Super Bowl 2022 Live Updates: The Rams and Bengals to Face Off

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Alanis Thames

Aaron Donald celebrated his final play, pressuring Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow to seal a Super Bowl title.

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Aaron Donald celebrated his final play, pressuring Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow to seal a Super Bowl title.
Aaron Donald celebrated his final play, pressuring Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow to seal a Super Bowl title. Credit... Ben Solomon for The New York Times

INGLEWOOD, Calif. — The Los Angeles Rams used a late comeback to down the Cincinnati Bengals, 23-20, in the Super Bowl on Sunday, capturing an N.F.L. championship by scoring a touchdown with less than two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter and then stopping quarterback Joe Burrow from his own last-ditch comeback in the game’s final moments.

Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford finished off the decisive 15-play, 72-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown pass to Cooper Kupp, who leapt into the air with a defender nearby to grab his second touchdown of the game.

Then, Burrow, the Bengals’ young star who had won a collegiate national championship with Louisiana State, was stopped on his final play and forced to throw an incomplete pass as he faced pressure from Aaron Donald, the Rams’ pass rusher who is one of the best players in the league.

Kupp was named the game’s Most Valuable Player, finishing with eight catches for 92 yards and two scores.

“I just don’t feel deserving of this,” Kupp said after the game, once the “Coop” cheers subsided long enough for him to speak on the field to the crowd. “God is so good. I’m just so thankful for the guys I get to be around, for the coaches, my family. I don’t know what to say.”

It is the second Super Bowl win in franchise history for the Rams, who won their first in 2000, when the team was based in St. Louis and defeated the Tennessee Titans in Atlanta.

Cooper Kupp was named the Most Valuable Player of the game.

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Cooper Kupp was named the Most Valuable Player of the game.
Cooper Kupp was named the Most Valuable Player of the game. Credit... AJ Mast for The New York Times
Aaron Donald’s pressure of Joe Burrow on fourth down helped seal the victory for the Rams.

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Aaron Donald’s pressure of Joe Burrow on fourth down helped seal the victory for the Rams.
Aaron Donald’s pressure of Joe Burrow on fourth down helped seal the victory for the Rams. Credit... Ben Solomon for The New York Times

“I just can’t say enough about how much I l love this group,” said the Rams’ coach, Sean McVay, who at 36 became the youngest head coach to win a Super Bowl. He added: “There’s something really powerful about being a part of something bigger than yourself. And you can see that in the way that these guys competed.”

Los Angeles had spent much of the second half behind Cincinnati after the Bengals started the third quarter with a long touchdown pass and attempted to contain Los Angeles for as much of the second half as possible.

On the first play of the second half, Burrow tossed a 75-yard touchdown to receiver Tee Higgins to give the Bengals a 17-13 lead. Higgins appeared to grasp the face mask of Jalen Ramsey, the Rams’ Pro Bowl defensive back, on the play, but there was no call for offensive pass interference on the field.

On the following possession, Stafford, who was traded to the Rams from Detroit before the season began, threw a pass that was intended for receiver Ben Skowronek, but the ball caromed off his hands and into the grasp of Bengals defensive back Chidobe Awuzie.

The Rams went all in on a potential Super Bowl run this season, trading draft capital for experienced superstars. They bolstered an offense that already boasted Kupp, the most productive receiver in football, by bringing in Odell Beckham Jr., the former Browns receiver, in the middle of the regular season.

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Beckham Jr. caught a 17-yard touchdown pass  in the first quarter on Sunday, the first score of the game.
Beckham Jr. caught a 17-yard touchdown pass  in the first quarter on Sunday, the first score of the game. Credit... AJ Mast for The New York Times

And it paid off.

Beckham caught five touchdowns for the Rams in the regular season and had the first score on Sunday, a 17-yard catch that he celebrated by doing the moonwalk on the turf.

Beckham injured his left knee later in the first half on a noncontact injury and did not return.

Bengals fans roared through much of the game even though Los Angeles was in its home stadium. The roars grew louder in the second half — helped perhaps by an electric halftime show that included a bevy of superstar hip-hop artists, led by the Southern California native Dr. Dre.

The Bengals had come from behind in the A.F.C. championship game to defeat Kansas City. But Burrow, despite the heroics that had gotten the Bengals to the Super Bowl, could not muster another comeback. He appeared to injure a knee late in the second half but remained in the game.

The Rams’ defense, highlighted by the ferocious pass rushers Donald and Von Miller, tightened up their pressure up front, sacking Burrow five times in the third quarter to keep the game close.

And it was Donald, the player the Rams had built their team around, who sealed the win.

“I wanted it so bad. I dreamed this, man.” Donald, with tears in his eyes, said on the NBC broadcast after the game. He looked up at the blue and yellow confetti cascading on the field as he was asked possible retirement.

“I’m just in the moment right now,” he said. He added: “This is the promise that I made to my daughter when she was 5. We’re just going to play in the confetti for a minute, and I’m just going to live in the moment.”

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Von Miller, left, and Aaron Donald, celebrating their victory.
Von Miller, left, and Aaron Donald, celebrating their victory. Credit... AJ Mast for The New York Times

Feb. 13, 2022, 11:58 p.m. ET Feb. 13, 2022

Feb. 13, 2022, 11:58 p.m. ET

The New York Times

Here’s a look at some of our photographers’ favorite images captured during the Rams’ Super Bowl win on Sunday night:

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Mickey Guyton performed the national anthem before the game.
Mickey Guyton performed the national anthem before the game. Credit... Ben Solomon for The New York Times

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Joe Mixon was tackled by David Long Jr. in the first half.
Joe Mixon was tackled by David Long Jr. in the first half. Credit... AJ Mast for The New York Times

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Odell Beckham Jr. had the first touchdown of the game during the first quarter.
Odell Beckham Jr. had the first touchdown of the game during the first quarter. Credit... Ben Solomon for The New York Times

