The Cincinnati Bengals will play the Los Angeles Rams in the Super Bowl — at the Rams’ home stadium on Feb. 13 — but did those teams win or did their opponents lose?
Cincinnati was down 21-3 at the break. And won.
Los Angeles was down 17-7 in the fourth. And won.
There is something about both that feels more like the Chiefs and 49ers lost.
“When you’re up 21-3 at any point in the game, you can’t lose it,” Patrick Mahomes said after the game. “I put that on myself.”
The Chiefs opened the game with a touchdown on their first three possessions and had its game looking like it was about to be a rout.
Coaching blunders at the half cost the Chiefs points. The team got the ball on the one, with 13 seconds left, and did not get in the endzone, nor did it kick a field goal and simply take the points.
Kansas City was also getting the ball after the break. What in the hell? Why pass on points?
“I was hoping we could get the ball in the end zone,” coach Andy Reid said. “I probably gave the wrong play, first of all. I could have given them something better than that. I’ll take responsibility for that one.”
Joe Burrow finished 23 of 38 for 250 yards with the two TDs and an interception. Joe Mixon rushed for 88 yards on 21 carries, including 28 yards on the final 42-yard drive.
“I wouldn’t call it surreal, I would say it’s exciting,” Burrow said. “I think if you would have told me before the season that we’d be going to the Super Bowl, I probably would have called you crazy. Then, you know, we play the whole season and nothing surprises me now.”
In the NFC, Deebo Samuel and George Kittle both caught touchdown passes from Jimmy Garoppolo, who passed for 232 yards in a heartbreaker for the 49ers. San Francisco’s defense faltered late — including dropping a BRUTAL interception opportunity — and coach Kyle Shanahan also punted twice from the Rams’ half of the field and a third time from the 50, and that caution likely ended up costing the Niners.
“I thought we had them on the ropes, but we gave them a chance,” Shanahan said. “When you give those guys too many chances, eventually they are going to make them.”
Los Angeles’ defense then “won” it when Aaron Donald got hold of Jimmy Garoppolo and forced him to fling a pass toward JaMycal Hasty. The ball caromed high in the air off Hasty’s hands and came straight down to Howard — and it was secured by the fourth-year pro who only recently got a prominent role on LA’s defense.
“I’ve got total trust and confidence in that defense, man,” said Stafford, the 13-year veteran who never won a playoff game before this month. “They’ve been unbelievable all year. Way to freakin’ ice the game. I loved it.”
San Francisco has made five NFC title games in the past 11 years, but has no rings to show for it.
It is a great story for the two winners, but the tale is likely more true to tell through the eyes of the losers.