NFL

Super Bowl LVI: Mission complete for Donald after landing knockout blow on Bengals

By Sports Desk February 14, 2022

"I think defense is going to win this game. Somebody has to step up and stop these superstar quarterbacks, that team is going to win this game. I just think the defense has to score the knockout."

Michael Buffer has made his name as the voice of professional boxing, but he clearly knows his football, as his Super Bowl prediction proved remarkably prescient.

It was indeed a defensive player who delivered the knockout blow of Super Bowl LVI, as the Los Angeles Rams fought back to beat the Cincinnati Bengals 23-20.

The league's premier defensive star, Aaron Donald, was the source of that telling strike, and it may well prove the final one of his career.

On a must-have fourth-down attempt for the Bengals following Cooper Kupp's go-ahead touchdown, Donald sliced through the interior of the Bengals' offensive line and corralled a hobbled Joe Burrow, who flung a desperation pass that proved too short for Samaje Perine.

Donald finally climbing the mountain with the Rams after years of defensive dominance will only heighten talk of retirement that emerged pre-game.

The three-time Defensive Player of the Year was non-committal on his future speaking after the game, choosing to focus on a moment in which he vindicated head coach Sean McVay's faith in him.

McVay told Donald he would make the decisive play, delivering a show of confidence in a player whose consistent brilliance has merited such belief.

"He told me that when I got to the sideline. You have to be relentless. You want something bad enough, you go get it," Donald told a media conference. 

"It was right in front of us. We had the lead. It was put on the defense's shoulders to make the big stop to make us world champions. You wouldn't want it another way.

"All offseason you work, you train, you got camp, you got a long season just for this one game to be the last team standing. You have to give it everything you've got.

"It's about being relentless, showing up when you need to. Big-time players make big-time plays in big-time games. It's truly a blessing, the opportunity to play this game, but not just play this game, play with great team-mates, great coaches, great organisation.

"Been here eight years, lot of ups-and-downs, so to see it come full circle and be a world champion, all that hard work you put into this game, that's what it's for. Finally mission complete, so it feels great."

Describing the final play, he said: "We had made a third-down stop. Fourth down, I thought they would run, but they dropped back to pass. Found a way to get the chop-club and bend the edge and found a way to get to the quarterback and make him throw an errant pass.

"I actually tried to get the ball out, but he threw it up so I was a little nervous at first. It was a huge play. It was a great few stops for the defense that we made leading up to that. I think we started taking over the game up front when we needed to. We're world champs."

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