Matthew Stafford deflected praise onto his Los Angeles Rams team-mates after leading them to Super Bowl LVI success.

Quarterback Stafford threw for 283 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions on 26-of-40 passing as the Rams beat the Cincinnati Bengals 23-20.

The Rams had to do it the hard way at SoFi Stadium, without Odell Beckham Jr. through injury for more than half of the game and trailing by four points inside the two-minute warning.

But Stafford and triple crown wide receiver Cooper Kupp combined for a decisive touchdown on a 15-play drive.

That was the longest go-ahead drive in terms of plays in a fourth quarter in Super Bowl history.

Stafford was asked how his work with Kupp came together, but he was eager to share the credit for the victory.

"That's hard work. That's hours together," he told CBS. "[Coach Sean McVay said], 'Matthew, you and Cooper are getting this done'. He kept calling plays for him, finding ways to get him the ball.

"He made unbelievable plays – that's what he does.

"I'm just so proud of this team, it's such a team victory. Our defense played outstanding, our special teams were big when we needed it, such a great game."

Reflecting on the game as a whole, the QB said: "I'm so proud of this team. There's so many guys on our team that deserve this, so many great players, guys that have just given their heart and soul to this team, guys that are either playing in this game or not – because of injuries or whatever it is.

"I'm just so proud of this group. That game today is the story of our season – it's up and down, it's tough, but we're a tough team, showed up late and got it done. I'm excited."

Stafford added of the secret to their success: "The way we pull for each other. We work together every single day and sharpen each other's skills.

"I get to go against that defense every single day – how can I not get better? I hope they feel the same way about us.

"We care for each other. That starts top down – Sean does an unbelievable job connecting us as players, leading the way. We follow his lead and we're here now."

Kupp, who became the second player to catch TD passes in four straight games in the same postseason, finishing with six scores in this year's playoffs, was named Super Bowl MVP.

As the celebrations started, he said: "I'm just proud of this team, the way we prepared, the way we loved all each other, trusted each other.

"I don't feel deserving of this. The guys were so good. I'm just so thankful of the guys I get to be around, the coaches, my family. I don't know what to say."

Kupp had eight catches on 10 targets for 92 yards and two TDs.

Aaron Donald delayed any decision on his NFL future after helping the Los Angeles Rams to win Super Bowl LVI at their SoFi Stadium home.

Donald, one of the league's greatest ever defensive players, is an eight-time Pro Bowler, seven-time All-Pro First-team selection and three-time Defensive Player of the Year, but team success had evaded him.

The 30-year-old was one of three starters against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday who had also started the Super Bowl LIII defeat to the New England Patriots.

But a big performance from Donald contributed to a precious 23-20 triumph, meaning he could finally get his hands on the Lombardi Trophy.

It had been suggested Donald would retire if the Rams won, but he was in no mood to discuss that possibility immediately after the game.

"I'm in a moment right now. I'm in a moment," he told CBS. "I just want to enjoy this right now with these guys.

"My kids are coming on the field – this is a promise I made to my daughter – so we're going to play in the confetti for a minute, man. I'm just going to live in the moment."

Describing his feelings, Donald said: "I'm so happy. I wanted this so bad. I dreamed this, man. I dreamed this. It's surreal. Look at this, look at this, man. I feel amazing, feel great."

He added: "It's the best feeling in the world. God is great. God is great. I'm lost for words. I don't know what to say. It's a blessing."

Sunday's game came down to fine margins, with the Rams the first team in NFL history to win three games by three points or fewer in a single postseason.

Donald finished with two sacks and three quarterback hits – including forcing an incompletion from Joe Burrow on fourth down in the final seconds. He had stuffed the run on third-and-one, too.

"Strain, strain," he said of his thoughts at that moment. "One last play to be world champs, give it everything you've got. We made a play and we won. That's all that matters."

Cooper Kupp capped a dominant season with two Super Bowl LVI touchdowns to guide the short-handed Los Angeles Rams past the Cincinnati Bengals in LA.

The Rams were heavily reliant on Kupp at their SoFi Stadium home after Odell Beckham Jr. was ruled out with a first-half knee injury, joining tight end Tyler Higbee on the sideline.

