Keep it clean and the Lombardi Trophy could be yours

Feb 11, 2022, 10:11 PM | Updated: Feb 12, 2022, 12:32 pm
Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Eli Apple (20) celebrates victory over the Tennessee Titans after an ...

Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Eli Apple (20) celebrates victory over the Tennessee Titans after an NFL divisional round playoff football game, Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn. The Cincinnati Bengals won 19-16. (AP Photo/John Amis)

(AP Photo/John Amis)

INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) — Stay clean. Avoid the critical mistakes.

That’s a mantra both the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams should have adopted as they head to Sunday’s Super Bowl.

Limit the turnovers and costly penalties. Don’t waste timeouts, particularly in the second half. Get physical rather than fancy. Being efficient can trump being spectacular.

All they need to do is look back to the last time the Los Angeles area hosted a Super Bowl nearly three decades ago. That game at the Rose Bowl became an almost laughable rout as the Buffalo Bills kept surrendering the ball to the Dallas Cowboys.

“Just going to go out there and impose our will and play physical and let the chips fall where they may,” Bengals cornerback Eli Apple said.

Echoed Rams All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey: “Do our thing and do it the best we can. That’s winning football.”

Sure, the Super Bowl is America’s biggest sporting event; some would argue it is America’s biggest event of any kind. It’s splashy, it’s overhyped, with a weeklong publicity machine by the league, the teams, the host city, the network televising it.

In the end, it’s a football game. And most football games are won by the team that minimizes miscues.

The Rams are 4-point favorites, according to FanDuel Sportsbook, but they might not even be in this Super Bowl in their new $5 billion SoFi Stadium had 49ers safety Jaquiski Tartt not dropped an easy interception late in the NFC title game. Bringing in veteran Matthew Stafford at a hefty price in draft picks — along with a younger quarterback, Jared Goff, who was part of the LA team that lost in the 2019 Super Bowl, when he struggled mightily — has paid off richly for the Rams. Stafford’s 49,995 yards passing and 323 TD passes are the most for a QB making his first Super Bowl appearance. Stafford needs 209 yards passing to become the sixth player to reach 6,000 in a single season.

But he also puts the ball up for grabs at times. That needs to be limited on Sunday.

“We went out and got him because we thought it was a chance to be able to get a great player of his magnitude,” Rams coach Sean McVay said of Stafford, who spent a dozen seasons playing well without winning in Detroit. “What he’s done, he’s elevated everybody around him. He’s made me a better coach. He’s made his teammates better.”

So has the guy on the other side, Joe Burrow. Like Stafford, Burrow was the top overall draft pick. His rookie season was curtailed after 10 games by a knee injury, but his second year has been so terrific he won NFL Comeback Player of the Year. His most recent production has been magnificent. And nearly spotless.

Burrow has gone from No. 1 overall pick to starting quarterback in the Super Bowl faster than anyone else. He has 15 touchdown passes and just two interceptions in his last seven games, while averaging 331.1 yards passing per game.

Rarely has Burrow gambled in the last two months, and look how that has paid off.

Of course, this matchup is about a lot more than when and where the quarterbacks throw the ball. It’s about Cincinnati’s offensive line — which allowed Burrow to be the most-sacked passer in the league, 51 times, nine more in a playoff victory at Tennessee — bowing up against a generational talent such as Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, and other top pass rushers Von Miller and Leonard Floyd.

“This is a special group of talented guys on this defense,” said Miller, who won the 2015 NFL championship in Denver, when he was Super Bowl MVP. “I’m talking about one of the best groups I’ve ever been fortunate enough to be a part of. We work together as a team, and it just gets better each week.”

It’s about Ramsey being a shutdown cover guy against Offensive Rookie of the Year Ja’Marr Chase, and the rest of the Los Angeles secondary handling Chase’s compatriots, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd. And about the same on the other side, with Apple and fellow defensive backs trying to slow down Offensive Player of the Year Cooper Kupp, Odell Beckham Jr. and Van Jefferson.

It’s about the kicking games, which have been very solid in the postseason, continuing to perform on the sport’s biggest stage.

Same for the coaches: McVay, who is accustomed to the glaring spotlight after taking the Rams to the playoffs in four of his five seasons, and Taylor, his former assistant, in his first postseason as a head man. McVay did not perform well, nor did his team, in that Super Bowl three years ago, looking uncomfortable against Tom Brady and the Patriots.

As difficult as it may be — and it is very difficult — it’s about treating the Super Bowl in the cliched phrasing players use: just another game. There’s plenty of truth to that.

“You got a job to go out there and execute and try to lead your team,” Stafford said. “The game begins, and it’s football. That’s what we’re here for.”


More AP Super Bowl coverage: and

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


El relevista de los Padres de San Diego Nick Martínez reacciona durante el sexto inning del juego ...
Associated Press

Padres beat Dodgers 4-3 in 10 to reduce magic number to 4

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Jorge Alfaro is used to being in position to walk off games. Just not with a walk-off walk. Alfaro drew a bases-loaded free pass from Craig Kimbrel with two outs in the 10th inning and the San Diego Padres beat the NL West champion Los Angeles Dodgers 4-3 on Tuesday night […]
1 day ago
Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Robbie Raywals walks through the dugout after he was pulled from ...
Associated Press

Mariners’ late slide continues with 5-0 loss to Rangers

SEATTLE (AP) — Robbie Ray has an idea for how to get the Seattle Mariners refocused and hopefully out of their late-season slide. Stop worrying about what is happening elsewhere. “For me, we’ve just got to stop looking at the scoreboard. If it was my choice, we turn that thing off. Because we need to […]
1 day ago
Los Angeles Angels' Matt Duffy (5) scores ahead of a throw to Oakland Athletics catcher Sean Murphy...
Associated Press

Jo Adell’s 8th-inning RBI sends Angels past Athletics, 4-3

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Jo Adell drove in Matt Duffy with a tiebreaking RBI single in the eighth inning, Shohei Ohtani extended his hitting streak to a career-best 12 games, and the Los Angeles Angels opened their final homestand of the season with a 4-3 victory over the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday night. A.J. Puk […]
1 day ago
San Francisco Giants' Logan Webb pitches to a Colorado Rockies batter during the first inning of a ...
Associated Press

Logan Webb strikes out seven as Giants beat Rockies again

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Joc Pederson won a World Series championship last season with the Atlanta Braves and expected to compete for one this season in San Francisco, only to be out of it in September instead. Logan Webb struck out seven over five innings to win for the fourth time in five starts, and […]
1 day ago
Houston Astros third base coach Gary Pettis (8) low fives Jose Altuve, right, as he rounds third ba...
Associated Press

Altuve homers twice as Astros rout Diamondbacks 10-2

HOUSTON (AP) — Jose Altuve hit two of Houston’s five home runs to lead the Astros to a 10-2 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday night in a game where Yordan Alvarez left with an ankle injury. The Astros, who have already won the American League West title, moved within one win or one […]
1 day ago
Argentina soccer coach Lionel Scaloni, left, talks to his staff as his players warm up during pract...
Associated Press

Scaloni to remain as Argentina coach through 2026 World Cup

HARRISON, N,J. (AP) — Lionel Scaloni will remain as Argentina’s national team coach through the 2026 World Cup. Chiqui Tapia, president of the Argentine Football Association, made the announcement after Tuesday night’s 3-0 win over Jamaica in the Albiceleste’s next-to-last tuneup match for this year’s World Cup. “We continue to bet on the comprehensive national […]
1 day ago
Keep it clean and the Lombardi Trophy could be yours