INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) — When Cooper Kupp walked off the Super Bowl field three years ago with an injured knee that didn’t allow him to play, he said he had a vision of coming back and winning the MVP.
“It was as clear as day,” Kupp said. “I turned around before walking back through the tunnel and it just hit me. It was as clear as I can see right now. Pretty incredible.”
Incredible describes Kupp’s play all season as he capped off his triple crown performance in fitting fashion with a Super Bowl MVP award after carrying the Los Angeles Rams on the final drive.
Kupp beat Eli Apple for the back-shoulder 1-yard touchdown catch with 1:25 remaining to give the Rams their first Super Bowl title ever in Los Angeles with a 23-20 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday night.
“I just don’t feel deserving of this,” Kupp said. “I’m just so thankful for the guys I get to be around, for the coaches, for my family. I just don’t have words, I’m just so thankful for everyone, everyone that’s been in my life and has encouraged me, has pushed me, has been there for me every step of the way.”
The Rams put together the game-winning drive after barely being able to move the ball in their first seven drives after Kupp’s running mate Odell Beckham Jr. went down with a knee injury. That allowed the Bengals to focus their coverage on Kupp and slow him down, but the Rams didn’t care when the game was on the line.
“That’s hard work, that’s hours together,” quarterback Matthew Stafford said. “I just thank Coach (Sean McVay) for putting it … ‘Hey, Matthew, you and Coop go get this thing done.’ He kept calling plays for him, kept finding ways to get him the ball. He made unbelievable plays, that’s what he does.”
Kupp caught four passes for 39 yards on the game-winning drive, converted a fourth-and-1 with a 7-yard run and drew three penalties near the goal line to set the stage for his game-winning catch. It was a fitting end to one of the greatest seasons and postseason runs ever for a wide receiver.
Kupp joined Jerry Rice (1990), Sterling Sharpe (1992) and Steve Smith (2005) as the only players since the merger to lead the NFL in receptions, yards receiving and receiving yards in the same season when he had 145 catches for 1,947 yards and 16 touchdowns to win the AP Offensive Player of the Year.
Kupp joined Joe Montana in 1989 as the only players to win Super Bowl MVP and AP Offensive Player of the Year in the same season.
The performance in the Super Bowl was just as good when he had eight catches for 92 yards and the two TDs to go along with his key run. About the only thing Kupp didn’t do came when he missed Stafford on a pass on a trick play in the second half.
It’s quite a ride for someone who played his college ball at lower-level Eastern Washington before coming into the NFL as a third-round pick in 2017.
“I don’t really think about it. It was part of my journey,” Kupp said about becoming a star after getting no scholarship offers coming out of high school. “I don’t have any regrets or feel any grudge toward anyone. I’m just thankful for the path that I’ve been on.”
He made an instant impact as the Rams’ reliable slot receiver. His injury midway through the 2018 season left him a spectator for the Rams’ 13-3 loss to the New England Patriots in their previous Super Bowl trip.
Kupp did it all during this playoff run, setting an NFL record with 33 catches and trailing only Larry Fitzgerald’s remarkable 2008 playoffs (30 catches for 546 yards and seven TDs) with his 478 yards and six TDs in four games.
While Fitzgerald’s magical run ended in defeat after the Steelers rallied for the winning score following his go-ahead catch, the Rams defense made Kupp’s catch stand up and he collapsed to the turf in joy before getting the MVP trophy as his reward.
He then finished off the night following his postgame news conference by placing his daughter on top of a box so she could be eye level with him. He then started dancing with her, holding her hands and swaying back and forth as he celebrated his performance.
“I just feel so undeserving of all these awards and accolades,” Kupp said. “I’ve played from a place of freedom and allowed myself to be in the moment every single time.”
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