But the triple crown wide receiver had just enough to inspire a 23-20 win and deny the Bengals their first championship – with a little help from Aaron Donald.

Before Beckham went down, the Rams' superstar receiving talent had a telling impact, as their second drive ended with a 17-yard touchdown pass from Matthew Stafford to the former Cleveland Brown.

The Bengals could only come up with a field goal in response – Evan McPherson's record-breaking 13th consecutive successful conversion in a single postseason – and Stafford soon found Kupp for a fifth TD in four playoff games.

But the remainder of the first half did not play out nearly so smoothly for the Rams, who were pegged back by a career-first Joe Mixon pass – to Tee Higgins for a TD – and then lost Beckham to injury before Jessie Bates III picked off a deep Stafford pass in the endzone.

The Rams still took a three-point lead into halftime, yet that was gone within 12 seconds of the third quarter when an apparent foul by Higgins on Jalen Ramsey was not spotted, allowing the receiver to run in a 75-yard score from Joe Burrow's pass.

Burrow was quickly back on the field, too, as a Stafford throw bounced off Ben Skowronek – promoted in place of Beckham – and into the arms of Chidobe Awuzie for a second interception. Aaron Donald's second sack limited the Bengals to a McPherson field goal.

The Rams were also forced to settle for a field goal after Kupp overthrew a pass to Stafford as they ran the Philly Special, although some heavy punishment dished out to Burrow limited the Bengals' effectiveness on offense, giving Stafford one last drive with a four-point deficit.

After numerous penalties in the red zone, Stafford finally picked out Kupp for another TD, setting the stage for Donald to stall Burrow's reply and spark home celebrations.

Burrow on brand with big plays and sacks

Burrow's 51 sacks in the regular season set a record for any QB to start that year's Super Bowl, but he was largely kept clean in the first half – albeit he did not throw a TD either.

The second half was much more like what we have come to expect from Burrow and the Bengals' offensive line, however.

The NFL leader in passing plays of 50 yards or more (12 in 2021) added another with his TD pass to Higgins, although the controversy around that play – Higgins' hand grasped at Ramsey's facemask – appeared to contribute to a determined Rams response on defense.

Donald soon had his first sack and Burrow took seven in all, tying Roger Staubach's Super Bowl X record.

Kupp comes up trumps as only option

The reason for backing the Rams pre-game over the Bengals was their wealth of options, as evidenced by Beckham's early TD after a drive in which Kupp carried the ball into Cincinnati territory.

But when Beckham was ruled out, with Higbee and Robert Woods (two of five remaining Rams from their Super Bowl LIII defeat) already sidelined, Stafford turned his focus to Kupp alone.

This year's premier wideout was the target of a game-high 10 pass attempts and reeled in eight of them – another high – for 92 yards and those two decisive TDs.

Cooper Kupp led the injury-hit Los Angeles Rams in a late recovery to beat the Cincinnati Bengals 24-20 in Super Bowl LVI at their SoFi Stadium home.

Odell Beckham Jr. was officially ruled out of Super Bowl LVI after his first-half knee injury.

The Los Angeles Rams wideout required treatment in the medical tent and then the locker room after appearing to land awkwardly on his left knee.

Beckham had scored the opening touchdown of Sunday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

But a worrying injury to the same knee in which he tore his ACL in 2020 – also against the Bengals – checked both his and the Rams' momentum.

With the Bengals 20-16 up in the third quarter, Beckham was downgraded to out.

The Rams were already without tight end Tyler Higbee, who failed to recover from an MCL sprain in time to play at SoFi Stadium.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford also required attention on the sideline in the third quarter, having limped off the field with an apparent ankle issue.

Odell Beckham Jr. returned to the Los Angeles Rams locker room in the first half of Super Bowl LVI after appearing to sustain a worrying knee injury.

Beckham, who had scored the opening touchdown of the game against the Cincinnati Bengals, had to be helped from the field in the second quarter.

The former Cleveland Browns wide receiver seemed to land awkwardly on his left knee when attempting to make a catch.

Beckham tore his ACL in his left knee against the Bengals while still a Browns player in Week 7 in 2020.

On Sunday, Beckham received treatment in the medical tent after leaving the field before departing for the locker room, he was subsequently announced as questionable to return.

