The Los Angeles Rams were all in for a Super Bowl-or-bust run this year.
The Cincinnati Bengals were in what appeared to be the second year of a rebuilding program with quarterback Joe Burrow returning from the injury that he suffered last year.
Despite their different journeys, the two teams pulled off comebacks in the conference games to advance to this year’s Super Bowl.
The Bengals rallied from a 21-3 deficit to upset the Chiefs, 27-24, in overtime while the Rams were favored over the 49ers after losing six consecutive games to them and needed a fourth quarter comeback to post the victory, 20-17.
For both winners, there was a lot of vindication.
The Rams continued their policy of throwing draft picks around like confetti, and it worked.
Among the moves this season were trading for quarterback Matthew Stafford in the offseason and for defensive standout Von Miller during the season. Both were valuable additions to the team.
Stafford didn’t win a playoff in his 12 years with the Lions, but the Rams decided he would be an upgrade over Jared Goff. He had some ups and downs during the regular season as he threw 17 picks, but he threw only one in the playoffs.
For Bengals owner Mike Brown, the son of legendary coach Paul Brown, it was a chance to show he could put together a Super Bowl team.
The Bengals had gone 31 years without a playoff win. Marvin Lewis coached the team to the playoffs seven times in 16 years but didn’t win a playoff game. Brown and Lewis parted ways after the 2018 season.
And the drafting of Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase with their first picks the last two years helped coach Zac Taylor build a playoff team.
And both teams took advantage of blunders by the losing teams. Kansas City had a 21-10 lead with five seconds left in first half. Instead of taking the field goal, they tried a play that didn’t work. And in the second half, the Chiefs didn’t adjust when the Bengals used a 3-8 alignment and didn’t run the ball enough.
The 49ers had a fourth-and-2 in fourth quarter, leading by three. Instead of going for it, they punted and opened the door for the Rams comeback victory.
So now the Rams will host the Super Bowl in their home stadium. It never happened before last year when Tampa Bay played the Super Bowl against the Chiefs in their home stadium.
In 1979, the Rams played the Super Bowl in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena against the Steelers. The Rams led after three quarters but the Steelers rallied to win their fourth Super Bowl in the fourth quarter.
The Rams last made the Super Bowl after the 2018 season and lost to the Patriots. The Rams also made it twice when they were in St. Louis, beating the Titans in 1999 and lost to the Patriots in 2001.
Cincinnati is playing in its third Super Bowl and lost to the 49ers in its first two appearances in 1981 and 1988.