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Rams fans celebrating their winning touchdown in the final minutes of the game.
Rams fans celebrating their winning touchdown in the final minutes of the game. Credit... Meg Oliphant for The New York Times

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Credit... Meg Oliphant for The New York Times

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Cincinnati running back Joe Mixon being wrapped up by defenders during the first quarter.
Cincinnati running back Joe Mixon being wrapped up by defenders during the first quarter. Credit... AJ Mast for The New York Times

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Bengals safety Jessie Bates had an interception during the second quarter.
Bengals safety Jessie Bates had an interception during the second quarter. Credit... Ben Solomon for The New York Times

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Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, Dr. Dre, Mary J. Blige, 50 Cent and Snoop Dogg performed at the halftime show.
Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, Dr. Dre, Mary J. Blige, 50 Cent and Snoop Dogg performed at the halftime show. Credit... Ben Solomon for The New York Times

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The N.F.L. said the league was aware that Eminem would take a knee during his performance.
The N.F.L. said the league was aware that Eminem would take a knee during his performance. Credit... AJ Mast for The New York Times

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Van Jefferson was unable to haul in this catch.
Van Jefferson was unable to haul in this catch. Credit... AJ Mast for The New York Times

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Von Miller sacked quarterback Joe Burrow twice in the game.
Von Miller sacked quarterback Joe Burrow twice in the game. Credit... AJ Mast for The New York Times

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Cooper Kupp was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.
Cooper Kupp was named the game’s Most Valuable Player. Credit... AJ Mast for The New York Times

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Rams wide receiver Van Jefferson after the game.
Rams wide receiver Van Jefferson after the game. Credit... AJ Mast for The New York Times

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Quinton Spain, left, and Hakeem Adeniji after the game.
Quinton Spain, left, and Hakeem Adeniji after the game. Credit... Ben Solomon for The New York Times

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Credit... AJ Mast for The New York Times

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Terry Johnson, 64, watched the last moments of the Bengals’ loss from the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7174 in Joe Burrow’s hometown, The Plains, Ohio.
Terry Johnson, 64, watched the last moments of the Bengals’ loss from the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7174 in Joe Burrow’s hometown, The Plains, Ohio. Credit... Erica Dischino for The New York Times

Ken Belson

Feb. 13, 2022, 11:12 p.m. ET Feb. 13, 2022

Feb. 13, 2022, 11:12 p.m. ET

Los Angeles Rams owner E. Stanley Kroenke holding the Lombardi Trophy after his team won the Super Bowl.

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Los Angeles Rams owner E. Stanley Kroenke holding the Lombardi Trophy after his team won the Super Bowl.
Los Angeles Rams owner E. Stanley Kroenke holding the Lombardi Trophy after his team won the Super Bowl. Credit... AJ Mast for The New York Times

The Rams secured their franchise’s first Super Bowl title as a team based in California, and their emotions were raw right after the game.

Coach Sean McVay was almost breathless in his praise of what he called his “resilient team.”

“For the offense to be able to find a way, and Aaron finishing it off, it was poetic, man,” he told Mike Tirico of NBC following the win.

Receiver Cooper Kupp, who had eight receptions and two touchdowns, was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.

“It just comes down to this team, the way we prepared,” Kupp said. “I don’t feel deserving to this. I don’t know what to say.”

The team’s owner, E. Stanley Kroenke, spent heavily to move the Rams from St. Louis back to California. SoFi Stadium, the team’s new home, cost about $5 billion and opened at the start of the 2020 season.

Kroenke said he was “really proud” of his players and McVay.

“But in terms of building this stadium, it turned out all right,” he said.

Emmanuel Morgan

Feb. 13, 2022, 11:06 p.m. ET Feb. 13, 2022

Feb. 13, 2022, 11:06 p.m. ET

Quinton Spain and Hakeem Adeniji of the Cincinnati Bengals sat on the bench as blue and yellow confetti rained on the field following the Rams’ Super Bowl win.

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Quinton Spain and Hakeem Adeniji of the Cincinnati Bengals sat on the bench as blue and yellow confetti rained on the field following the Rams’ Super Bowl win.
Quinton Spain and Hakeem Adeniji of the Cincinnati Bengals sat on the bench as blue and yellow confetti rained on the field following the Rams’ Super Bowl win. Credit... Ben Solomon for The New York Times

INGLEWOOD, Calif. — A sea of orange Cincinnati Bengals jerseys, “Who Dey, ” chants and fake Cartier sunglasses filled SoFi Stadium during Sunday’s Super Bowl.

The venue hosts the Los Angeles Rams, who were facing Cincinnati, but the influx of Bengals fans made it feel like Ohio. Nevermind that the Bengals were not supposed to be here.

Not after Joe Burrow injured his knee last season and could not complete his rookie season. Not after Cincinnati used a top-five draft pick to select Ja’Marr Chase, Burrow’s favorite target at Louisiana State, instead of solidifying its offensive line, one of the worst in the league. Not while playing in the competitive A.F.C. North, where the flashy Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson and the rebuilt Cleveland Browns were supposed to rule.

The Bengals overcame those factors and made it to the Super Bowl, and they were a few plays away from winning it. Their 23-20 defeat to the Rams, while stinging, showed that Cincinnati can remain a force for years to come.

Had those plays at the end of the game gone differently, the Bengals would have hoisted the Lombardi Trophy in the Rams’ home stadium. Instead, the Los Angeles players jumped for joy on the field and ran into the end zone as time expired.

In the fourth quarter, with a 20-16 lead, Bengals receiver Tyler Boyd dropped a pass with large catch-and-run potential on third down, forcing Cincinnati to punt with over six minutes remaining. That kept Cincinnati from converting and chewing up clock. The Rams’ offense, with newfound life, marched downfield to the red zone. On two different plays, penalties committed by the Cincinnati defense gave the Rams extra chances to strike. One of them, a 1-yard touchdown pass to Cooper Kupp, succeeded, giving Los Angeles the game-winning score with 1 minute 25 seconds left. An incomplete pass on fourth down on Cincinnati’s last-ditch possession ended any chances of a Cinderella story.