Cooper Kupp claimed a share of NFL history with his second-quarter touchdown in the Los Angeles Rams' strong start to Super Bowl LVI.

Outstanding wide receiver Kupp captured the receiving triple crown in 2021, becoming the first player since 2005 to lead the NFL in receptions, receiving yards and receiving TDs.

And the Rams superstar's form has continued into the playoffs, as he headed into Sunday's Super Bowl against the Cincinnati Bengals with four TD receptions across three postseason games – including at least one in each.

It came as no surprise then when Kupp added another score at SoFi Stadium that gave the Rams a 13-3 lead.

An 11-yard catch made Kupp just the second player in NFL history to have a TD reception in four consecutive games in a single postseason. Larry Fitzgerald did so for the Arizona Cardinals following the 2008 season.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford had already thrown one TD pass to Odell Beckham Jr., meaning he continued his run of tossing two or more scores in playoff games.

Stafford was already the first Rams QB to throw multiple TDs in three straight games in one postseason, his early success against the Bengals making him the first to do so in four straight including streaks that spanned seasons.

Cincinnati Bengals tight end C.J. Uzomah will play in Super Bowl LVI despite suffering a knee injury in the AFC Championship Game.

Uzomah sustained a sprained medial collateral ligament during the Bengals' comeback win over the Kansas City Chiefs two weeks ago.

However, the tight end has been able to make a speedy recovery and was not on the Bengals' inactive list for the season-ending showpiece against the Los Angeles Rams.

During Monday's virtual media day, Uzomah said: "I'm not missing the biggest game of my life.

"I'm not missing it. That's my approach going every day into rehab."

He has made good on that promise and will provide Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow with an extra weapon to add to an already impressive list.

Uzomah caught a career-high five touchdown passes during the regular season and averaged over 10 yards per reception for the third time in four seasons.

There was talk Sean McVay could ride off into the sunset after Super Bowl LVI, but both he and counterpart Zac Taylor are set to stick around as head coaches for the long term.

ESPN's Adam Schefter reported on Sunday that Rams coach McVay and Bengals coach Taylor are in line to receive contract extensions from their respective teams once the dust settles on Sunday's clash at SoFi Stadium.

McVay has two seasons remaining on his deal, while the 2022 campaign is the last year of Taylor's current contract.

There had been reports that 36-year-old McVay, who has previously expressed a desire not to coach into his 60s, could step away from coaching at the end of the season, with talk of a potential move into broadcasting.

Such suggestions appear to have been erroneous, as the indication is now that he will continue a head coaching career in which he has reached the playoffs in all but one of his five seasons in charge of the Rams.

McVay also looks set to be tied to the quarterback that has led his team back to the Super Bowl for the long term.

Indeed, NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reported the Rams are set to hammer out a contract extension with Matthew Stafford, whom the Rams traded a pair of first-round picks to acquire in the offseason.

Stafford's contract expires at the end of next season but, regardless of whether he gets the job done on home turf, the Rams are poised to reward him for a campaign in which he set franchise records for completions (404), passing yards (4,886) and touchdowns (41).

Joe Burrow is used to overcoming adversity. His career has been defined by doing just that. 

Recruited to Ohio State after a stellar high school career, Burrow never achieved his ambition of being the starting quarterback for the Buckeyes, who preferred to give first J.T. Barrett and then Dwayne Haskins the reins to their offense. His response: transfer to LSU and win the National Championship in the 2019 campaign, using his final year in college to put together one of the finest quarterback seasons ever produced at that level.

Five thousand six hundred and seventy-one passing yards, 60 touchdowns and just six interceptions proved more than enough to convince the Cincinnati Bengals he was deserving of the number one overall pick in the 2020 draft.

There was concern that decision would not be vindicated when, in Week 11 of the 2020 season against the then-Washington Football Team, Burrow tore multiple knee ligaments, ending his rookie season prematurely.

It was no secret that Burrow endured his struggles in training camp as he attempted to put the mental and physical pain of that devastating injury behind him, but any doubts that existed in the summer have long since been extinguished by a season in which he has continually thrived in adversity and excelled in the most significant moments.

