The stage is officially set for the NFL’s biggest game.
Super Bowl LVI will pit the Cincinnati Bengals against the Los Angeles Rams after both teams were victorious on Championship Sunday. The Bengals defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 27-24 in overtime, while the Rams topped the San Francisco 49ers 20-17.
Now, these franchises will meet up at Los Angeles’ SoFi Stadium and decide who takes home (or keeps home) the Lombardi Trophy. This will mark the second straight year that a team will play the Super Bowl in its home stadium after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won at Raymond James Stadium last February.
The Rams are no strangers to the big game, having just made it three years ago when they lost to the New England Patriots. They are 1-3 in the Super Bowl as a franchise, with their lone victory in Super Bowl XXXIV in January of 2000. Cincinnati, on the other hand, hadn’t won a playoff game since 1991 before winning three this season. The Bengals are 0-2 in their two previous Super Bowl appearances, losing to the 49ers in 1981 and 1988.
Even though these teams seem vastly different on the surface, there are plenty of ties. Here’s a look at some striking similarities between the final franchises standing:
Both teams originated in Ohio.
Wait, what? That’s right, the star-studded, made-for-Hollywood Rams were born in the cold of Ohio. Founded in 1936, the Cleveland Rams competed in the AFL for their inaugural season before moving to the NFL in 1937. The franchise stayed in Cleveland through 1945, winning the NFL Championship Game before relocating to Los Angeles one month later.
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The Bengals have been in Cincinnati since they were founded in 1968 by Mike Brown – the same man who founded the Cleveland Browns in 1946 … one year after the Rams skipped town.
Both teams are the No. 4 seed in their respective conference.
The Bengals were 10-7 in the regular season, while the Rams were 12-5. Cincinnati defeated the No. 5 Las Vegas Raiders to open the playoffs, then won two road games over the No. 1 Tennessee Titans and No. 2 Chiefs. Los Angeles opened with a home win over the No. 5 Arizona Cardinals, followed by a road win over the defending champion No. 2 Bucs and the NFC title win at home over the No. 6 49ers.
Both teams won their division, and both of their divisions had a wild card team.
Entering this season, the Bengals had not won the AFC North since 2015. That all changed in 2021, as Cincy boasted a 4-2 record in the division to edge the 9-7-1 Pittsburgh Steelers for the crown. The NFC West was similarly competitive, with the Rams clinching the division in Week 18 as the Cardinals dropped to 11-6. The Steelers and Cardinals made the postseason as wild card teams, but both lost their first game.
Both teams kicked game-winning field goals in the divisional round.
This Super Bowl matchup nearly didn’t happen thanks to a wild divisional round. The Bengals allowed nine sacks against the top-seeded Titans and appeared to be in trouble with Tennessee driving in the final minute. Then, Ryan Tannehill threw an interception, Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase got the Bengals down the field and Evan McPherson nailed a 52-yard field goal to win it.
The Rams were cruising against the Bucs, ahead 27-3 in the third quarter before Tom Brady’s squad came soaring back. Tampa Bay tied the game at 27 with 42 seconds to play, but Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp decided not to play for overtime. The duo connected on a 20-yard pass, then a 44-yard pass to set up a game-winning 30-yard kick from Matt Gay as time expired.
Both teams overcame a double-digit deficit to win their conference championships.
Things didn’t get any easier on Championship Sunday for these teams.
The Bengals fell behind 21-3 in the second quarter against Patrick Mahomes and Co. With improved defense and a cool-as-ever demeanor from Burrow, Cincy stormed back to force overtime before making a stop on the Chiefs’ first possession and winning it with another McPherson field goal.
Out in Los Angeles, the Rams’ situation was just as dire. Down 17-7 entering the fourth quarter, the Rams scored 13 unanswered to seal the 20-17 victory over their division rivals. Gay again iced the game with a 30-yard kick in the final two minutes before Travin Howard intercepted Jimmy Garoppolo to send L.A. to the Super Bowl.
Both quarterbacks wear No. 9.
Here’s an easy one. Burrow and Stafford have both won No. 9 for their entire professional careers. Burrow also won No. 9 in college at LSU, while Stafford rocked No. 7 at Georgia.
Both quarterbacks were selected No. 1 overall.
Another tie between the signal callers – they were both the top pick when they left their SEC schools. Stafford went first overall to the Detroit Lions in 2009, playing there for 12 seasons before being traded to the Rams last year. Burrow is in just his second season after the Bengals took him No. 1 in 2020.
This will be the second time in Super Bowl history that both starting quarterbacks were No. 1 picks – Super Bowl 50 between Peyton Manning and Cam Newton was the first.
Both head coaches are under 40.
The youth movement isn’t limited to players. The Rams’ Sean McVay became the youngest head coach in NFL history when he was hired at age 30. McVay, 36, will coach in his second Super Bowl, looking for his first ring. Zac Taylor, 38, was an assistant with the Rams for two years under McVay before the Bengals hired him in 2019.
Both teams employ a star wide receiver from LSU.
It can be argued that neither of these teams would be in the Super Bowl without Ja’Marr Chase or Odell Beckham Jr. The 21-year-old Chase was drafted No. 6 overall by Cincy in 2021, and he proceeded to set the rookie record for receiving yards and be named Second-Team All-Pro. Beckham, now with his third team, was released by the Browns in November before signing with the Rams. OBJ has caught 19 of 23 targets for 236 yards and a touchdown in the playoffs after scoring five touchdowns in eight regular season games with L.A.
Both teams’ starting tight ends were hurt in the conference championship games.
The Bengals’ C.J. Uzomah and the Rams’ Tyler Higbee were key cogs in their offenses this season, but both were unable to finish the conference title games. Uzomah left in the first quarter of Sunday’s game, though Taylor said Monday that his outlook was “encouraging so far.” Higbee was also injured in the first quarter and appears to have avoided a serious knee injury. It remains to be seen if either will be able to play on Feb. 13.
Both kickers were drafted in the fifth round.
We’ve touched on McPherson and Gay’s playoff heroics already, but here’s another connection between the kickers. The Bengals took McPherson at No. 149 overall last April, and he’s delivered every step of the way. He’s 12-for-12 on postseason field goals after going 28-for-33 in the regular season. Gay was picked at No. 145 by the Bucs in 2019, and he’s been with the Rams since 2020. He was 32-for-34 on field goals in the regular season and has gone 7-for-9 in the playoffs thus far.
Both teams unveiled new uniforms prior to the 2021 season.
We’re going to get some fresh threads in the Super Bowl, even if we still aren’t sure who is wearing what color.
The Bengals debuted completely new uniforms for 2021. Even though they weren’t significant changes from their old uniforms, they were definitely an upgrade. The look is much cleaner, and now Burrow and Co. have the look that will usher in a new era.
The Rams overhauled their uniforms before 2020, but they did add a “modern throwback” set prior to the 2021 season.
While it wasn’t a totally new look, this still counts.