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Sometimes the difference between winning or losing a Super Bowl comes down to a split second. That appears to be the case for the Cincinnati Bengals, who fell just short of winning the franchise’s first title after losing to the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LVI 23-20. L.A. was able to march back after trailing by four points in the fourth quarter to score what would prove to be the game-winning touchdown inside the final two minutes of the game.
While the Rams did take the lead late, there were still just under 90 seconds for the Bengals to move down the field and at the very least try a field goal to force overtime. However, the Rams’ front seven — headlined by Aaron Donald — was able to engulf the Cincinnati offense and shut down any possibility of forcing OT or winning the game outright at the end of regulation. Of course, that last play by the Bengals’ offense at midfield on fourth-and-1 was the nail in the coffin by Donald as it turned the ball over on downs and all the Rams needed to do was take a knee to drain the clock and it was off to the podium from there.
According to Next Gen Stats, Donald pressured Burrow on that throw just 2.2 seconds after the ball was snapped, which effectively gave the second-year quarterback no time to even survey the field. Had he been given a clean pocket on that play, however, it appears like Burrow would have had an opportunity to throw a game-winning touchdown pass.
As The Athletic’s Jay Morrison highlights, Ja’Marr Chase had gotten a step on cornerback Jalen Ramsey on a go route and was already behind him running down the right sideline. Ramsey can be seen falling to the grown while Chase is all alone at the 30-yard line with a clear lane to the end zone. At that point, however, Donald can be seen crashing down on Burrow after flushing him out of the pocket to force the incomplete pass.
That’s truly a heartbreaking realization for the Bengals, who seemed like they were going to begin running away with this game at the start of the second half when they struck for a 75-yard score on the first play of the third quarter and added a field goal following an interception. But, the inability to protect Burrow — who was sacked seven times in the Super Bowl and six times in the second half– proved to be the Achilles’ heel for Cincinnati’s Lombardi Trophy hopes, which was on full display on that final play.