No NFL quarterback was more accurate in the regular season, Burrow's well-thrown percentage of 85.7 the best in the league among quarterbacks with at least 200 attempts, and no quarterback fared better under pressure. He delivered an accurate, well-thrown ball on 80.1 per cent of his 156 pass attempts under pressure, putting him tops for quarterbacks with a minimum of 50 such attempts. His nearest challenger was Ryan Tannehill (76.5) while the average was 70 per cent.

Burrow does not just excel at being accurate under pressure, he also does a remarkable job of escaping it, his leap out of the clutches of Chris Jones in the fourth quarter one of the defining images of the Bengals' stunning comeback against the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game.

When the odds appear stacked against him, Burrow changes the calculus, and he is the reason why you'll find many in Los Angeles expecting him to spoil the Rams' party and lead Cincinnati to victory in Super Bowl LVI on Sunday.

Kevin Clark, senior NFL writer at The Ringer, is among those selecting Cincinnati to pull off the upset because of Burrow.

"I think it's going to be close, and when that happens it becomes situational football, it becomes third and eight, what's your best play? Who's best equipped for that? For me, that's Joe Burrow," Clark told Stats Perform this week.

"I was leaning Rams because I just believe in talent, a lot of times I say 'there's more blue-chip guys on this roster, I'm picking them' but when I started to look at it, I realised the difference wasn't that great. The Bengals just beat the Chiefs, and they did a nice job against the Chiefs. The idea that the Bengals are some Cinderella story plus Joe Burrow, I don't agree with that."

No quarterback in the NFL with at least 100 attempts on third down in the regular season had a better completion percentage in those situations than Burrow (72.5) while he also led the league in passing plays of 50 yards or more (12) despite his arm strength being a tick below the level of some of his superstar contemporaries.

"I was just reading a book that his college coach wrote, and they were saying in his junior year in training camp he didn't separate himself because his arm just wasn't that strong. You go from that to leading the NFL in 50 plus yards receptions, it's remarkable, it's unbelievable," added Clark.

"I think that's a testament to getting the ball out quickly, knowing exactly where the ball is gonna go, any quarterback can go throw 50 yards, it's whether you can throw 70 yards. If you're in the NFL you can get there and so Burrow, using all of his arm strength, but then you look at what he's able to do with just vision, the placement, it's all there and it's rendering the lack of arm strength quite frankly meaningless.

Burrow's success in overcoming his own supposed physical limitations is also giving his coach, Zac Taylor, freedom to be more aggressive. The Bengals were third in the NFL this season in fourth-down conversion success rate (65 per cent) and the confidence Taylor can afford to have in his quarterback could tilt the coaching matchup with Sean McVay in his favour.

Clark explained: "I think that McVay is obviously a much better coach than Zac Taylor, I think Burrow has liberated Zac Taylor in a way that gives him cover, almost like if you remember with the Ravens and Lamar Jackson a few years ago where the Ravens were getting very aggressive because they had Lamar Jackson, and if there was any question in the media about why this person went for it, the answer was just always Lamar Jackson.

"Joe Burrow is that kind of player where it's fourth and four, they're gonna go for it. I think in the coaching matchup Burrow makes a difference because he's the kind of guy who's going to go over there and say 'coach we're going for it on fourth down' and Zac Taylor is smart enough to say 'this guy's driving the bus I'm gonna let him do it'".

Taylor confirmed as such during the Bengals' media availability on Friday, the Bengals' desire to involve Burrow in the process on gameday and in the offseason allowing both coach and quarterback to feel more comfortable.

"We took with the number one pick so there's obviously some special traits, we know he's a winner, he's a champion," said Taylor. 

"We wanted to make sure that we built this thing around him and how he could feel most comfortable. I think that when a player like that, who prepares like he does and sees the game, really from a coach's perspective, he should be involved in everything we do, and that's opinions on other players that we're adding to the team, that's scheme and game plan, that's adjustments that we make over the course of the game, he's earned that.

"Any time he's involved, he tends to make it work really well. And so I don't think that there's any egos on our staff that say no, we've got to do it the way that the coaches want it done. I want him to feel comfortable on game day, because when he feels comfortable, he plays at a really special level."