“It’s a special group,” Bengals Coach Zac Taylor said in his postgame news conference. “It’s rare that you get to coach a team like this. I’m proud of the way they fought. I thought they did a lot for our team, our organization and for our city and they need to be really proud of that.”

It’s not as sweet as a fairy tale, but that the Bengals reached this pinnacle is its own kind of success. They won only four games last season and wallowed toward the bottom of the league standings. Burrow, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 draft, was meant to revive a franchise that had not won a playoff game since 1991. Instead, his debut season was defined by constant sacks behind one of the N.F.L.’s worst offensive lines, and he tore his left anterior cruciate ligament in Week 11.

With the fifth pick in the 2021 draft, the Bengals could have shored up their offensive line with Oregon’s Penei Sewell or Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater. But, at Burrow’s request, Cincinnati selected Chase, who won a national championship with Burrow at L.S.U. in the 2019 season. It could have been a mistake, and some thought it was, because the Bengals already had a solid receiving corps with Boyd and Tee Higgins.

But that decision ignited this Super Bowl run, and produced an exciting, young offense. With running back Joe Mixon, who rushed for 1,205 yards and 13 touchdowns, and a defense rebuilt with hardworking free agents, the Bengals won 10 games. Chase won the N.F.L.’s Offensive Rookie of the Year Award after posting 1,455 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns in the regular season. Burrow won the Comeback Player of the Year Award, rebounding from his gruesome knee injury to throw for 4,611 yards and 34 touchdowns. (His affinity for fancy sunglasses inspired the flood of fake ones on Sunday.)

In the A.F.C. North, the Bengals bested the injury-riddled Ravens, the inconsistent Browns and the underperforming Steelers, earning the No. 4 seed in the playoffs. Then this young team showed its resilience by overcoming deficits against the top-seeded Titans, who tied a postseason record with nine sacks of Burrow, and against Kansas City — both road games — to reach the Super Bowl.

“These playoff games weren’t easy, and even beyond that, we had some tough games,” Taylor said. “Our guys proved that they can do a lot of great in those situations and put us in these moments.”

And in the global spotlight, they remained calm. Instead of being distracted by the lures of Los Angeles, they kept to themselves. While the city partied around them, the players said they watched Ultimate Fighting Championship bouts. Taylor said he left his hotel room only for practices, team meetings and a trip to In-N-Out Burger. The two-year turnaround the franchise performed was impressive, and it will set the standard for the Bengals going forward. No longer the surprise contenders, for next year’s Super Bowl, they’ll be expected to be there.

“We’re a young team and you’d like to think we’d be back in this situation multiple times over the course of the next few years,” Burrow said. “You take this and you let if fuel you for the rest of our careers.”

Jenny Vrentas

Feb. 13, 2022, 10:58 p.m. ET Feb. 13, 2022

Feb. 13, 2022, 10:58 p.m. ET

Rams wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is helped off the field after he was injured during the second quarter.

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Rams wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is helped off the field after he was injured during the second quarter.
Rams wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is helped off the field after he was injured during the second quarter. Credit... AJ Mast for The New York Times

INGLEWOOD, Calif. — Odell Beckham Jr. made his slow and agonizing walk back to the locker room with his eyes still on the field. He was watching the Los Angeles Rams offense he could no longer be a part of, seemingly willing it to continue its march downfield.

Late in the second quarter of Super Bowl LVI, something went wrong as Beckham reached for what would have been his third catch of the game. As he crossed the middle of the field, his left foot appeared to catch in the turf at the edge of the N.F.L. logo painted at midfield. Beckham immediately grabbed his left knee in apparent pain and tumbled to the turf. His teammates, concerned about the possibility of a non-contact injury, encircled him, and one member of the team’s medical staff patted his right leg as if to console him.

Beckham was helped to the sideline and into the blue medical tent before being led to the locker room by an athletic trainer who carried his helmet. Moments after Beckham disappeared from view, Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford forced a throw to the end zone that was intercepted by Bengals safety Jessie Bates III.

But before Beckham left the field, he delivered the game’s first touchdown. He earned the 17-yard score with his release from Bengals cornerback Mike Hilton off the line of scrimmage. He then performed the moonwalk in the end zone. All signs pointed to a big night for the 29-year-old receiver, who followed a bumpy road to his first Super Bowl appearance.

The Rams offense at first seemed to stall with Beckham out, limiting Stafford’s options and allowing the Bengals to devote more attention to Los Angeles’s top receiver, Cooper Kupp. But the Rams rallied late in the game with a 15-play, 79-yard touchdown drive, capped by a 1-yard touchdown pass to Kupp that sealed the 23-20 win.

Beckham tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in 2020 when he was with the Cleveland Browns. The team did not confirm the extent of Beckham’s injury after the game. Fellow receiver Robert Woods, who tore an A.C.L. in practice the same day in November that Beckham arrived in Los Angeles, said he spent some time alone with Beckham in the locker room after the team came out for the second half and held him.

“Being able to hold him and say, ‘I am right with you; I will be here every step, every rehab day,’ ” Woods said. “He’s a competitor. I know he will be back even stronger, and hopefully he is back with us.”

It had been a long journey for Beckham, now in his eighth season, to reach the Super Bowl. Before this postseason, the only playoff game he had played in was the Giants’ loss to Green Bay during the 2016 season after several players’ infamous boat trip to Miami.

Beckham became a rookie sensation with his one-handed catch against the Cowboys in 2014, but the Giants traded him to Cleveland five years after drafting him No. 12 overall. His tenure with the Browns was similarly turbulent. The team released him in early November after his father posted a video on social media expressing frustration with how his son was being used in the Browns offense, paving the way for Beckham to join the Rams.

