoff is another touchback. The Rams start on their own 25, where they will be at the start of the second quarter after an Akers run goes nowhere on first own.
Field goal! Bengals. (Rams 7-3 Bengals)
Rams 7-3 Bengals, .30, first quarter
However, Burrow’s next three throws end up being incomplete. Here comes, McPherson and his magical foot, but what a great near-goal line stand by the Rams defense.
The 29-yard field goal puts the Bengals on the board, but that’s a huge missed opportunity there.
Rams 7-0 Bengals, 1.32, firstquarter
Finally, Mixon breaks loose, piling through defenders for a 13-yard gain and a first down. They’re at their own 43-yard line now. This time, Burrow throws an extraordinarily LONG throw to Chase who somehow corrals it at the Rams 11-yard line! 46 yards! Wowzers!
Yes that warranted a “wowzers.”
Rams 7-0 Bengals, 2.23, firstquarter
Stafford passes to Ben Skowronek for a five-yard gain. It’s second and five at the LA 33 and just when I’m about to type that we haven’t had any penalties this game, the Rams get tagged with delay of game. So they will be pushed back five yards here.
Second and 10 back at their own 28, running back Sony Michel gets just three yards. Third and seven, Stafford’s pass to Van Jefferson only gets them four yards and so they will be punting here. Hekkers punt is fielded at the 11-yard line by Trent Taylor, who takes it for a 20-yard gain to the Cincinnati 30.
I’m the biggest fourth-down guy ever and I was stunned by that decision. I literally was writing “they will punt here” when it happened and had to delete it real quick.
Rams 7-0 Bengals, 4.54, firstquarter
Matt Gay’s kick goes for a touchback. The Bengals are at their own 25. On first and 10, they need Mixon now more than ever … but he runs for no gain.
On second and 10, Burrow throws to former college teammate JaMarr Chase for the first time this game, and it’s a six yard gain. It’s third and four at their own 31. Burrow throws incomplete to Evans and that will be a wrap here. Here comes the punting team.
Kevin Huber’s punt will put the Rams at their own 28 on the other side of more commercials.
You see? That article I shared early this liveblog about Beckham? That was called foreshadowing!
Touchdown! Rams! (Rams 7-0 Bengals)
Rams 7-0 Bengals, 6.22, first quarter
Henderson picks up four yards to put them at the Bengals 20. It’s second and six now, Stafford finds Henderson again, and he gets it to the 17-yard line. It’s third and three now here, with the Bengals hoping to hold them to a field goal.
THEY DON’T. Instead, Stafford finds Odell Beckham Jr for the first touchdown of the Super Bowl! With a successful extra point attempt, the Rams take a 7-0 lead!
Rams 0-0 Bengals, 8.46, first quarter
Akers gets the ball on first & 10 at the 50-yard line and gets taken for a one-yard loss. Second and 11, Stafford takes the ball himself and scrambles for seven yards. Third and four, Stafford finds Cooper Kupp for a 20-yard gain that puts them on the Bengals 24 yard line.
Going for it on fourth and one might be backfiring for Cincinnati here.
No clue, but take the over. I’m going to take notes on how many commercials are for gambling sites and/or crypto.
Rams 0-0 Bengals, 10.00, firstquarter
Well, oddly enough, the Rams have had some protection issues on that opening drive. Let’s see what Cincinnati can do here. Joe Burrow finds Tyler Boyd for an eight-yard gain right to half field. 2nd & 2, Joe Mixon squeezes out a yard.
And that’s all they get. The next two plays go nowhere, so the Rams will get the ball back at the 50-yard line.
Rams 0-0 Bengals, 12.04, firstquarter
Oof, Stafford gets sacked for seven yards to make this a 3rd & 17 situation. On the very next play, Darrell Henderson gets taken for a three yard loss. So, here comes punter Johnny Hekker, whose 40 yard punt is returned by the Bengals to their own 42 yard line.
