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This is when the most elite player shows why he’s the one of the best players in his sport: When everyone from the opposing defensive players to the fans in the stadium to the vendors selling beer and hotdogs to the parking attendants outside the stadium know the ball is going to him and still no one can do anything to stop him.

Cooper Kupp was kept relatively quiet by the Cincinnati defense for 3 ¹/₂ quarters in Super Bowl 2022 Sunday night at SoFi Stadium, but when the Rams receiver was needed most he took over the game.

There were several reasons why the Rams overcame the Bengals 23-20 to win the second Super Bowl in franchise history.

Their all-world defensive lineman Aaron Donald, willing his way to a first Super Bowl ring after years of personal excellence, clinched the victory with one final harassment of Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow.

Their quarterback Matthew Stafford, for whom the Rams mortgaged the present and future to acquire in an offseason trade because they believed he was the missing piece to winning a title, engineered another game-winning drive.

But in the end, it was Kupp who was the star. That’s why he was named the MVP. No one deserved it more.

Kupp, who led the NFL in receptions (145), receiving yards (1,947) and receiving touchdowns (16) this season, finished the Super Bowl with eight catches for 92 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner with 1:25 remaining in the game.

With 6:13 remaining in the game and the Rams trailing 20-16, Rams coach Sean McVay told Stafford: “You and Coop go get this thing done.’’

Cooper Kupp
Cooper Kupp catches the game-winning touchdown down for the Rams in Super Bowl 2022.
AFP via Getty Images

They did.

“That’s hard work, that’s hours together,’’ Stafford said. “Coach kept calling plays for him, kept finding ways to get him the ball. He made unbelievable plays. That’s what he does.’’

Said McVay: “Those guys took over that game.’’

Odell Beckham Jr., the star receiver on the other side of Kupp and who draws coverage away from him because he’s also a big play waiting to happen, was lost for the game with a knee injury suffered in the second quarter. That enabled Cincinnati to put half of its defense on Kupp and it still didn’t matter.

Kupp caught four passes for 40 yards on the game-winning drive, but as he has all season he was about so much more than simply catching passes.

It was Kupp’s 7-yard gain on a fourth-and-1 jet sweep run from the Rams own 30-yard line trailing 20-16 with five minutes remaining that kept the dream alive.

If that first down isn’t converted the game it is over, the Bengals are Super Bowl winners for the first time in franchise history and we never see more Kupp’s heroics on the rest of the drive.

That first down was followed by a 22-yard Kupp reception to the Cincinnati 24-yard line.

Super Bowl
Cooper Kupp (l.) celebrates winning the Super Bowl with Matthew Stafford.
USA TODAY Sports

Then an 8-yard catch to the Bengals’ 16.

On third-and-goal from the 8-yard line, he drew a pass interference penalty that gave the Rams a first down at the 4.

Moments later, Kupp drew another pass interference on former Giants cornerback Eli Apple, giving them a first-and-goal from the 1-yard line.

Super Bowl
Cooper Kupp celebrates on the field with his family after winning Super Bowl 2002.
REUTERS

Then came the game-winner — a 1-yard Stafford pass to Kupp, who got Apple turned around on the right side of the end zone.

“Odell went down and Coop made some unbelievable plays on that last drive,’’ Stafford said. “On that last play, I was so happy they were playing man [coverage], I was going to throw the ball to my man and he made a great play.’’

There are few guarantees in sports.

Joe Namath authored the greatest of them all when he elevated his fame to legend status for his bold victory guarantee on the eve of the Jets stunning upset over the Colts in Super Bowl III.

Barring an alien abduction, there was one no-brainer, sure-thing guarantee entering Super Bowl 2022 Sunday night at SoFi Stadium: Kupp was going to get open.

And he did — when it counted most, and when everyone tasked with covering him couldn’t.

Kupp, thoroughly humbled, was in tears afterward.

“I don’t feel deserving of this,’’ he said when handed the MVP hardware. “I don’t know what to say.’’

Asked about his journey from a small-school collegiate career at Eastern Washington, he said, “I don’t have words. I’m so thankful for everyone that’s been in my life, that’s encouraged me, that’s been with me very step of the way. The guys [teammates] standing out here, they challenged me, they pushed me, they made it so much fun to come to work every day. I’m so thankful.’’

They’re probably more thankful for him than he is for them.

Source: NYPOST

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