The Rams initially thought Beckham would be a nice addition to their offense — yet another star on the team’s roster — but his role quickly became bigger than anticipated after Woods’ injury. Beckham

became a key offensive weapon as the team built momentum in its Super Bowl run. He contributed 113 receiving yards in the N.F.C. Championship Game against the 49ers, and he was shaping up to be a major part of the Rams’ game plan against the Bengals. On Sunday night, he had two catches for 52 yards and a touchdown before leaving the game.

The loss of Beckham, followed by Stafford’s interception at the end of the first half, was a devastating sequence that seemed to swing momentum away from the Rams. The start of the second half wasn’t much better: The Bengals immediately took the lead on a 75-yard touchdown, then Stafford threw his second interception on the next play. The pass was intended for Ben Skowronek, a player who would not have had as large of a role had Beckham remained in the game. The Rams fell behind 20-13 after that turnover.

As Beckham left the field, pain and disappointment were written all over his face. But while the Rams didn’t continue their march downfield at that moment, they eventually found a way. Stafford and Kupp somehow found space in the tight throwing windows made even tighter by Beckham’s absence. In the game’s final moments, TV cameras caught Beckham rejoining his team on the sideline, and this time he was crying.

Elena Bergeron

Feb. 13, 2022, 10:00 p.m. ET Feb. 13, 2022

Feb. 13, 2022, 10:00 p.m. ET

Elena Bergeron

reporting from SoFi Stadium

Matthew Stafford kneels it. The Rams will run out the clock.

Elena Bergeron

Feb. 13, 2022, 9:59 p.m. ET Feb. 13, 2022

Feb. 13, 2022, 9:59 p.m. ET

Elena Bergeron

reporting from SoFi Stadium

Aaron Donald reached Joe Burrow on fourth-and-1 with 39 seconds left, and that will probably be the game.

Alanis Thames

Feb. 13, 2022, 10:00 p.m. ET Feb. 13, 2022

Feb. 13, 2022, 10:00 p.m. ET

Alanis Thames

reporting from SoFi Stadium

Aaron Donald has likely sealed the Super Bowl for the Rams.

Oskar Garcia

Feb. 13, 2022, 9:57 p.m. ET Feb. 13, 2022

Feb. 13, 2022, 9:57 p.m. ET

The Rams may have had their defining drive of the game, scoring a go-ahead touchdown with 1:25 left on a short pass from Matthew Stafford to Cooper Kupp to complete a 72-yard drive.

The march lasted 15 plays, and it’s Cincinnati’s turn behind Joe Burrow to try to force overtime (with a field goal) or win.

Ken Belson

Feb. 13, 2022, 9:53 p.m. ET Feb. 13, 2022

Feb. 13, 2022, 9:53 p.m. ET

Ken Belson

reporting from SoFi Stadium

Stafford to Kupp, and the Rams take the lead. 23-20. 1:25 left.

Elena Bergeron

Feb. 13, 2022, 9:52 p.m. ET Feb. 13, 2022

Feb. 13, 2022, 9:52 p.m. ET

Elena Bergeron

reporting from SoFi Stadium

The Bengals defense has been called for penalties on the last three plays: holding, an unnecessary roughness call that was offset and a pass interference call.

Elena Bergeron

Feb. 13, 2022, 9:50 p.m. ET Feb. 13, 2022

Feb. 13, 2022, 9:50 p.m. ET

Elena Bergeron

reporting from SoFi Stadium

A holding call gives the Rams a new set of downs from the 4.

Tiffany Hsu

Feb. 13, 2022, 9:49 p.m. ET Feb. 13, 2022

Feb. 13, 2022, 9:49 p.m. ET

A commercial from Rocket Mortgage featured the actress Anna Kendrick and a real estate nightmare in the Barbie universe.

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A commercial from Rocket Mortgage featured the actress Anna Kendrick and a real estate nightmare in the Barbie universe.
A commercial from Rocket Mortgage featured the actress Anna Kendrick and a real estate nightmare in the Barbie universe. Credit... via YouTube

Are ads that address economic issues, from high inflation and high housing prices, the successor to last year’s “in these unprecedented times?”

Although this year’s Super Bowl commercials have been largely upbeat, several touched on undercurrents of financial stress. In its ad, E-Trade tried to persuade its long-retired spokesbaby to return by explaining that consumers are “getting crushed by inflation.” The actor Ewan McGregor, in Expedia’s commercial, pleaded with viewers to ditch their fixation with spending on “stuff” (while encouraging them to spend on vacations).

Rocket Mortgage aired a nightmare scenario for many people shopping for a home, narrated by the actress Anna Kendrick. Barbie tries to buy her Dream House, but is swamped in a “super competitive market” that also includes dolls such as “Better Offer Betty,” “Cash Offer Carl” and “House Flipper Skipper.”

“You vultures,” Kendrick exclaims. “You’re going to start a bidding war!”

Barbie wins the house, while the others must consider a “fixer-upper castle” that “has good bones but really bad neighbors” (it’s Castle Grayskull, from “He-Man”).

All this in a year when Super Bowl ad space cost as much as $7 million for 30 seconds. In the game’s inaugural year in 1967, the same space cost as little as $37,500, or about $316,000 when adjusted for inflation.

Elena Bergeron

Feb. 13, 2022, 9:47 p.m. ET Feb. 13, 2022

Feb. 13, 2022, 9:47 p.m. ET

Elena Bergeron

reporting from SoFi Stadium

Bengals fans are LOUD on third-and-8.

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Credit... Ben Solomon for The New York Times

Tiffany Hsu

Feb. 13, 2022, 9:39 p.m. ET Feb. 13, 2022

Feb. 13, 2022, 9:39 p.m. ET

Planet Fitness had an ad featuring Lindsay Lohan.