Comfortable with how the team operates, at ease in the spotlight and always calm under pressure, Burrow has even earned the blessing of the original 'Joe Cool', Joe Montana, to take that nickname. In what could be the warmest Super Bowl ever, Burrow's composure may turn the heat on the home favourite Rams.

Super Bowl LVI will be a tale of the student versus the master with Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor going against the man he used to work for on the Los Angeles Rams' staff in Sean McVay. They have not worked together since the 2018 season and their two offenses have taken somewhat divergent paths since that point, but the meeting between a coach schooled in the McVay offense and the man whom he learned it from is a fascinating subplot of the NFL's grand season finale.

When two coaches have a strong knowledge of each other and are born of the same scheme, how do they go about manufacturing an edge?

"It becomes a little bit of a game of chess," former NFL wide receiver Andrew Hawkins told Stats Perform.

"Typically I give the upper hand to the Mr Miyagi of the two because you can teach a system, you can put somebody in the system, the longer you're in that system, the more you know, 'I've taught you this so I know how you're gonna approach something because I taught you to do it, I know how to break your own rules', and there will be some gamesmanship and some of the Kyle Shanahan-McVay elements here with McVay and Taylor.

"Ultimately it'll come down to players making plays."

Two of the biggest playmakers in Super Bowl LVI will spend a lot of time face to face, with Offensive Rookie of the Year Ja'Marr Chase set to line up against arguably the NFL's elite cornerback in Rams superstar Jalen Ramsey.

Chase, just as he was in college, has been the go-to receiver for Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow, and it could be the level of success Ramsey enjoys in severing their connection that decides who lifts the Lombardi Trophy.

Cincinnati's vindication

The Bengals may continue to have offensive line problems, but at this point few are still questioning their decision to eschew addressing them and select Chase instead.

In terms of individual awards, the most emphatic vindication has already been secured, with Chase taking home the hardware at Thursday's NFL Honours ceremony.

A decisive performance from Chase would end any debate, and the numbers illustrate the task on Ramsey's hands in attempting to stop him.

Chase's 2021 burn rate, which measures how often a receiver wins his matchup with a defender when he is targeted, of 64.3 per cent was just above the NFL average of 62 for wideouts with at least 100 targets.

However, when he has won his matchup, Chase has done so decisively. His burn yards per target average of 13.85 stands below only that of Tyler Lockett (14.72), with his tally of 3.2 burn yards per route good for tied seventh among wideouts.

And when it comes to making big plays, only three receivers have fared better in the 2021 campaign, Chase producing a big play – a 20-yard burn or a burn for a touchdown – on 36.6 per cent of his targets.

No quarterback had as many passing plays of 50 yards in the regular season as Burrow (12) and no wideout had as many receiving plays of that distance as Chase's six.

Chase is not one of the league's elite separators but, when he does get even the slightest step on a defender, the results can be devastating.

In Ramsey, however, he is facing a defender with the ability to lock down receivers for an entire game.

A strength on strength matchup

Team-mate Aaron Donald might feel aggrieved at not winning Defensive Player of the Year on Thursday, but Ramsey also had quite a compelling statistical case and could be considered a snub.

Among cornerbacks with at least 100 matchups with a receiver, only two defenders had a better combined open percentage allowed across both man and zone coverage than Ramsey in the regular season.

His combined open percentage of 17.07 trailed just Bryce Hall (14.61) and Casey Hayward (14.83), with burns for significant yardage rarely something Ramsey gives up.

For cornerbacks with a minimum of 50 targets, Ramsey is top 10 in 2021 in burn yards per target (8.12, sixth) and burn yards per snap (1.39, 10th).

But where does Ramsey excel the most? Preventing the big play.

Indeed, his 2021 big-play rate of 14.2 per cent can only claim to have been topped by Avonte Maddox and Tre'Davious White (both 13.9). Maddox started only five games while White's season was cut short in his 11th by a knee injury.

When Chase lines up against Ramsey, it will be a case of strength on strength, but neither appears to be spending too much time worrying about how to combat the other.

"He's got to check me"

Asked about Chase, Ramsey replied: "I respect his game, I respect how he's played this year, he's come in as a rookie and tore the league up, he has great chemistry with his quarterback and you can tell.

