Bengals can’t hold off Rams’ pass rush

Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow sacked 7 times

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow has faced pressure before and overcome. With less than a minute left and Aaron Donald coming at him, he almost completed a pass to Samaje Perine for what would have been a fourth-down conversion.

Evan McPherson was preparing for a potential game-tying field goal if needed, but Burrow and Perine couldn’t make the play and the L.A. Rams just needed one kneeldown from Matthew Stafford to walk off with a 23-20 win Sunday in Super Bowl LVI.

The Rams did exactly what the Bengals knew they could with their pass rush, pressuring Burrow on 42.5 percent of his throws and sacking him seven times, matching a Super Bowl record. Burrow was so close to hitting the ground as he threw that last pass, some thought it was called dead for what would have been Donald’s third sack of the game.

“You try doing anything you can to complete the ball,” Burrow said. “I was disappointed in my performance overall. I thought I could have played better and done more to get the win.”

Burrow completed 22 of 33 passes for 263 yards and one touchdown, a 75-yarder to Tee Higgins on the first play of the second half that gave the Bengals their first lead of the game at 17-13.

The seventh sack on Burrow, a hit by Von Miller that came on a third down with less than 12 minutes left, caused the QB to clutch his right knee in pain. He hobbled off the field on one leg but never went to the medical tent for attention and was back on the field for the next offensive play.

“You don’t want your quarterback to get hit one time, let alone whatever it was, not even counting the things that weren’t sacks, just him getting hit in general,” tight end C.J. Uzomah said. “So it has been tough. You know, that’s ‘Franchise,’ right? You don’t want to see your franchise quarterback get hit as many times as he did and that’s probably going to be a point of emphasis coming up.”

No quarterback that has been sacked 50 times or more in a season has won a Super Bowl. Burrow was sacked 51 times in the regular season and 19 times in four playoff games.

“They have a really good front,” Burrow said when asked how the pressure impacted him. “... We expected their pressure, and they did a good job.”

Despite seeing their quarterback in pain for the final three drives of the game, the Bengals never doubted Burrow could lead them to victory, even after the Rams took the lead with 1:25 left on Cooper Kupp’s touchdown reception.

Burrow completed a 17-yard pass to Ja’Marr Chase on the first play from scrimmage after that, Tyler Boyd grabbed a 9-yard catch but the Bengals couldn’t get that one yard needed to move the chains again.

“That’s probably one of the best pass rushes in the NFL, Aaron Donald, Von Miller, Leonard Floyd, those guys are tough to block,” Bengals defensive end Sam Hubbard said. “Joe’s one of the toughest guys I know. When he comes off limping, there’s no question in my mind that he’s gonna go back out there and try to win the game. So it’s just football and I wouldn’t want to go out there with anybody else. Joe and that offensive line battled all night, and I’m still proud of them.”

Burrow, who took nine sacks in the divisional round win at Tennessee, said after the game he would get his knee checked out when the team returns to Cincinnati but he wasn’t going to come out of the game.

The knee was not the same one he underwent surgery on last season to repair a torn ACL and MCL, but he had banged it up earlier in the season and then re-aggravated it late in the Week 17 game against the Chiefs when the Bengals clinched the AFC North title.

Bengals coach Zac Taylor said he wasn’t sure how badly Burrow was injured. The Rams had just one sack in the first half.

“He’s a fighter, he’s one of the toughest guys I’ve ever met,” Taylor said. “So much respect for Joe. He’s gotten us to this moment. And it’s just unfortunate that we couldn’t finish it off as a team.”

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