Rams 0-0 Bengals, 13.52, first quarter
The Rams start at their own 25, Cam Akers gets the ball for the first offensive play of the game and picks up four yards. 2nd & 6 at the Rams 29, Matthew Stafford finds Akers again for seven yards. That’s an instant first down on the LA 36.
Rams 0-0 Bengals, 15.00, firstquarter
We’re off! The Bengals’ opening kickoff goes into the end zone for a touchback.
Okay, we’re almost to opening kick and I will admit to 100% being distracted by the commercial for this nostalgia-trap of a “Jurassic Park” sequel.
Oh here’s The Rock for no reason. This is promising to be a celebrity-packed Super Bowl, even more so than usual.
Billie Jean King comes out for the coin toss. It’s heads and the Bengals win and they choose to defer (wisely) so the Rams will get the ball first.
Mickey Guyton! I love her! Say one thing about holding a Super Bowl in LA, the league has their pick of musical talent at their disposal. 8/10
Just, one slight mistake was made here:
Jhené Aiko is singing “America the Beautiful,” alongside the biggest harp I think I’ve ever seen. Quite gorgeous.
Email from our old friend Roger Kirkby:
Hi Hunter, a number to look out of in the game is 34 points, the reason being the biggest score by a team not to win is 33 by New England. So if a team hits 34 they should be the winners. I’ve been on the Bengals bandwagon through all of the playoffs, but I’m switching to The Rams as they will become the first away team to win at home without moving cities in the process.
And a moment of silence for the late John Madden, followed by the Rams’ Andrew Whitworth receiving the 2021 Walter Payton Man of the Year award.
And here come the Cincinnati Bengals, we are around 20 minutes or so from opening kickoff now. Time is flying by here, apologies if I don’t catch every single tweet and email here.
When Adam Fletcher says living down south he means southern England and not Mississippi cos he lived up the road and I remember well those heady days of getting into NFL, The Fridge, Dan Marino et al, and The Shuffle was pretty good too.
I won’t lie, I was five at the time so I don’t have many memories of that particular era. My Super Bowl era was the Period Of Inevitable Buffalo Bills Futility.
As the LA Rams take the field, here are two of you who think they are going to be the ones to come out on top when this game comes to an end.
My longtime Guardian liveblogging cohort David Lengel is a fan of SoFi Stadium, no matter what the cost:
Plus, he has the Bengals winning this one.
Email from Amy Moran:
It’s been a crazy season, so a crazy Superbowl seems appropriate. Are the Bengals really the underdogs we make them out to be? Or are we just razzle dazzled by the big names on the Rams? With you on this thing going to overtime, gonna stock up on some energy drinks.
The Rams are favorites based on talent, but not overwhelming ones. We’ve seen the Bengals win three straight games, two of them as underdogs, and it’s impossible to count them out. I think everybody is expecting this to be a relatively evenly-matched game and nobody should be shocked at either team winning.
Email from Peter Evans:
Just wondering why does the NFL use Roman numerals for the branding of Super Bowl. Is Latin the new modern language to learn in American schools?
Peter from Swansea
This is a great question that I had to look up real quick! I always assumed it was just because it looked cool and that the Roman numeral thing emphasized the whole gladiatorial combat feel of the entire sport.
As it turns out, it’s because of the weird thing that the Super Bowl played in any given year, is the last game of last year’s NFL season:
“The Roman numerals were adopted to clarify any confusion that may occur because the NFL championship game – the Super Bowl – is played in the year following a chronologically recorded season. Numerals I through IV were added later for the first four Super Bowls.”
How this is supposed to clear up this confusion is not exactly clear to me, but this is the official explanation according to the Sporting News.
Your predictions are coming in as the pregame ceremonies begin. (The duo Mary Mary is doing an astounding version of “Lift Every Voice And Sing” as I type this.)