"I'll let the world keep talking about it [the matchup]. We're going to get out there on Sunday; I'll be ready to play, I'm sure he will be too."

Chase undoubtedly appeared ready for the challenge when speaking to the media on Friday, hinting that Ramsey will have the tougher task playing the reactionary role on defense.

"I'm just gonna play my game, he the one gotta check me," said Chase. 

"I'm not playing defense, I'm playing offense, so he got to check me. We're going to go with our matchups and go as we go."

From the evidence of their respective stunning seasons, those matchups may well command the greatest attention when two of the stars of 2021 face off under one of sport's brightest spotlights.

Aaron Rodgers' position as the NFL's premier quarterback was reaffirmed on Thursday when he was named MVP, but could Sunday be the start of Joe Burrow's journey to surpassing him?

The Los Angeles Rams may be in Burrow's immediate sights as he and the Cincinnati Bengals look to pull off the upset in Super Bowl LVI, but long term he is pursuing Rodgers in terms of individual greatness, with this season's MVP award the fourth in the Green Bay Packers star's remarkable career.

"He deserved it, he played great all year," Burrow said when asked about Rodgers on Friday.

"He's been the best player in the league, I don't know if I would say that, [he], Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady have kind of been battling for that the last five years. I'm chasing Aaron Rodgers to try to be the best, he's been doing it for a long time."

Burrow will equal Rodgers' number of Super Bowl wins should he lead the Bengals to victory over the Rams, Rodgers' career partially defined by frustration in the playoffs since the Packers' triumph in Super Bowl XLV in the 2010 season.

Trying to stop Burrow on Sunday will be a player who may well feel snubbed after missing out on a fourth Defensive Player of the Year award. Aaron Donald did not receive that honour, which instead went to Pittsburgh Steelers star T.J. Watt, despite a season in which he registered a stunt-adjusted pass rush win rate of 63.83 per cent.

That was not only the highest for all defenders with at least 100 one-on-one matchups, it was over 10 percentage points higher than his nearest challenger, Myles Garrett (53.56). 

Donald and his team-mates on the defensive line, including Von Miller and Leonard Floyd, took over the NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers in the fourth quarter to help the Rams turn a 17-7 deficit into a victory.

So how will Burrow handle the challenge of facing a defensive front led by one of the all-time greats, who could not possibly need more motivation?

Burrow – whose average time to throw from the snap of the ball was 2.58 seconds, faster than the league average of 2.67 seconds (min. 200 attempts) – knows processing quickly will be crucial.

"In my opinion, they're [the Rams' pass rush] the best in the league at what they do, they get a lot of pressure on the quarterback, they get schemed to get a lot of one-on-one matchups," he added.

"So it's going to be partly on me to handle that pressure, get the ball out of my hands quickly and make plays when the opportunities are there."

Consistent domination is difficult to achieve in the NFL. Not since the 1993 season have the same teams played in the Super Bowl in successive years and no team has won back-to-back Super Bowls since the 2004 New England Patriots. Parity is one of the league's primary selling points but, while it largely retains a balance among clubs in terms of results on the field, there can be no doubt there is a scheme establishing dominion over the NFL.

Sunday's clash between the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams will mark the third time in the last four seasons that an NFL campaign has come to end with a game featuring at least one team employing a version of the offense run by Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay.

With McVay going up against his former assistant in Bengals head coach Zac Taylor, Super Bowl LVI will serve as a compelling illustration of the pre-eminence that offensive scheme enjoys, and this recent round of coaching hires also painted the same picture.

The Miami Dolphins hired Shanahan's offensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers, Mike McDaniel, to be their new head coach. Nathaniel Hackett, having worked as offensive coordinator in that offense under Matt LaFleur with the Green Bay Packers, was appointed as the Denver Broncos head coach. Kevin O'Connell, the Rams offensive coordinator, cannot officially be hired by the Minnesota Vikings until the Super Bowl is over, but that agreement has already been reached.

Those hires have taken the tally of offensive head coaches from the Shanahan-McVay tree to five. Robert Saleh was Shanahan's defensive coordinator in San Francisco until 2021, and he took Niners passing game coordinator Mike LaFleur with him when he was hired by the New York Jets. Brandon Staley got the Los Angeles Chargers job last year after one season revolutionising the Rams on defense for McVay.