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Planet Fitness had an ad featuring Lindsay Lohan.
Planet Fitness had an ad featuring Lindsay Lohan. Credit... via Planet Fitness

Nostalgia is always a favorite flavor for Super Bowl commercials. This year, there isn’t much subtlety about it.

In an ad for Bud Light Seltzer Hard Soda, the chef Guy Fieri plays the mayor of the Land of Loud Flavors, a fever dream place like a vaguely Ozian Las Vegas, whose citizens are all condemned to sport the spiky white-blond blowfish hairstyle he made famous more than a decade ago.

For General Motors, Mike Myers reprised his role as Dr. Evil from the 25-year-old “Austin Powers” film, except he was now Dr. EV-il and plugging the automaker’s electric vehicle plans. Verizon has brought back Jim Carrey as the Cable Guy from the 1996 movie. Chevrolet orchestrated a “Sopranos” reunion for its Silverado commercial, titled “The New Generation.”

In the first Super Bowl commercial from the potato chip company Lay’s in 17 years, titled “Golden Memories,” the comedians Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd revisit their past just before Rogen’s wedding … to a ghoul who had haunted his first house. Lindsay Lohan makes light of her struggles with addiction more than 15 years earlier in a commercial for Planet Fitness, surprising Dennis Rodman, Danny Trejo, William Shatner and the paparazzi with her exercise-induced glow.

After retiring in 2014, the E-Trade baby (voiced by the middle-aged comedian Pete Holmes) returned to save consumers who, god forbid, have been taking financial advice from memes.

Ken Belson

Feb. 13, 2022, 9:30 p.m. ET Feb. 13, 2022

Feb. 13, 2022, 9:30 p.m. ET

Eminem kneeled down at the end of his performance during the Super Bowl LVI halftime show.

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Eminem kneeled down at the end of his performance during the Super Bowl LVI halftime show.
Eminem kneeled down at the end of his performance during the Super Bowl LVI halftime show. Credit... Ben Solomon for The New York Times

In 2019, the N.F.L. partnered with Roc Nation, the entertainment and sports company led by Jay-Z, in part to reinvigorate the Super Bowl halftime show and, as the league said in a statement announcing the deal, “to amplify the league’s social justice efforts.”

At this year’s halftime show, the third under Roc Nation’s guidance, Los Angeles rap icons Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and Kendrick Lamar, as well as the singer Mary J. Blige delivered a lively performance. But it was the rapper Eminem who may have made the biggest statement of the night, and not with his voice: He knelt on one knee and held his head in his hand after performing “Lose Yourself,” his anthem about self-determination from the movie “8 Mile.”

The move was an apparent nod to the former San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who took a knee during the playing of the national anthem during the 2016 season to protest police brutality and racial inequity. Other N.F.L. players followed suit, prompting debate within the league about whether those players should be penalized, and drawing rebuke from the president at the time, Donald J. Trump.

After Kaepernick opted out of his 49ers contract in 2017 and was unable to find another quarterbacking job, he accused the N.F.L. of colluding to blacklist him but settled the suit with the league in 2019.

The dispute led many artists to avoid the halftime show in support of Kaepernick.

A league spokesman, Brian McCarthy, said on Sunday that the N.F.L. was aware that Eminem was going to kneel because officials “watched it during rehearsals this week.”

McCarthy said that players, coaches and personnel were free to have taken a knee before Sunday’s game and that no one has been disciplined for taking a knee.

Roc Nation declined to comment on what Eminem intended to signal.

Emmanuel Morgan

Feb. 13, 2022, 9:18 p.m. ET Feb. 13, 2022

Feb. 13, 2022, 9:18 p.m. ET

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Credit... Ben Solomon for The New York Times

The Bengals captured the lead and the momentum in the third quarter with a potential game-deciding sequence.

In the opening play of the second half. Joe Burrow escaped the Rams pressure and heaved a deep shot to Tee Higgins. The receiver leapt for the pass, cranked defensive back Jalen Ramsey’s helmet and completed the catch as Ramsey fell down. He then darted to the end zone for a 75-yard touchdown, making the score 17-13. The play seemed like an egregious pass interference penalty, but the officials did not throw the flag.

On the next possession, Matthew Stafford darted a catchable pass to Ben Skowronek, a replacement receiver, but Skowronek was unable to make the catch. Instead, it tipped off his outstretched hand and was intercepted by Chidobe Awuzie. Cincinnati converted the turnover into a field goal, extending its lead to 20-13. The Rams scored a field goal in the quarter, and the defense began to reach Burrow with more velocity. The unit secured five sacks in the quarter after only posting one in the first half.

Jenny Vrentas

Feb. 13, 2022, 9:11 p.m. ET Feb. 13, 2022

Feb. 13, 2022, 9:11 p.m. ET

Jenny Vrentas

reporting from SoFi Stadium

Bengals CB Chidobe Awuzie is probable to return with a right knee injury.

Alanis Thames

Feb. 13, 2022, 9:09 p.m. ET Feb. 13, 2022

Feb. 13, 2022, 9:09 p.m. ET

Alanis Thames

reporting from SoFi Stadium

This Rams pass rush is starting to heat up, which doesn’t bode well for the Bengals’ offensive line.

Emmanuel Morgan

Feb. 13, 2022, 9:10 p.m. ET Feb. 13, 2022

Feb. 13, 2022, 9:10 p.m. ET

Emmanuel Morgan

reporting from SoFi Stadium

The Bengals have given up five sacks in the third quarter after only allowing one in the first half.

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Credit... Ben Solomon for The New York Times

Feb. 13, 2022, 9:03 p.m. ET Feb. 13, 2022

Feb. 13, 2022, 9:03 p.m. ET

The New York Times

Alanis Thames

Feb. 13, 2022, 9:00 p.m. ET Feb. 13, 2022

Feb. 13, 2022, 9:00 p.m. ET

Alanis Thames

reporting from SoFi Stadium

That might be the momentum-shifter that the Rams need. They just forced a Bengals three-and-out while trailing by 4 points.

