No Mortal Could Guard Cooper Kupp
The Los Angeles Rams exposed their jugulars time and time again to the Cincinnati Bengals. Sean McVay courted danger by treating his run game insanely — that is: deploying it over and over and over again while expecting different results. Air started coming out of the football and out of the SoFi sails around the time Odell Beckham Jr. went down with a non-contact injury.
But the fatal blow never came. Aaron Donald, the best football player in the world, wouldn't allow it. Von Miller, just one of the midseason pickups that announced the Rams' plan to go all-in, wouldn't allow it. Matthew Stafford, the model prisoner who tunneled his way out of Detroit and the thousand yards of stink into greener pastures, wouldn't allow it. And Cooper Kupp, especially, wouldn't allow it.
Los Angeles took possession of the ball down three with 6:13 to play. Everyone in the building, the nation, and the world knew the only path to victory was a straight line between Stafford's right arm and Kupp's pristine hands. The primal instinct to say "screw it, let's just do it and be legends" kicked in.
They did just that. A quarterback who had never had enough talent he could rely on found the most reliable wide receiver in this and perhaps any season. They connected four times on the deciding drive, five if you count the nullified touchdown Kupp hauled in despite taking a mighty blow to the helmet. There was also a pivotal fourth-down sprint by the game's MVP to keep the drive and hope alive.
A final connection came via a four-yard fade into the corner of the end zone. It wasn't the prettiest ball but it was where it needed to be, which is anywhere in the general vicinity of Kupp. He caught it because he's caught everything.
The NFL's receiving Triple Crown winner capped off arguably the most productive regular and postseason we've seen. All told he hauled in 178 catches for 2,431 yards. The final touchdown of the NFL season was his 21st.
Kupp was a zero-star recruit. Now he's owner to one of the most dominating and awe-inspiring individual year across sports. Certainly in this century. Perhaps longer. Understanding and processing that type of ascension is nearly impossible. To paraphrase Mad Men, Kupp is an astronaut.
So perhaps it's fitting that the most memorable moment of his career will the image of him flying head and shoulders over a defender, wrapping his hands around precious cargo with ultimate security. With the eyes of the world trained in his direction and shaky stomachs too nervous to watch. No one could guard Kupp after takeoff but no one can guard him while he's on Earth either.
Those feet would eventually come down. The Rams will keep walking on air.