The fingerprints of Shanahan and McVay are all over the NFL, and they will be overtly smudged over the Super Bowl. One offensive system having this level of influence over the league feels unprecedented, but is it? 

"If you look back at it, I assume if you did the actual lineage of it, the way that the league looked in the mid-90s, early 2000s, most of it probably comes enough from the Bill Walsh tree to say it's similar," Robert Mays, NFL writer for The Athletic, tells Stats Perform. 

"It starts fragmenting because even if you look at the genealogy of the Shanahan tree, it comes from the Bill Walsh tree, because you have Mike Shanahan coming from San Francisco, they combine it with the wide zone running scheme, so now even that DNA is still sort of similar, if you go back far enough it all comes from the same place, but no I can't remember anything like it in this modern era, the last 10 years or so, because there just hasn't been anything similar. There were a lot of the Seattle defensive guys on that side of the ball but it still wasn't as popular as it is right now."

So why is it so popular? The obvious answer is its success.

The 49ers (first), Rams (fourth), Bengals (seventh) and Packers (eighth) all finished the regular season in the top 10 in yards per play. All four were playing on Divisional Round weekend.

But it is more than just the offensive efficiency and the results that have made Shanahan, McVay and now LaFleur assistants attractive to teams looking to turn their fortunes around, it is also a combination of the scheme, the adaptability of the scheme and the willingness of the coaches to take a flexible approach.

"What you have to understand about why the Niners are successful, why Sean is successful, it's not because they run this offense, it's their understanding of defensive rules and how to manipulate them is what makes them really successful, they all just happen to come from the same place," Mays explains.

"I think the quarterback-friendly aspect of it is really important. How they attack the middle of the field, the play-action, I do think it's the easiest way to get the most out of a quarterback in a quarterback-centric league.

Speaking to the quarterback-friendly nature of the offense, Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford threw to an open receiver on 82.5 per cent of his attempts, second behind Patrick Mahomes (85.5) among signal-callers with at least 200 pass attempts. Zach Wilson (79.5), playing in Mike LaFleur's offense, was 10th, and the likely departing 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was still above average on 79.1 per cent.  

It goes beyond the quarterback, though, with wide receiver Andrew Hawkins, who played under Shanahan and Mike McDaniel during his time with the Cleveland Browns, enjoying personal experience of how they get the most out of the surrounding talent.

"The thing that anybody who played for Kyle, the Mikes and the LaFleur's and the McVay's, they figure out their offense around the players," Hawkins told Stats Perform. 

"It's traditional for coaches to say 'here's my system' and they're gonna get jobs off their system and they say 'this is my system, this is the way we run it, this is the kind of tight end we need, we need this quarterback to do these things, we need this guy to do this and if they're not these kind of guys I'm gonna go find people who will do what I say, my system bang, bang, bang'.

"Shanahan and those guys, they don't do it that way. They are, I don't want to say true coaches, but to me, they're the best version of it because they'll come into a place and say hey Hawk, you're limited here, but you do these things really, really, really well and although my last receiver might have been 6'4", 215 pounds, your skill set is this so we're going to change things around that fit your skill set and get the best out of you for the best version of our offense it can be.

"That's what you want as a player, you want your coaches to understand your skill set and maybe not ask the 5'7" guy to go make jump-ball catches in the red zone, it's not exactly what I do, it's not my thing, I like to be in space, let's find ways to get me in space and that's what they'll do.

"They'll cater it to their players, to their O-Line, to their running backs, to their outside guy, their inside guy, their tight end, as players you want coaches who are gonna tell you the truth and put you in the best position to win for your skill set. Don't try to fit a square peg into a round hole and those coaches, just by philosophy, do it better most guys in the league."

Agreeing with Hawkins' assessment, Mays adds: "It's interesting because it takes on different flavours, that's the most important thing, you have to understand how it is tailored to your personnel."

And, though Taylor, cut his teeth under McVay, the way he has tailored his Bengals offense to his personnel has made their attack markedly different from that of the Rams.

