CINCINNATI (Cincinnati Enquirer) — The Cincinnati Bengals prepare to face the Los Angeles Rams for the Lombardi Trophy on Sunday at SoFi Stadium.
As the game gets closer, the intrigues multiply. From Bengals head coach Zac Taylor versus fellow former Rams head coach Sean McVay to Joe Burrow versus Matthew Stafford, there are a ton of angles for Super Bowl 56.
Since the Bengals arrived on Tuesday, the team has spent the week acclimating to the heat and to their workplace for the week. At this point the game plan is set and the last few minutes before the game is all about combing through the details. Taylor kept the same meeting and practice schedules in hopes of making this week similar to every other game week.
Despite winning their last three games and overcoming multiple scoring deficits, the Bengals come into Sunday’s game as underdogs, once again. Whether it’s the Rams’ star power or the idea of them playing in their home stadium, the Bengals find themselves in a place they’ve been all season — underdogs.
Here’s how the Bengals beat the Rams:
The Rams loaded their defensive line in hopes of trying to pressure their opponents’ quarterback throughout the game. Los Angeles general manager Les Snead and McVay traded for veteran passer Von Miller midway through the season to team up with All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald and Leonard Floyd.
The Bengals allowed 51 sacks from Burrow in the regular season and another 12 during the playoffs. Los Angeles finished No. 3 in the NFL in sacks with 51 on the year.
Donald and Miller have combined for 3.5 sacks in the playoffs. For the Bengals to play the style of game they want to play where Burrow has time to find his weapons and stretch the game with his legs, he needs time.
Taylor and offensive coordinator Brian Callahan will likely implement a game plan to get the ball out of Burrow’s hands quickly. If so, expect screens to be a big part of the game and wide receiver Tyler Boyd and running back Joe Mixon would be the players to watch to be productive.
If the Bengals can shut down the explosive plays of Cooper Kupp, the NFL Offensive Player of the Year this season, they should be in good shape.
Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. can make plays on short and middle routes, but he’s not as much of a threat on the field as Kupp.
Stafford has been prone to turning the ball around at times this year, and Cincinnati’s defense has been one of the most opportunistic defensive units in the playoffs. Bengals cornerbacks Mike Hilton and Chidobe Awuzie need to play well in their roles to keep Kupp’s production to a minimum.
McVay is one of the best coaches in the NFL when he has a lead. He has lost just one game despite leading at halftime in five seasons as a head coach.
The Rams roster is designed to play with a lead and if the Bengals can stress the Los Angeles defense by taking a lead, it will force the Rams to adopt a different game plan.
When Cincinnati’s offense starts early, it’s one of the hardest teams to beat in the NFL.
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