Email from Will Murphy:
I would love the Bengals to win but I don’t think the O-Line will protect Burrow enough. Although after nine sacks last week anything is possible … Still Rams will win with less than a seven-point advantage.
The Rams’ defense against the Bengals’ offensive line could very much be the story of the game.
Meanwhile, via Twitter:
Well, McPherson was my “Bengals player to watch,” so I would be down with that.
Email from Dan Hare:
Watching in a bar in San Diego and it’s unseasonably roasting hot. The pre-match reminds me of when the FA Cup build-up started at 11 am, just with more ads.
Oh yeah, the hours and hours of promoted content before the Super Bowl: an American tradition like no other.
I’m going to assume that, following the Chargers’ departure, the feeling in San Diego is decidedly anti-Rams (or at least anti-Los Angeles).
Email from Adam Fletcher:
My first Super Bowl was the crazy Bears year, in January ’86. I was 17, we drank Colt 45 because the offie had run out of Budweiser. We’d discovered the American Forces Radio Network during the year, living down south and close enough to some USAF bases, and had been listening to Sunday night double headers all season. Tonight, well, I’m back at work (at school) tomorrow after a week isolating because of a positive Covid test, so I’ll watch until I fall asleep. Which might not be too long …
Ah yes, the Super Bowl Shuffle Chicago Bears, definitely a high watermark for the league:
Sorry to hear about the positive test though and hope that you end up okay. I will use this opportunity to mention that while I’m mostly recovered from the side effects of my vaccine booster shot on Friday, I am 100% going to blame any and all future typos and mental slips on lingering brain fog.
Email from Andrew Benton:
How many years of profit will it take to recoup the cost of the $5bn for the stadium? Looks great in the pic, but wow, that’s quite a commitment to take on.
Personally speaking, I’m not going to spend too much time worrying about the owners of this privately funded stadium, but I will point out that both the Rams and the Los Angeles Chargers occupy the stadium, so that will help things.
If you would like to read more about the Chargers’ cohabitation with the Rams, Andrew Lawerence also has you there:
As you have already noticed, I (and other, worthier Guardian writers) have already made a multitude of Super Bowl-related predictions.
Now, obviously, I would like to be right, or at least not terribly wrong, but what I’m always rooting for in these liveblogs is a competitive game. Normally, I would add “no overtime”, but after the AFC championship game, I am now officially pro-overtime.
So, I’ll open it up to you, the general public: how do you see the Super Bowl playing out? Who is the winner? Who is your MVP favorite? You can send us an email at [email protected] or tweet @HunterFelt.
Since we have some time before the big game officially begins, it’s a perfect time to do some reading to catch up on some of the major plot lines of today’s game.
Let’s start with the Guardian’s Andrew Lawrence on the unusual career arc of Rams’ wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr, who is rebuilding his reputation after high-profile exits from the New York Giants and the Cleveland Browns.
When is a home team not a home team?
Okay, this is going to be a potentially confusing detail. The Rams are playing in their home building but they are not the designated home team. It’s the Bengals who have that designation instead because the AFC and the NFC exchange “home field advantage” every other year. Got that? Not really? Me neither, but that’s the reason why it is Rams v Bengals rather than the other way around.
My esteemed editor Tom Lutz has an update straight from SoFi Stadium itself:
“It’s a glorious February day in Inglewood with temperatures around 87F (31C). That’s far from normal at this time of year, even in southern California, and perhaps doesn’t bode well for the future, but for today, the fans are in good spirits and sunglasses as they make their way in to the stadium. And speaking of SoFi Stadium: it is a beauty, which is just as well for something that cost $5bn. Contrary to popular belief, it turns out there ARE Rams fans in Los Angeles and plenty were lining the street on the way to the stadium. But there has also been a good share of Bengals fans too for the last few days in and around the city and they may be edging their opponents in the (politely) drunk stakes.”
Just as everybody expected, this year’s Super Bowl is between the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals.