Burrow did not throw to an open receiver as often, doing so just 76.9 per cent of the time, but that is reflective of a more aggressive downfield passing game that has regularly relied on the ball-winning skills of Ja'Marr Chase and his quarterback's unerring accuracy.

This season, Burrow led the NFL by delivering an accurate, well-thrown ball on 86.1 per cent of his pass attempts as his skill set meshed perfectly with a more ambitious passing game. No player produced more passing plays of more than 50 yards than Burrow with 12. Next on the list, Stafford, with 10.

"It's very different, it's much more spread out than you would see with Sean's offense, the Bengals are a spread team, they play in the shotgun, they have one of the widest formations on average in the entire NFL, they are not doing a lot of things that the Rams are doing," Mays says of the Bengals' attack.

"I think it's really tailored to, this is what we are, we have a true X receiver on the outside, we honestly have two because of what Tee Higgins is, we don't need to worry about all those bunches and stacks and things like that, and they run very little play-action, you think about the fact that Zac was under Sean in 2018 when the Rams were running play-action 38 per cent of the time or whatever it was, and the Bengals are like under 20 with one of the lowest rates in the entire NFL."

Matt LaFleur weaponised the scheme in Green Bay via the brilliance of Aaron Rodgers, McVay has molded it around Stafford following the trade that sent Jared Goff to Detroit and moved away from play-action somewhat while Shanahan has leaned heavily on the run with the 49ers. McDaniel, O'Connell and Hackett will surely recreate the system to mesh with their respective talent pools and, ultimately, what owners and general managers are buying when they invest in an assistant from the McVay and Shanahan offense is not the scheme, but the ingenuity these coaches gain from their association with two of the most talented football minds of this generation.

"I think what people are searching for when they hire all these Sean assistants, aren't necessarily we want this offensive system, it's we want whatever environment comes with these guys from this place," Mays observes. "Brandon Staley's not an offensive coach and they still hired him to be the head coach.

"I think they're trying to capture whatever this kind of incubator of football ideas is, that I feel like is what they're trying to tap into as much as the actual Xs and Os of the offensive scheme."

Los Angeles Rams tight end Tyler Higbee has been officially ruled out of Super Bowl LVI.

Higbee will not face the Cincinnati Bengals after he and offensive tackle Joseph Noteboom were placed on injured reserve on Friday.

Running back Darrell Henderson Jr. and nose tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day were both activated ahead of Sunday's game, but Higbee's absence comes as a blow – albeit one that was expected.

The former fourth-round pick suffered an MCL strain in the NFC Championship Game win over the San Francisco 49ers.

Higbee had 61 catches for 560 yards and five touchdowns in the 2021 regular season, adding nine receptions for 115 yards in the playoffs.

He has been targeted 14 times in the postseason, third-most on the Rams behind superstar wide receivers Cooper Kupp (32) and Odell Beckham Jr. (23).

Aaron Rodgers will soon make a decision on his Green Bay Packers future after winning his fourth NFL MVP award and second in a row.

Rodgers seemed set to leave the Packers as the reigning MVP last year as he pushed for a move – and that scenario could yet play out after the quarterback won again for 2021.

But the 38-year-old does not intend for another saga to follow this offseason.

While there is no guarantee Rodgers will be returning to Green Bay, he at least plans to make a prompt call.

Speaking after his MVP recognition, the controversial QB – in the spotlight this season for his vaccine status as well as his future plans – said: "I have not made any decision yet."

Rodgers added: "I'll make a decision in due time and not a ton of time. I'll give the team plenty of time to do what they got to do.

"And I think that time is coming. There will be a decision in the near future. And I'm not going to keep a lot of people waiting."

Fellow great Tom Brady has retired since exiting the playoffs, like Rodgers, in the NFC Divisional Round.

After losing to the sixth-seeded San Francisco 49ers, the possibility of a similar decision remains for Rodgers.

"I talked at length at various times about being comfortable walking away and just not playing," he said. "And I don't want to create more questions than I probably already have, but I don't fear retirement and I don't fear moving on.

"I'm very proud of what I've accomplished, proud that I've accomplished it in Green Bay over the last 17 years, and I'm excited about the future, whatever that ends up being or looking like.

"I'm also still highly competitive and still a bitter taste from the Divisional game. So [there is] definitely a lot to weigh."

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