Super Bowl LVI didn’t finish the way Cincinnati Bengals fans were hoping it would. Even though the Bengals weren’t able to win Ohio their first Super Bowl, the state had a lot to be proud of with the performances of some of the former Buckeyes in the final game of the NFL season. With Vonn Bell, Sam Hubbard, Eli Apple, and Isaiah Prince starting, Ohio State had four starters in a Super Bowl for the first time ever.
There were five former Ohio State football players that participated in this year’s Super Bowl, with all of them suiting up for the Bengals. The Los Angeles Rams do have former Buckeye safety Jordan Fuller on their roster, but Fuller was injured in the final game of the regular season. Even though Fuller didn’t play in the postseason, he will still earn a ring and be able to call himself a “Super Bowl champion” because of his contributions to the Rams on and off the field throughout the season.
There were some positive performances in Sunday night’s Super Bowl by former Ohio State players, and there was almost some really bad moments by former Buckeyes. We dive a little deeper into how each Ohio State alum did in football’s biggest game.
The Ohio State defensive end has a strong case for claiming the best performance in this year’s Super Bowl by any former Buckeye. Hubbard finished the game with eight tackles, two of which were behind the line of scrimmage. Both of Hubbard’s stops behind the line of scrimmage came in the second half, with the biggest of the two coming on 2nd & 3 as the Rams were threatening to enter the red zone of the Bengals. Hubbard stopped running back Cam Akers for a loss of two, which would eventually lead to Los Angeles settling for a field goal to cut Cincinnati’s lead to 20-16.
Trey Hendrickson gets most of the headlines in Cincinnati for the disruption he causes from the other end of the defensive line, but it’s hard to imagine Hendrickson having the success he did this year without Hubbard lining up at the other defensive line spot. After being taken in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft, Hubbard looks like one of the most underrated defensive ends in the league, with 24 sacks in the regular season and three sacks in the playoffs during his time in the league. Luckily for the Bengals they were able to notice the talent they had with Hubbard, signing him to a four-year extension before the regular season began.
Unfortunately for Vonn Bell, he’ll be remembered in this Super Bowl for a play that likely would have fooled pretty much every defender in the NFL.
This angle of Matthew Stafford's no-look pass. pic.twitter.com/vwWRUsMekn— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) February 14, 2022
Not much more Bell could do on that play since Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford had to break a no-look pass out of his bag of tricks to fool the former Ohio State defensive back. The play came on the game-winning drive of the Rams, so if Bell was able to make a play on that pass from Stafford to Kupp we might have been talking about the Cincinnati Bengals as Super Bowl champions.
Bell will now go into the 2022 season in the final year of a three-year contract that he signed in March 2020. The Bengals will have a decision to make with the future of Bell, either deciding to lock the safety up after the season, or to let him walk and possibly looking for a younger replacement for 2023 and beyond. The wise move would be to work on an extension with Bell, who has been consistently solid during his NFL career, but as the Bengals move closer to not having Joe Burrow on his rookie contract anymore, Cincinnati will have to make some tough decisions.
The only player to allow multiple Pass TD as the primary defender over last 4 Super Bowls— NFL on CBS (@NFLonCBS) February 14, 2022
▪️Eli Apple pic.twitter.com/wgfRDzoc9I
After talking trash all over Twitter it seemed during the playoffs, karma came back for Eli Apple. The former Ohio State cornerback had a tough night, allowing two touchdowns in the Super Bowl, including the game-winning touchdown by Cooper Kupp. Then again, it’s not like Kupp didn’t embarrass pretty much every defensive back that he came across in the NFL this season.
Hopefully Apple didn’t log in to his Twitter account after the game, because pretty much everybody in the NFL was roasting Apple for his performance. Apple finished the game with five tackles and one pass defensed, but he’ll be remembered for having no success trying to slow down Kupp, especially with the game on the line.
Whether the Super Bowl was the last time we see Apple in a Bengals uniform remains to be seen. Apple signed a one-year contract with the Bengals in April, which makes him a free agent now. The former Buckeye cornerback played some of the best football of his young NFL career after bouncing around to a number of teams after being drafted in 2016. Cincinnati should be able to bring back Apple at a cost-friendly price, since there might not be a lot of suitors for Apple after what he has shown in his first few stops in then NFL.
One for Buckeye that Cincinnati fans hope they’ll never have to see again is Isaiah Prince, who gave up a team-high six quarterback pressures. After a first half in which they kept Joe Burrow relatively clean in the pocket, the Cincinnati offensive line was in shambles in the second half. Los Angeles recorded a Super Bowl record seven sacks in the game, with five of them coming in the third quarter, which is also a Super Bowl record for one quarter.
After a performance like that in the Super Bowl, it’s hard to believe that we’ll see Prince play another game in a Bengals uniform. Since Cincinnati has a lot of quality pieces in place on offense, they’ll likely heavily address the offensive line in the offseason, especially with how much trouble Cincinnati had at keeping Burrow upright at times during the regular season and playoffs.
The kid from Athens showed why he was the top pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Even though Burrow and the Bengals weren’t able to win the Super Bowl this year, Burrow had a solid performance, going 21-33 for 263 yards and a touchdown. The highlight moment for Burrow came just after halftime when he found Tee Higgins for a 75-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage after the break to give the Bengals a 17-13 lead.
It would have been interesting to see how Cincinnati and Burrow would have fared had their offensive line did even the bare minimum in the second half. Instead, Burrow had little time to do anything when Cincinnati chose to pass the football. Burrow was sacked seven times in the game, including five times in the third quarter. On one of the sacks Burrow looked to have hurt his knee, but he didn’t miss any time because of the hit.
Sorry we couldn’t get it done. Proud of our team and our fans. Love these guys— Joey Burrow (@JoeyB) February 14, 2022
While the NFL is unpredictable, it’s hard to imagine that we won’t see Joe Burrow in another Super Bowl in his career. There are a ton of great young quarterbacks in the AFC, but Burrow has a calmness and swagger that is necessary to find success at the quarterback position in the NFL. The Bengals are ahead of schedule because of what Burrow was able to do with the team, and as long as Cincinnati tightens up a few areas, they’ll be one of the favorites to be in the mix to win the AFC for at least the next decade.