Before Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp delivered in the biggest game of his career, he had to miss the previous biggest game of his career.
About 40 minutes after the Rams defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 23-20 in Super Bowl LVI and he had been named the game’s Most Valuable Player, Kupp sat at a podium with son Cypress and recounted what he experienced the last time he was walking off the field of the game’s grandest stage.
It was Feb. 3, 2019, and the Rams had just lost Super Bowl LIII to the New England Patriots in Atlanta. Kupp was inactive because he was recovering from a torn left anterior cruciate ligament. As Kupp tells it, he was walking off the Mercedes-Benz Stadium field, and just before he reached the tunnel, he turned around and had an epiphany of sorts.
“I don’t know what it was, there was just this vision that God revealed to me that we were gonna come back, we were gonna be a part of a Super Bowl and we were gonna win it,” Kupp said. “And somehow, I was going to walk off the field as the MVP of the game.”
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It all came to fruition Sunday night after Kupp did what he has done for most of the season.
So it was that Kupp hauled in the game-winning 1-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Matthew Stafford with 1:25 left and became the eighth wide receiver to win Super Bowl MVP — and the first since Julian Edelman in Super Bowl LIII. Kupp, who was 7-1 to win MVP at Caesars Sportsbook, finished with eight catches for 92 yards and two scores.
The second touchdown capped a drive in which Kupp, with the help of Stafford and some savvy tweaks from Rams coach Sean McVay, took over the game.
After a quick start, Kupp, who also won the NFL’s receiving triple crown by leading the league in receptions, yards and receiving touchdowns, didn’t get the ball much. Fellow wideout Odell Beckham Jr. suffered a left knee injury with 3:50 remaining in the first half, and with Beckham out of the game, the Bengals threw everything they had at slowing Kupp.
“Whatever it is, I just want to execute my job to the best of my ability,” Kupp said. “I trust that as the game goes on, I will have opportunities, as well, and I just want to stay ready for those things, stay locked in.”
Kupp Full Of TDs
In their first season as teammates, Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp connected for 22 TDs, including the playoffs. It was the second most by a QB-receiver duo in a season in NFL history. A look:
SEASON PLAYERS TDS
2007 Brady-Moss, Patriots 24*
2021 Stafford-Kupp, Rams 22*
2020 Rodgers-Adams, Packers 20
2011 Brady-Gronkowski, Patriots 20
1984 Marino-Clayton, Dolphins 20
* First season together as teammates
After Beckham was hurt, Kupp had just two catches for 22 yards before the Rams’ final offensive series.
To create chances for Kupp, McVay decided to go with some tempo, eschewing a huddle in hopes of slowing down the Bengals’ pass rush and forcing them into more basic zone coverages. Kupp found soft spots in that zone, and Stafford found Kupp.
On that final drive, Kupp had four catches for 39 yards, a 7-yard carry for a first down on fourth-and-1 and the winning score. According to Elias Sports Bureau research, Kupp is the second player with four-plus receptions on a go-ahead drive in the fourth quarter or later of a Super Bowl, joining Pittsburgh’s Santonio Holmes in Super Bowl XLIII.
That came despite the Bengals’ best effort to keep Kupp from getting the ball. Before the final touchdown, Kupp drew three straight penalties — a defensive holding, a defensive pass interference and an unnecessary roughness — to set up the final score.
“Once we got down in the tight red area, it felt like it was about 60 plays for us to be able to finally get that one in on the fade,” McVay said. “And Cooper Kupp is the man.”
Kupp’s Super Bowl heroics put the finishing touches on a stellar season in which he cemented himself as one of the league’s best players.
Some of Kupp’s many achievements:
Became only the second player to win the receiving triple crown, NFL Offensive Player of the Year and Super Bowl MVP, joining Jerry Rice. A notable difference: Rice accomplished all of those things in a whole career, while Kupp did it in one season.
Set a record for receptions (33) and tied for the second-most receiving yards (478) and receiving touchdowns (6) in a postseason in NFL history.
Caught a touchdown in each of the Rams’ four postseason games, making him the second player in league history to do that in a single postseason, along with former Arizona Cardinals wideout Larry Fitzgerald.
Joined former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Joe Montana as the only players to win Offensive Player of the Year and Super Bowl MVP in the same season.
Became the first player to lead the league in receiving and win a Super Bowl since Rice in 1994.
When it was over and his vision had become reality, Kupp struggled to find words on the podium. Even as he sat with his son and had more time to reflect, he was still overcome by the emotions of his own manifestation.
“I just felt like I was just so undeserving of what that was in that moment because the people I’ve been able to play with, the people that I’ve been around, the players that I get to play with and come into work with every single day, the coaches that I get to work with and collaborate with — it’s been just the perfect team, the perfect setup,” Kupp said. “I’m just so thankful for everyone that’s been around me. It still really hasn’t hit me.”
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