Emmanuel Morgan

Feb. 13, 2022, 8:58 p.m. ET Feb. 13, 2022

Feb. 13, 2022, 8:58 p.m. ET

Emmanuel Morgan

reporting from SoFi Stadium

Odell Beckham Jr. has been downgraded to out with the knee injury.

Ken Belson

Feb. 13, 2022, 8:52 p.m. ET Feb. 13, 2022

Feb. 13, 2022, 8:52 p.m. ET

Ken Belson

reporting from SoFi Stadium

Mixon 1-1, Kupp 0-1 passing.

Oskar Garcia

Feb. 13, 2022, 8:52 p.m. ET Feb. 13, 2022

Feb. 13, 2022, 8:52 p.m. ET

Oskar Garcia

reporting from SoFi Stadium

OK, has the Philly special officially jumped the shark?

Emmanuel Morgan

Feb. 13, 2022, 8:53 p.m. ET Feb. 13, 2022

Feb. 13, 2022, 8:53 p.m. ET

Emmanuel Morgan

reporting from SoFi Stadium

Petition to stop Philly specials unless you’re at the goal line.

Ben Shpigel

Feb. 13, 2022, 8:54 p.m. ET Feb. 13, 2022

Feb. 13, 2022, 8:54 p.m. ET

Ben Shpigel

reporting from SoFi Stadium

Only one quarterback with Rams ties who wears No. 9 can pull off the Philly special -- and it sure ain’t Matthew Stafford.

Jenny Vrentas

Feb. 13, 2022, 8:54 p.m. ET Feb. 13, 2022

Feb. 13, 2022, 8:54 p.m. ET

Jenny Vrentas

reporting from SoFi Stadium

Tom Brady dropped a pass in a Super Bowl, too, Matthew Stafford.

Emmanuel Morgan

Feb. 13, 2022, 8:47 p.m. ET Feb. 13, 2022

Feb. 13, 2022, 8:47 p.m. ET

Emmanuel Morgan

reporting from SoFi Stadium

The Rams have to score on this drive to get some momentum back.

Tiffany Hsu

Feb. 13, 2022, 8:46 p.m. ET Feb. 13, 2022

Feb. 13, 2022, 8:46 p.m. ET

Matthew McConaughey in an ad for SalesForce.

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Matthew McConaughey in an ad for SalesForce.
Matthew McConaughey in an ad for SalesForce. Credit... via SalesForce

Real world or virtual world? Take your pick.

Meta, the parent company of Facebook, set its Super Bowl ad in the metaverse. In the ad, an animatronic dog and its friend, a pink-tentacled monster, are separated in their physical reality but reunited via the company’s Quest 2 virtual reality headsets.

Last week, Meta shares sank, partly because the company revealed that it spent $10 billion building its vision of the metaverse, a next-generation internet of shared online environments and experiences, causing its profit to drop.

The software giant Salesforce tapped Matthew McConaughey to propose an alternative to the metaverse: supporting the real world. Titled “#TeamEarth,” the company’s second Super Bowl ad shows the actor drifting in a hot-air balloon over the San Francisco Bay Area as he counters, without naming them, the Meta chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and the SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk.

“While the others look to the metaverse and Mars, let’s stay here and restore ours,” Mr. McConaughey says.

Marc Benioff, who runs Salesforce, was deeply involved in the ad, said Sarah Franklin, the chief marketing officer.

“We have enough fluffy razzle-dazzle in the world — we need to get real and focus on saving the planet, helping our society, helping our communities and small business,” she said. “The Super Bowl is an incredible stage to invest in because we have so much attention from people from all walks of life.”

Miller Lite, which is blocked from the Super Bowl broadcast by the N.F.L.’s longstanding exclusivity deal with Anheuser-Busch, instead released its tongue-in-cheek game-time ad in the metaverse, creating an interactive digital tavern serving up virtual pool, virtual beer and realistic expectations.

“We’re not taking ourselves too seriously with this,” said Ari Weiss, the global chief officer of DDB Worldwide, the agency behind the Meta Lite Bar. “The metaverse is not going to save the world, or at least, not yet.”

Elena Bergeron

Feb. 13, 2022, 8:43 p.m. ET Feb. 13, 2022

Feb. 13, 2022, 8:43 p.m. ET

Elena Bergeron

reporting from SoFi Stadium

Burrow sack count is up to three (Aaron Donald had two of them).

Emmanuel Morgan

Feb. 13, 2022, 8:39 p.m. ET Feb. 13, 2022

Feb. 13, 2022, 8:39 p.m. ET

Emmanuel Morgan

reporting from SoFi Stadium

Skowronek dropped a touchdown two weeks ago in the N.F.C. championship against San Francisco. He likely wouldn’t be in the game right now if Beckham wasn’t hurt.

Alanis Thames

Feb. 13, 2022, 8:38 p.m. ET Feb. 13, 2022

Feb. 13, 2022, 8:38 p.m. ET

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Credit... Ben Solomon for The New York Times

One play.

The Bengals needed a single play to take the lead over in the second half thanks to the connection between Joe Burrow and Tee Higgins, the young Bengals receiver who has accounted for both of Cincinnati’s touchdowns in this game.

On the first play of the second half, Burrow stepped up as the pocket was breaking down around him and found Higgins working against Jalen Ramsey one on one for a deep connection.

As he made his way into the end zone for the 75-yard touchdown. Higgins looked to his left and his right. None of the Rams defenders were anywhere near him.

He leads the Bengals receivers with 100 yards on four catches.

