Cincinnati Bengals celebrate magical season, first Super Bowl appearance in 34 years despite rowdy road atmosphere

A few hours before Super Bowl LVI, a pair of Bengals fans pace through a sea of Los Angeles Rams supporters outside SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Los Angeles on February 13. (Colin Salao/Medill)

By Colin Salao
Medill Reports

The Super Bowl is played in a supposedly neutral site.

But in Super LVI, the Cincinnati Bengals drew the Los Angeles Rams playing on the team’s home turf of the SoFi Stadium. Rams fans showed up in jubilant force.

The Bengals were essentially a road team for the Feb. 13 game, which meant Rams fans flooded most of the city. The Rams were even able to use their usual practice facility in Thousand Oaks while the Bengals held their practices and media availability in Drake Stadium at UCLA.

But the Bengals were used to playing as the underdog team all year. They were such long shots before Week 3 that betting site DraftKings had the Bengals at +20,000 to win the Super Bowl, which means a $100 bet would reward bettors $20,000. But backed by impeccable seasons from sophomore quarterback Joe Burrow and rookie wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, the Bengals finished with a 10-7 record to win the AFC North. They defeated the top-seeded Tennessee Titans and dethroned back-to-back AFC Champion Kansas City Chiefs en route to the Big Game.

While the Bengals ultimately fell short, 23-20, a strong contingent of Bengals supporters cheered on the team at SoFi Stadium on game day and at the Los Angeles Convention Center for the Super Bowl Experience leading up to the game.

A Bengals fan sports former Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green jersey’s opposite of a Rams fan in an Aaron Donald jersey. Both fans are moving closer to the entrance of SoFi Stadium just a few hours before kickoff of Super Bowl LVI. (Colin Salao/Medill)
A man dressed in a Mandalorian costume carries a giant Rams flag on Kareem Court, which is beside SoFi Stadium, as fans file in. (Colin Salao/Medill)


Moments later, a Bengals fan is forced to duck under the Rams flag as the man in costume continues to wave it. (Credit: Colin Salao/Medill)


Father-son duo Paul (right) and Gage Leon peruse through the NFL store located in the Los Angeles Convention Center, where the Super Bowl Experience was held. The two rooted for opposing Super Bowl teams, but “did not consider” going to the game live due to the ticket prices. (Colin Salao/Medill)


A street vendor flaunts a chain with the Rams logo. He was one of several street vendors who sold anything from shirts to chains to paintings as all tried to profit off of the large football-crazed crowd (Colin Salao/Medill)


Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow answers questions at Bengals media availability a day after he was named the 2021 AP Comeback Player of the Year. (Colin Salao/Medill)


Like Burrow, Bengals wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase also answered questions a day after he was given an individual award. The fifth pick in the 2021 NFL Draft was selected as the offensive rookie of the year after finishing fourth in the league in receiving yards with 1,455. (Colin Salao/Medill)


“He makes my job so much easier,” Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd said when asked about quarterback Joe Burrow. (Colin Salao/Medill)


“It’s every kid’s dream to play at the Super Bowl, but actually being here, I’m embracing it,” Bengals cornerback Mike Hilton said during Bengals media availability on Feb. 10. Hilton entered the NFL in 2016 as an undrafted free agent. (Colin Salao/Medill)


“I signed here to change the culture,” Bengals defensive tackle D.J. Reader said. Reader signed a four-year, $53 million deal with the Bengals in 2020 after four seasons with the Houston Texans, but played just five games last season due to a quad injury. (Colin Salao/Medill)


”The Baltimore game in Baltimore was a big win for us,” Bengals defensive end Sam Hubbard said when asked about when the team started to believe it could make the Super Bowl. Hubbard was referring to the Bengals’ road win over the Ravens in Baltimore in Week 7, which gave the Bengals a 5-2 record. (Colin Salao/Medill)


Colin Salao is a sports media graduate student at Medill. You can follow him on Twitter at @colinsalao.