I know, we’ve had three weeks and it still doesn’t sound right! Tom Brady? Retired. Ben Roethlisberger? Likewise. Back-to-back MVP winner Aaron Rodgers? At home and most likely plotting an escape from the Green Bay Packers. The New England Patriots? Done in one. The Dallas Cowboys? Oh man, don’t even ask.
Now, the Rams always thought they belonged here. They’ve been in win-now mode for the last two seasons and are now one win away from having it pay off, particularly by making the decision to move on from Jared Goff at quarterback and replace him with the Detroit Lions’ Matthew Stafford.
(We also welcome all long-suffering Lions fans who are rooting for the Rams solely for this reason. We understand, sometimes you have to take whatever victories you can get.)
In the NFC championship game, the Rams defeated the San Francisco 49ers, a well-rounded team that decided to stick with their own questionable quarterback in Jimmy Garoppolo. That, not unpredictably, ended up being the difference in the game. Sometimes in sports, it very much is the moves you DO make.
The Bengals? Nobody except them expected the Bengals to get this far. They hadn’t won a playoff game since 1991. Now they have won three straight and are somehow in the Super Bowl. Talk about a quarterback changing a team: Joe Burrow has transformed the Bengals from the dispiriting “Bungles” of yore to the year’s most unexpected underdog story.
If anybody doubted their chances at winning a championship, the results of the AFC championship game should have set them straight. With their comeback win over the Kansas City Chiefs, who were aiming to appear in their third straight Super Bowl, the Bengals have ensured that on paper, at least, this matchup should be something of a toss-up.
It’s the final game of a terrific NFL postseason and you have one final chance to contribute to one of our NFL liveblogs. Contact us with your comments, questions, predictions and whatnot and we’ll use them throughout today’s coverage. You can email them to [email protected] or send them to my online home on Twitter at @HunterFelt.
It’s Super Bowl LVI with the Los Angeles Rams against the Cincinnati Bengals at their home at SoFi Stadium! Kickoff is scheduled around 6:30 pm EST/11:30 pm GMT but we’ll be back with regular updates as we get closer to actual football. Stay tuned!
Hunter will be here shortly, in the meantime here are our writers’ predictions for today’s game.
Rams 24-27 Bengals. This is tricky. The Rams can score points in chunks and have the kind of defense that could elevate any side to a championship team. On the other hand, there is Joe Burrow’s coat. There are the cigars. There’s the chain. There’s McPherson’s icy veins. There’s something about this Bengals team that makes you want to ditch any sense of intelligent analysis in favor of picking what’s fun. Oliver Connolly
Rams 35-22 Bengals. I can’t get over the mismatch that is the Rams’ elite defensive front against the Bengals’ below average offensive line. The Rams also have a huge advantage playing in their hometown. No, not because they have a robust fanbase, but because they have spent the week in their facilities, sticking to their routines. The Bengals, on the other hand, are sleeping in a hotel and dealing with the insane logistics that come with the Super Bowl. Melissa Jacobs
Rams 34-28 Bengals. Despite the Bengals’ team-of-destiny vibes, few teams make it to the top without taking some lumps in the beginning. (The legacy of lumps don’t apply.) Meanwhile, the Rams have a prime chance to take their city back – and if they flop a second time, there’s no telling if they will have another. GM Les Snead mortgaged the team’s future to win right now. If their stars align, I just don’t see how they miss this moment. Andrew Lawrence
Rams 24-30 Bengals (OT). The Rams lose without touching the ball in overtime, something which finally forces the NFL to change its silly rules. Everyone wins (except, obviously, the Rams). Hunter Felt
Rams 21-24 Bengals. The pressure is on but who will blink first? The Bengals have been excellent in the clutch and that will shade the Rams’ flashy roster. McVay’s failure from three years ago could also negatively influence his decisions. Burrow grinds against the odds to set McPherson up and McFearless drills the game-winner home. Who Dey think gonna beat them Bengals? Nobody … finally! Graham Searles