The Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams are set to battle in Super Bowl LVI next month after the Rams pulled off a tough 20-17 win Sunday over the San Francisco 49ers to clinch the NFC Championship.
The NFL’s big game, to air Feb. 13 on NBC, was previously scheduled to be played in the Rams’ home turf of SoFi Stadium in Inglewood. Sunday’s victory send the Rams’ on the team’s second trip to the Super Bowl since January 2019, when they lost 13-3 to New England Patriots.
Earlier Sunday, the Bengals scored a near-miracle upset win over the Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL’s AFC Championship game, sending the team to the Super Bowl for the first time since the late 1980s.
The Bengals-Rams matchup offers a big showcase for two rising but long underdog NFL teams. The geographic distance between the Bengals and Rams is also a plus. The Bengals are a longstanding Midwest football that had seen better days until lately. The Rams are a team with deep roots in Los Angeles although they took a detour to St. Louis from 1994-2015.
A Super Bowl win for the Rams on their second try in three years would go a long way toward cementing the team as Hollywood’s NFL franchise. At present, the Rams share the SoFi Stadium residency with their NFL rivals, the Los Angeles Chargers. The only Los Angeles NFL franchise to ever win the NFL’s top prize was the Los Angeles Raiders in January 1984, when they easily beat Washington 38-9.
The Bengals scored a 27-24 overtime win against Kansas City in the Chiefs’ home stadium. The Chiefs, a team that has made back-to-back trips to the Super Bowl during the past two years, were heavily favored to make it a three-peat this year.
The Bengals’ last trip to the NFL’s championship game came in January 1989 when the team lost 20-16 to San Francisco. The Bengals also lost to San Francisco 26-21 in the team’s only other Super Bowl appearance, in January 1989.
Sunday’s AFC Championship was a showdown of young quarterbacks, as the Chiefs’ hot-shot Patrick Mahomes has logged another banner season. But Bengals’ QB Joe Burrow has been on the NFL’s one-to-watch list for the past few years.
The Chiefs in the Mahomes era won the Super Bowl 31-20 over San Francisco in 2020. The team lost 31-9 last year to a triumphant Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Sunday’s Bengals-Chiefs battle was hailed by CBS Sports announcer Tony Romo as “the biggest comeback in championship game history” given how high the expectations were for Kansas City.
Chiefs took early lead but the Bengals upped the drama by tying it up, 21 to 21, in the final seconds of the third quarter.
Cincinnati pulled ahead to 24 with less than six minutes to go in fourth quarter. Kansas City tied up at last second. The game went into a 15-minute overtime until the Bengals scored after about five minutes of play.
The nail-biter of a game is sure to deliver big ratings for CBS. The network used the AFC Championship game platform to promote the upcoming release of the long-awaited “Top Gun” sequel, “Top Gun: Maverick.” CBS and Paramount Pictures, its sibling studio under the ViacomCBS umbrella, fielded a two-minute spot featuring star Tom Cruise promoting the Bengals-Chiefs championshp game and the film, which is slated for release in May after two COVID-driven delays since 2020.
More to come