LA Rams nearly lost SB because refs let Bengals ignore rules too long

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

With the end of Super Bowl LVI, and the LA Rams emerging as victorious, I was a bit disappointed in the officiating of the game. No, not because it seemed that the referees had called a number of penalties on the Cincinnati Bengals. Instead, I was a bit beside myself that the officials had allowed the Bengals to stray so far from the rules of the game that it appeared that they were not consistent.

They weren’t. They overlooked a lot of infractions by the Bengals that made the game far closer than it ever should have been. So how has it gotten to that point in the NFL?

Well, the standard for the Super Bowl has been ‘let them play,’ for some time. With so much money changing hands for commercial air time, so many television viewers around the world tuning in, and so much on the line, the NFL and television producers have informally agreed to keep the flow of the moving along to keep viewers engaged.

The Bengals somehow leveraged that let-them-play into an anything-goes defensive and offensive strategy that clearly gave them an incredible advantage. At least until the officials realized that the Bengals had gotten so emboldened in the success at bending the rules that they were routinely breaking them, openly. And then, when the officials began to call the penalties, the Bengals fans cried ‘foul’.

Bengals were guilty of egregious penalties nearly the entire game

The conversation begins at the 38:05 mark regarding the lack of the officials using the penalty flag.  Chris Simms comes to the same conclusion that I have in the past. On the overall scheme of the game, the Rams, not the Bengals, were burdened by the Bengals committing pass interference on practically every play. Simms breaks it down beautifully, and shows play after play where the Bengals defense was playing incredibly aggressively.

The fact is that the game seemed to be such an about-face because the Bengals were given such incredible leeway to play almost beyond the rules that when the officials tightened up. But the reality is that the Bengals were not playing football, but rather a game of streetball. Their defensive plays in the secondary were not about skill as much as assaulting Rams receivers.

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All’s well that ends well

In the end, the right team won the game. The LA Rams lost the turnover battle. The Rams could not run the ball. But the Rams won the game. In the end, winning is everything. But as we applaud the Rams, we cannot overlook what we learned about the Rams in this one.

First of all, the Rams team is not without flaws. The Rams rushing offense did not hold up its end of the bargain. That, in turn, forced the Rams to depend entirely too much upon a passing game that was down to just one NFL star receiver, Cooper Kupp.

Second of all, the Rams expressed a brand new resiliency, something that they have not shown much of before. With Stafford on the football field, the Rams seem to be that type of team that no team wants to face. The Rams can lose the lead in the game but ultimately come back to win the game.

It’s quite clear that the Rams cannot count on officiating to enforce the rules correctly. So the Rams will need to find ways to keep their star players healthier longer. And the Rams will need to bolster their ability to advance the football on the ground.

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