Ken Belson

Feb. 13, 2022, 8:37 p.m. ET Feb. 13, 2022

Feb. 13, 2022, 8:37 p.m. ET

Ken Belson

reporting from SoFi Stadium

Annnnnd now Stafford is intercepted... Not the best start to the second half for the Rams.

Caryn Ganz

Feb. 13, 2022, 8:36 p.m. ET Feb. 13, 2022

Feb. 13, 2022, 8:36 p.m. ET

Eminem took a knee as he finished his performance.

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Eminem took a knee as he finished his performance.
Eminem took a knee as he finished his performance. Credit... AJ Mast for The New York Times

Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and Kendrick Lamar — three titans of Los Angeles rap — took the field at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif., along with Eminem (a superstar from Detroit), the singer Mary J. Blige and the special guest 50 Cent to deliver a halftime spectacular heavy on nostalgia and California pride.

This year’s show was the third straight to be co-produced by Roc Nation, the entertainment and sports company led by Jay-Z, which partnered with the N.F.L. in 2019 as the league struggled to repair its relationship with artists who avoided the halftime show in support of Colin Kaepernick, the former quarterback who, starting in 2016, knelt during the national anthem as a protest against police brutality and racial injustice.

On Sunday, Eminem knelt and held his head in his hand after performing “Lose Yourself,” his anthem about self-determination from the movie “8 Mile.”

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Mary J. Blige performed during the halftime show.
Mary J. Blige performed during the halftime show. Credit... AJ Mast for The New York Times

Dr. Dre, whose group N.W.A helped set the template for West Coast gangster rap with its 1988 album, “Straight Outta Compton,” and went on to become an in-demand producer and businessman, last released an album of his own music in 2015. At halftime, he was the show’s anchor, opening and closing the show with some of his most well-known productions. Dre, 56, took the stage first to the sounds of “The Next Episode,” his 2000 single featuring Snoop Dogg.

Snoop Dogg’s early career was intimately tied to Dr. Dre — his blockbuster 1993 debut, “Doggystyle,” came out on Death Row Records, the label Dre helped found, and featured the producer’s signature palate of slow-rolling G-funk. At 50, Snoop has continued to release music, but is also widely known as an affable pitchman and entrepreneur. (Last week he acquired the Death Row brand, but not yet its music rights, and released an album called “BODR,” which stands for “Bacc on Death Row.”) He joined Dr. Dre atop a white set designed to resemble Los Angeles buildings and the two performed “California Love,” the 1995 Tupac Shakur single.

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50 Cent was the set’s surprise performer.
50 Cent was the set’s surprise performer. Credit... AJ Mast for The New York Times

Artists from New York took a turn on the stage next: The unannounced guest, 50 Cent, arrived for a version of his 2003 smash “In Da Club,” followed by Mary J. Blige, the 51-year-old singer who has earned legions of fans with her confessional, soulful songs about heartbreak and persistence. Blige, whose 14th studio LP, “Good Morning Gorgeous,” arrived on Friday, sang two of her most beloved older anthems, “Family Affair” and “No More Drama,” reaching deep for some powerful high notes and ending the set flat on her back.

Kendrick Lamar, at 34 the youngest performer in the show, is also one of the most decorated: In 2018 he received the Pulitzer Prize for music for his fourth album, “DAMN.,” a commercial blockbuster that tackled race, faith and the burdens of commercial success. There has been scant word of its anxiously awaited follow-up and he didn’t provide any hints about it at halftime, performing his 2012 track “M.A.A.D. City” and his 2015 song “Alright” with a troupe of carefully choreographed dancers.

Eminem, still an enduring rap star at 49 (his most recent album, “Music to Be Murdered By,” opened at No. 1 in 2020), is also a protégé of Dr. Dre, who signed the rapper to his Aftermath label in 1998 and produced early hits like “My Name Is.” “Lose Yourself” featured Anderson.Paak on drums, and as the song ended and he knelt beside his mentor as Dr. Dre sat at the piano and plunked out the chords to “Still D.R.E.,” the 1999 song that closed the set and included one pointed line: “Still not loving police.”

The first time a rapper joined a Super Bowl halftime lineup was in 1998: It was Queen Latifah, and she didn’t rap; she sang as part of a Motown tribute. In the years since, hip-hop has landed a handful of moments on one of sports’ and entertainment’s biggest stages, but it hasn’t held the full spotlight until Sunday evening.

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Snoop Dogg joined his mentor, Dr. Dre, for a Los Angeles-centered halftime show.
Snoop Dogg joined his mentor, Dr. Dre, for a Los Angeles-centered halftime show. Credit... AJ Mast for The New York Times

Emmanuel Morgan

Feb. 13, 2022, 8:36 p.m. ET Feb. 13, 2022

Feb. 13, 2022, 8:36 p.m. ET

Emmanuel Morgan

reporting from SoFi Stadium

That should have been offensive pass interference. Higgins clearly grabbed Ramsey’s face mask and initiated contact. Could be a game changing play.

Ben Shpigel

Feb. 13, 2022, 8:36 p.m. ET Feb. 13, 2022

Feb. 13, 2022, 8:36 p.m. ET

Ben Shpigel

reporting from SoFi Stadium

That was an egregious missed call by the officiating crew.

Ken Belson

Feb. 13, 2022, 8:34 p.m. ET Feb. 13, 2022

Feb. 13, 2022, 8:34 p.m. ET

Ken Belson

reporting from SoFi Stadium

Burrow to Tee Higgins for 75 yards and the score to open the second half.

Jenny Vrentas

Feb. 13, 2022, 8:34 p.m. ET Feb. 13, 2022

Feb. 13, 2022, 8:34 p.m. ET

Jenny Vrentas

reporting from SoFi Stadium

It’s raining Who Dey cheers in SoFi right now. Meanwhile, the Rams are stunned.

