Everyone in SoFi Stadium knew Cooper Kupp was getting the ball except for Kupp himself.
The Rams, trailing the Bengals 20-16, were facing a second-and-7 at around midfield with just over three minutes left in Super Bowl LVI. Sean McVay had dialed up one of his go-to route combinations: a short stop route from tight end Brycen Hopkins (88), meant to draw the defense up, with Kupp (10) running a deep in-breaker behind it.
Bengals safety Vonn Bell (24) didn’t take the bait … not initially, at least. He lurked in the throwing window, waiting for the in-breaking route by Kupp until Stafford started his throwing motion. With the quarterback’s eyes locked in on Hopkins on the underneath route, Bell broke toward the second-year tight end. The ball went whizzing by his head right to Kupp, who was also fooled a bit by his quarterback’s eyes.
“Matthew Stafford probably threw the best no-looker of his life,” Kupp told NFL Network after the game. “I was running in there and I saw him lean a little, and I’m like, ‘Oh, he’s throwing this to me, isn’t he?’ He was looking up into the third level of the right sideline.”
With no throwing window available for Stafford to get the ball to Kupp, he had to create one with his eyes. The result might be the best throw in franchise history.
It wasn’t the best play call of McVay’s career, but it didn’t need to be. Kupp, the NFL’s most prolific receiver, and Stafford, the quarterback the Rams had traded for just over a year ago, had their coach covered.
A few plays later, the two connected for the game-winning score in the Rams’ 23-20 win.
On the ensuing drive, it was Aaron Donald’s turn to play the role of superstar. First, the game-wrecking defensive tackle stopped Samaje Perine short of the sticks on third down. Then on fourth down, with the Super Bowl on the line, he brushed the Bengals left guard aside and wrapped up Joe Burrow, who made a desperate heave that fell to the ground.
And just like that, McVay added “Super Bowl–winning coach” to his already…