Rams 23 Bengals 20
Observations: Like the 2009 romantic comedy with Alec Baldwin and Meryl Streep, It's complicated.
The Rams marched 15 plays/79 yards for a go ahead TD with 1:25 left in the game. Trailing 23-20, the Bengals got the ball with 85 seconds and 2 timeouts.
They moved to the Rams 49-yard line with a 17-yard connection to Ja'Marr Chase and an 8-yard catch by Tyler Boyd. But facing 2nd 1 just inside midfield, Burrow threw incomplete (miscommunication Burrow/Chase), Semaje Perine (?) was stopped on 3rd and 1 and on 4th and 1 Burrow was wrapped/ flipped incomplete. Ballgame. Hard not to flashback to Joe Montana marching the 49ers 11 plays/92 yards in final 3:20 to beat the Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII.
With the Bengals leading 20-16 in the 4th quarter, it felt like 20 points wasn't going to be enough to win. With Joe Burrow and Matthew Stafford both banged up, it felt like a 'next TD' wins scenarios. Sadly, it was.
Remember When: Earlier this season, Zac told the story of the early struggles of his first season and being 0-8 preparing for the Rams. They were struggling with the game plan and a play to gain a yard vs Aaron Donald. Sunday night they failed to gain a yard in their final three snaps after facing 2nd and 1.
D: Pretty damn good: Held Rams to 23 carries/43 yards (1.8). Rams game-winning drive was 15 plays/79 yards. The Rams have picked up just three first downs on their previous six drives, all on a FG drive. It felt like the D's moment was coming on the final drive, like moments delivered in the three previous playoff wins. But this time it didn't come. D was chasing a lot early in the secondary, but settled. Jesse Bates came up with another pick. What a stretch run to the season for him. He's going to get paid.
Cooper Kupp final drive: 8 plays went to him. 4th and 1 run for 7 yards, catches of 8 yards, 22 yards, 8 yards, 3rd and 8 incomplete/defensive holding, 4-yard TD catch nullified/offsetting penalties, incomplete/pass interference and the 1-yard game-winning TD.
O: 305 yards, 15 first downs. Had a really nice 12 play, 75 yard TD drive to answer early 13-3 deficit, capped by Mixon TD pass. They got nothing over their final drives of the game: punt-punt-punt-punt-end of game. They kicked 14 FGs in four postseason games. Red zone and short yardage issues were season long issues. Taylor rolled the dice on 4th and 1 on their opening possession: Burrow was incomplete on 4th and 1 at midfield. That played had followed a 3rd and 1 no gain for Semaje Perine. The Rams took over and marched 50 yards for the first TD of the game. Just three points from two Stafford picksa.
Officiating: They let the teams play for most of the game, then got flag happy. Bengals got a TD break on no-call of 75-yard Tee Higgins TD catch where he yanked Jalen Ramsey out of the way by grabbing his facemask. The Bengals D was called for three penalties inside the 10 yard line inside the final two minutes. The Logan Wilson hold on 3rd and 8 in final 2-minutes seemed ticky-tacky.
+/- The Bengals won the turnover margin +2 (interceptions by Bates/Awuzie/
Runs: Trailing 13-3, the Bengals reeled off 17 unanswered points to lead 20-13. The Rams scored the final 10 points of the game.
Driving it home: Donald Driver wrecked the 2nd half, after being rendered a non-factor in the 1st half.
OBJ hurt: Odell Beckham Jr. went down with a knee injury in the 2nd quarter and did not return.
Burrow: 22-33-263, TD, 7 sacks, 100.9 QB rating. He was sacked once in the 1st half, 6 times in 3rd QT. Scary clutch of the knee and grimace in the 4th quarter. He limped off the field, returned on the next series.
Mixon: 15 carries, 72 yards, runs of 13, 14. Two carries in 3rd quarter. 8-32 in 2nd half.
Boyd drop: His first drop of the season was a killer...3rd and 9 own 39….6:27 left in the game. Would have been a 1st down and time off clock.
CJ Uzomah: 2 catches on 2 targets, 16 yards
Evan McPherson: A perfect 14 of 14 on FGs in the postseason.
Role play: Chris Evans had a big 3rd and 2 catch. I'd like to see his use/role expand next season.
Tight: The Bengals had 10 games decided by exactly 3 points: 5 wins: Titans, Chiefs (2), Vikings, Jaguars. 5 losses: Rams, Bears, Packers, Jets, 49ers
Discipline: Vernon Hargreaves was penalized for taunting after coming off the bench to celebrate? He wasn't in uniform, or active. Seriously?