Sport writer Laurence Piper reflects on the 2021/22 NFL season, where the Los Angeles Rams took home the top spot

Written by Laurence Piper
Hi, I'm Laurence. I'm a 3rd Year BA History Student at UoB but this is my first year writing for Redbrick. I have been a member of the University American Football team since 1st Year having served on the committee and this past year as a team Captain. I mainly enjoy writing about all thing NFL but I'm also really into my music and literature.
Images by Twitter/@Bengals

This NFL season saw numerous memorable moments and storylines emerge, ranging from big splash plays to surprising upsets. One such highlight was the impressive campaign from the overlooked Cincinnati Bengals, who fell one game shy of a Cinderella Story. The Bengals demonstrated just why the NFL is unique, as they opened the season with +20,000 odds to win the Super Bowl, yet they managed to defy the doubters and redefine the word ‘underdog’.

Having not seen a playoff win since 1990, the Bengals, under the leadership of quarterback Joe Burrow, stormed to a regular season record of 10-7. This exceeded their win total from the last two season combined. The Bengals also defeated the Las Vegas Raiders, Tennessee Titans and powerhouse Kansas City Chiefs to punch their ticket to the big game where they ultimately lost to the LA Rams.

The Rams, under Head Coach (HC) Sean McVay, employed a bold off-season strategy. They with multiple high round future draft picks for star players such as Jalen Ramsey, Odell Beckham Jr, Von Miller and their new QB Matt Stafford in order to build a ‘win now’ NFL super team. These moves, that have led many pundits to accuse the team of mortgaging their future, ultimately paid off as they defeated the Bengals 23-20 at their brand new $5 Billion SoFi stadium for their first Super Bowl win since 1999 with the team nicknamed ‘The Greatest Show on Turf’.

This made McVay (36) the youngest HC to ever win a Super Bowl, but it was ultimately Cooper Kupp who took away the game’s MVP award as he built on his already remarkable season. Kupp was prolific in 2021 as he became the first Wide Receiver to win the coveted ‘Triple Crown’ title since Steve Smith in 2005 as he hauled in 145 catches for 1,947 yards and 16 Touchdowns. He also won the Offensive Player of the Year award whilst also finishing third in the league’s MVP voting.

These moves have led many pundits to accuse the team of mortgaging their future

As with any season, there are a lot of eyes on the incoming rookie class and with an unprecedented five QBs selected in the 1st round of the 2021 NFL Draft there was a lot of speculation as to how these players would perform. Out of these five players Mac Jones (15th overall, New England Patriots) shone the brightest as he led the perennial contenders back to the post-season after the departure of Hall of Fame QB Tom Brady two seasons prior. Jones led all other rookie QBs with 3,801 passing yards, a 67.6% completion percentage, 22 TDs and a 92.5 passer rating as he guided the Patriots to a 10-7 record picking up a Pro-Bowl nod in the process.

Outside of the QB position there were plenty of other rookies who raised eyebrows in the NFL last year. Tight End (TE) Kyle Pitts (Atlanta Falcons, 8th overall) debuted as the sixth best TE in the league as a receiving threat, whilst Rashawn Slater (LA Chargers, 13th overall) had a historic year posting an 83.6 player grade according to Pro Football Focus (PFF) and Creed Humphrey (Kansas City Chiefs, 63rd overall) recorded a 91.4 PFF rating making him the highest rated Centre in the entire league.

However, it was winning Offensive and Defensive Rookies of the Year Ja’Marr Chase (Cincinnati Bengals, 5th overall) and Micah Parsons (Dallas Cowboys, 11th overall) who took the league by storm. Chase accumulated 1,455 receiving yards alongside his 13 TDs to lock up the honour as he earnt PFF’s ranking as the fifth best wide receiver in the league. On the other side of the ball Parsons dominated, racking up 61 solo tackles, 3 forced fumbles and 14 sacks.

It wasn’t just the young rookies who had impressive seasons as Tom Brady (44) and Aaron Rodgers (38) demonstrated that for them age wasn’t a limiting factor as they battled it out for the MVP title. Brady, who led the league in passing yards and touchdowns with 5,316 and 42 respectively, was controversially edged out by Aaron Rodgers, with 4,115 passing yards and 37 touchdowns but a superior 69.1 Quarterback rating (QBR) in the MVP voting, making him the first back-to-back MVP winner since Payton Manning (2008 and 2009).

Brady was controversially edged out by Aaron Rodgers

With there only being one true winner of each NFL season, it is easy to overlook the many successful seasons of other teams. The Titans won the AFC South with a 12-5 record, whilst the Chiefs finished on top of the competitive AFC West at 12-5 as the Buffalo Bills claimed the AFC East division title sitting at 11-6. In the NFC the Dallas Cowboys rose to the top of the NFC East at 12-5, with the Green Bay Packers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers dominating the NFC North and NFC South respectively with 13-4 records.

Ultimately, however, these teams will all have to go back to the drawing board ahead of the 2022/23 season if they wish to usurp the new reigning World Champions LA Rams and take home the Lombardi Trophy.

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