Elena Bergeron

Feb. 13, 2022, 8:22 p.m. ET Feb. 13, 2022

Feb. 13, 2022, 8:22 p.m. ET

Elena Bergeron

reporting from SoFi Stadium

Eminem takes a knee during the halftime performance.

Image

Credit... Ben Solomon for The New York Times

Oskar Garcia

Feb. 13, 2022, 8:17 p.m. ET Feb. 13, 2022

Feb. 13, 2022, 8:17 p.m. ET

Oskar Garcia

reporting from SoFi Stadium

The stands are literally bouncing and it smells like someone forgot to do their shirt laundry.

Elena Bergeron

Feb. 13, 2022, 8:16 p.m. ET Feb. 13, 2022

Feb. 13, 2022, 8:16 p.m. ET

Elena Bergeron

reporting from SoFi Stadium

Mary J. Blige is the only living human to turn an N.F.L. game into church.

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Credit... AJ Mast for The New York Times

Emmanuel Morgan

Feb. 13, 2022, 8:15 p.m. ET Feb. 13, 2022

Feb. 13, 2022, 8:15 p.m. ET

Rams Coach Sean McVay celebrated with Robert Woods after the N.F.C. championship game.

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Rams Coach Sean McVay celebrated with Robert Woods after the N.F.C. championship game.
Rams Coach Sean McVay celebrated with Robert Woods after the N.F.C. championship game. Credit... Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

Amid the pageantry and celebration of the Rams’ run to the Super Bowl, Robert Woods has dealt with personal and family loss.

Woods, a Los Angeles receiver, tore an anterior cruciate ligament at a practice session in November, ending his season. Then, a few weeks ago, his father died. But Woods is trying to remain positive and cheer on his teammates ahead of the biggest game of their careers.

“I could sit here and mope about it and say: ‘I wish I was out there. The team is winning the Super Bowl ring without me,’” he told reporters. “But I’m a part of this, man.”

The Rams signed Woods, a 2013 second-round draft pick by the Bills, as a free agent in 2017, and he ascended to become a cornerstone of the franchise. Woods, a Los Angeles-area native who played in college at Southern California, has posted two seasons with at least 1,000 yards receiving, and coaches and teammates respect him for his leadership and willingness to block. In 2020, the Rams signed him to a four-year contract extension with $32 million guaranteed.

Elena Bergeron

Feb. 13, 2022, 8:14 p.m. ET Feb. 13, 2022

Feb. 13, 2022, 8:14 p.m. ET

Elena Bergeron

reporting from SoFi Stadium

At 46, 50 Cent’s core strength is still pretty good.

Jenny Vrentas

Feb. 13, 2022, 8:14 p.m. ET Feb. 13, 2022

Feb. 13, 2022, 8:14 p.m. ET

Jenny Vrentas

reporting from SoFi Stadium

A lot of times Super Bowl halftime shows are great on TV but don’t translate well in-stadium. Not the case today! The acoustics are amazing, and everyone is captivated by Snoop and Dre.

Oskar Garcia

Feb. 13, 2022, 8:13 p.m. ET Feb. 13, 2022

Feb. 13, 2022, 8:13 p.m. ET

Oskar Garcia

reporting from SoFi Stadium

I wonder what it was like at the song selection meetings for this show.

Oskar Garcia

Feb. 13, 2022, 8:14 p.m. ET Feb. 13, 2022

Feb. 13, 2022, 8:14 p.m. ET

Oskar Garcia

reporting from SoFi Stadium

I did not have 50 Cent on my bingo card (am hoping for a little Warren G though).

Image

Credit... AJ Mast for The New York Times

Emmanuel Morgan

Feb. 13, 2022, 8:09 p.m. ET Feb. 13, 2022

Feb. 13, 2022, 8:09 p.m. ET

Rams fans were cheering early on during the game, but the Bengals tightened the game in the second quarter.

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Rams fans were cheering early on during the game, but the Bengals tightened the game in the second quarter.
Rams fans were cheering early on during the game, but the Bengals tightened the game in the second quarter. Credit... Meg Oliphant for The New York Times

The Rams lead the Bengals 13-10 through the first half of the Super Bowl, fueled by efficient play from Matthew Stafford and defensive breakdowns from Cincinnati.

Stafford has thrown for 165 yards and two touchdowns, dissecting a Bengals defense that has struggled to adjust to pre-snap motions and play-action passes. The secondary has left receivers open in space, including Cooper Kupp’s 11-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter. He also secured a 20-yard catch-and run play in the first quarter, and has total three receptions for 40 yards. Stafford’s only mishap was an interception in the second quarter that resulted in a touchback, but prevented the Rams from potentially scoring.

The team’s leading receiver, Odell Beckham Jr., left the game in the second quarter after planting his foot awkwardly and injuring his knee. He had been a matchup advantage for the Rams and posted 52 receiving yards in the first half on two catches, including a beautiful 17-yard reception for a touchdown over defensive back Mike Hilton. The team said Beckham is questionable to return, and his absence could shift momentum. The void will allow Cincinnati to shift defensive attention to Kupp, who led the league in every receiving category in the regular season.

The Bengals, though they are trailing, kept the score close and showed that they can compete. The rookie receiver Ja’Marr Chase in the first quarter skillfully beat Jalen Ramsey, whom many consider the best cornerback in the league, on a fade route in the first quarter for a 46-yard gain, leading to a field goal. In the second quarter, they methodically marched down field and capped the drive with trickery. Burrow tossed the ball to running back Joe Mixon, who then threw a double pass to Tee Higgins for a 6-yard touchdown. Mixon is the game’s leading rusher, gaining 40 yards on seven attempts.

Notably, the Bengals’ offensive line has allowed only one sack. Entering the game, the unit was viewed as a potential weak point against the Rams’ pass rush, which is led by star defensive lineman Aaron Donald and outside linebackers Von Miller and Leonard Floyd. But so far, Joe Burrow, who has thrown for 114 yards, has been relatively well-protected.