In one of the most awaited plays of Super Bowl LVI, the Cincinnati Bengals put themselves in a position to beat the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium on Sunday, Feb 13. 

Wide receiver Tee Higgins caught a 75-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Joe Burrow on the first play of the second half. That gave the Bengals a 17-13 lead after kicker Evan McPherson made the PAT. As seen in the replay, Higgins strolled into the end zone with no one within a country mile of him.

Higgins grabbed All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey’s facemask and turned it away from the ball, leading Ramsey to fall over. This wasn’t flagged, so Higgins had an easy grab-and-run to give the Bengals the lead. 

Officials claimed the non-call didn’t affect the match

“Our rule is that if there is a grab and twist and turn, there’s enough for a foul. If there’s just a rake across the facemask, where there’s not a twist and turn, even if there’s a grab, there is no foul. The officials did not see any contact that rose to the level of a foul for a 15-yard facemask,” NFL official Robert Torbert told PFWA pool reporter Joe Reedy, adding that the officials didn’t see Ramsey’s helmet twist and turn.  

Replays, however, showed wide receiver Higgins grab Ramsey’s mask with his hand and then yank it downward. Ramsey visibly lost balance due to this. This incident gave Cincinnati an immediate lead and also caused a significant swing in terms of momentum. The Rams were seen quickly throwing an interception on the subsequent play from scrimmage.

Rams’ Cooper Kupp named MVP

It wasn’t the game’s only controversial call/no-call. A potential holding penalty on Ramsey went uncalled early in the game, resulting in a Bengals field goal rather than a potential touchdown. With a late-game drive led by Matthew Stafford, which was punctuated by a quick touchdown grab from Cooper Kupp, the Rams overturned Higgins’ touchdown and won their second Super Bowl in franchise history. Cooper Kupp went on to be named the Super Bowl MVP. 

The flag festival on the Rams’ final touchdown drive also threatened to make the 2021 season’s final game a lasting reminder of how controversial the officials had been in recent months. Although the non-call on Higgins will not go down in Super Bowl history as one of the most controversial, if the Rams still want an explanation, they now have one.