The Super Bowl turned out pretty much the way it was expected to go.
It was a close game as expected and the Rams, who were slight favorites, won it by three and didn’t cover the spread.
They won it because their three key players, Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp and Aaron Donald, took control of the game on the final series for each team. Kupp got the MVP award but they could have shared it.
Stafford and Kupp led the game-winning drive and Donald blew up the Bengals final two plays.
Unfortunately, the officials, who let the two teams play for the first 58 minutes, got too involved at the end.
If not for a questionable pass interference penalty, the Rams would have faced a fourth-and-goal at the 8 with the game on the line instead of a first-and-goal at the 1.
But the Bengals also shot themselves in the foot several times, so they couldn’t blame the officials. To start with, coach Zac Taylor decided to go for it on fourth-and-1 at midfield on their first series. The Bengals didn’t convert and gave the Rams good field position for their first touchdown.
It turned out that running back Samaje Perine lined up on the wrong side, according to Phil Simms, bringing the linebacker to the side Joe Burrow was throwing the ball and enabling him to knock away the pass.
And Taylor only gave the ball to Joe Mixon 15 times even though he was averaged 4.8 yards a carry and the Bengals were in the lead much of the second half.
And Mixon wasn’t even on the field when the Bengals had a third-and-1 at midfield on their final drive. Perine got the call and Donald stopped him for no gain. Donald then forced a wild throw on fourth down and the Rams were the champions.
Now the question is where the teams will go from here. The odds are against both of them returning.
The Rams will try to repeat, which hasn’t been done since the Patriots did it in 2003-2004.
And the Bengals face the daunting task of becoming only the second team since the 1972 perfect Dolphins to win the Super Bowl after losing it the previous year. Tom Brady and the Patriots are the only team to do it since then.
And Burrow is trying to become the first quarterback to lose his first Super Bowl appearance and make it back the following year since Jim Kelly lost four in a row in the early 1990s.
Of the last 16 quarterbacks to lose their first Super Bowl start since then, none has returned as a starter. Drew Bledsoe made it back as Brady’s backup.
It was not surprising the close game got good TV ratings to set the stage for what the league hopes will be another good season next year now that a group of young quarterbacks are taking center stage.
But they also have off the field issues, including the discrimination lawsuit filed by former Miami coach Brian Flores, who also claims that owner Stephen Ross offered to pay him $100,000 a game to lose games for better draft position.
Ross denies the allegations but the league also has to find ways to get more minority coaches in the ranks of the head coaches.