Analysis of each team’s first 15 games of offense in Super Bowl LVI


Cooper Kupp lands an early TD.

Cooper Kupp lands an early TD.
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Around the NFL, it’s common for teams to write their script first 15 offensive moves† Why? This is usually before teams can adapt to defense. That makes the first few rides the perfect opportunity for a coaching staff to show off. You can often figure out a staff’s plan for attacking an opponent by looking at their first 15 plays, so let’s analyze the Bengals and Rams’ first 15 to find out what their plan was in Super Bowl LVI.

The Rams took a much more balanced approach on offense. Cincinnati was very pass-heavy early on, which is interesting because the Bengals had a much more effective run early on. On their first two rides, the Rams took no action at all. However, they drove two on their next ride. That means the aim of the Rams to run early was to set up play action, or it was an adaptation for the Bengals to include their run game. Either way, it worked out perfectly, because on their third ride, the Rams performed three plays. Each time led to a win and in the third and final action saw several Bengal defenders bite the fake, allowing Cooper Kupp to come wide open in the end zone. Rams up 13-3.

Before Cincinnati, the Bengals didn’t have a great run too early and seemed intent on having Joe Burrow run standard dropbacks if their first downrun went nowhere. Perhaps their first drive, in which the Bengals failed to get a scoop on two close-range attempts, played a part in their willingness to go straight to the pass later on. Although, when given the opportunity, Joe Mixon looked very patient and had a great vision behind the line leading to some solid wins. Thankfully, as the game progressed, they started giving Mixon more looks at early downs. That balanced approach eventually led to their first touchdown.

In the passing game, the Rams seem to focus more on creating bad matchups, while the Bengals opt for more basic dropbacks and Burrow readings. Where the Rams have made great use of movement since their first ride, the Bengals have moved away from that plan. That use of the Rams’ movement has enabled Stafford to attend his first lecture more often. Both of his touchdowns to date were on his first reading. Burrow, on the other hand, has very rarely gone to his first reading, and when he does, it’s usually in a third-down situation to a short hiccup just past the first down mark.

The Bengals rarely made use of two tight end sets in the regular season, but after failing to provide much protection for Burrow on their first two drives, they opened in a two-tight end set, leading to Mixon’s biggest run of the game and a 46-yarder to Ja’Marr Chase who set up a field goal. While the Bengals have a lot of talent for wide receivers, their best plays have come when they lined up with two tight ends. Through three drives, the Bengals made little use of playing action. It took an RB passplay for the Bengals to get into the end zone. Of course, don’t expect this to happen again in this game.

Ultimately, the Rams’ offensive plan has been much more efficient. Their use of movement has done well to create mismatches outside of space. Meanwhile, the Bengals are most effective at pounding the rock. Expect them to keep rolling out two tight end sets until the Rams prove they can limit Mixon’s effect on the ground. After a touchdown drive that has used a lot of game action, the Rams will likely open the second half the same way they did the first: lots of runs and lots of movement to set up game action and get the matchups they want. It’s a good game so far. On to a great second half too.

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