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NFL-Rising star Burrow faces savvy veteran Stafford in Super Bowl showdown – Metro US

NFL-Rising star Burrow faces savvy veteran Stafford in Super Bowl showdown

FILE PHOTO: NFL: AFC Championship-Cincinnati Bengals at Kansas City Chiefs
FILE PHOTO: NFL: AFC Championship-Cincinnati Bengals at Kansas City Chiefs

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Fresh-faced Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow will look to end the Bengals championship drought while the Rams’ Matthew Stafford sets his sights on winning the Lombardi Trophy on the team’s home field in Sunday’s Super Bowl.

When the dust settled on one of the most compelling playoffs in recent memory, the league was left with the unlikely pairing of two fourth-seeded teams and two quarterbacks at different stages of their careers.

Burrow was selected first overall by the Bengals in the 2020 draft in the hopes that he could develop and eventually lead the team to their first championship.

A knee injury kept him sidelined for much of his rookie year but he bounced back to exceed expectations this season, and his unflappable demeanor and fashion choices have quickly made “Joe Cool” the darling of the NFL.

He will need all the poise he can muster to outduel Stafford and overcome a ruthless Rams defense.

A big question is whether Burrow’s offensive line will be able to protect him from a Rams star-studded defense led by three-time Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald and midseason acquisition Von Miller.

Burrow was sacked a league-leading 51 times during the regular season and nine times by the Titans in the Divisional Round.

“We’d like to start fast,” Burrow told reporters this week.

“They have a really good pass rush so when they know that a team is dropping back and throwing the ball, they can tee off, so we want to get off to a strong start.”

To keep the Rams defense guessing, the Bengals will look to establish a running game with Joe Mixon in order to set up play-action passes to Burrow’s favorite target, wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase.

The rookie Chase finished with 81 catches and 13 touchdowns this season but will have his hands full as he goes up against Rams shutdown cornerback Jalen Ramsey in another tantalizing matchup.

SAVVY STAFFORD

Stafford’s road to the Super Bowl has been a longer and more bumpy one than Burrow’s.

The 34-year-old spent 12 seasons with the Lions, where he went winless in three playoff appearances.

Last offseason the Rams traded for Stafford in the hope that an upgrade at quarterback could help win the franchise its first Super Bowl title since returning to LA after 21 seasons in St. Louis.

Despite boasting a receiving core that includes Odell Beckham Jr. and Cooper Kupp, the Rams had an uneven season that ended with a dispiriting home loss to San Francisco, dropping them to the fourth seed.

They crushed the Cardinals in the wild-card game, barely survived a comeback by Tom Brady’s Buccaneers in the Divisional Round, and were forced to battle back against the 49ers in the NFC Championship game.

Despite the close calls, Stafford said he felt great about his team’s path to the Super Bowl and thrilled to have the good fortune of playing it at SoFi Stadium.

“It’s never perfect, it’s never easy,” Stafford said.

“This team has sacrificed a lot and gone through a lot to get to this point, and we’re excited to get to do it in our home stadium.”

(Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles; Editing by Stephen Coates)

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