Aaron Donald stepped up when Rams needed it most — early in the third quarter

Super Bowl LVI - Los Angeles Rams v Cincinnati Bengals
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The Rams entered halftime with a dangerously small three-point lead. In the blink of an eye to start the third quarter, the Rams found themselves in a four-point hole.

Then came the opportunity for the Bengals to blow it open. An interception on a deflected throw to Rams receiver Ben Skowronek gave Cincinnati the ball on the L.A. 31. The Bengals had the momentum. A touchdown would have given them a double-digit lead, increasing the urgency dramatically (and suddenly) for the Rams offense.

That’s when Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald began cementing his legacy. He got his first sack of the game on the second play of the drive, forcing the Bengals to face third and 11. They converted with a 10-yard pass and an impressive 18-yard scramble on fourth and one by quarterback Joe Burrow, re-establishing the momentum the Bengals enjoyed.

Enter Aaron Donald again. With the Bengals at the 11 and needing three yards on third down for a first and goal, Donald got Burrow again. It forced a field goal that kept the margin to a more psychologically manageable seven points.

Yes, if the Bengals had scored a touchdown on that drive, the rest of the game would have played out differently. But that’s the point. The Rams would have been in a deep hole. Would they have tried to hard to get out of it? Would the floodgates have burst open?

In the stadium, the interception created a palpable sense that it was about to become a boat race. With Aaron Donald singlehandedly keeping that from happening, the Rams kept the difference to seven points when it felt like it should have been worse.

Of all the things that will haunt the Bengals in the coming weeks, months, and years, that drive will stand out. That drive was the opportunity to deliver what wouldn’t have necessarily been the knockout punch, but it would have potentially set it up to happen soon thereafter.

6 responses to “Aaron Donald stepped up when Rams needed it most — early in the third quarter

  1. Good for AD. Truly an all timer. Im sure he will take a ring over his 4th DPOY every day of the week

  2. The last 2 plays of the game were what cemented his legacy. Up by 3, time running out, 3rd and 1 and he makes two great plays to prevent the first down. The run stop forced the pass play on 4th and then he beats his guy again to disrupt the throw. He should have been MVP.

  3. Not sure why both the Niners and the Bengals did the exact same thing on 3rd & short in big spots. Both ran up the gut into Donald. You would think a pitch would be best.

    Regardless, Donald himself closed both games and did indeed dominate on game ending 4th downs. Congrats to Rams

    Stafford threw some dimes yesterday

  4. AD put that game on his shoulders. Kupp rightfully won the MVP, but if they gave it to AD instead I would have been fine with it. It would have been just as deserved in my opinion.

  5. Nobody’s stats were that special, from the standpoint of earning MVP. Stafford’s numbers were largely filler, as he didn’t rise to the occasion very much and only got that last TD to Kupp because of the ridiculous flags preceding it.

    The most meaningful force in the game was defense. And, whether the overall stats look impressive or not, Donald made the most important plays in the whole game that had the biggest impact on the outcome. He kept the game from getting out of hand in the 3rd and he shut down the last hope in the 4th.

    That, to me, is pretty much what defines the MVP. The Rams lose that game ten times out of ten without Donald.

  6. only defensive tackles i ever saw take over a game like that were Gene Lipscomb and Joe Greene;

    Donald will join him in Canton, not soon enough for all the offensive coordinators he’s given nightmares to across the league

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