Cooper Kupp capped a dominant season with two Super Bowl LVI touchdowns to guide the short-handed Los Angeles Rams past the Cincinnati Bengals in LA.

The Rams were heavily reliant on Kupp at their SoFi Stadium home after Odell Beckham Jr. was ruled out with a first-half knee injury, joining tight end Tyler Higbee on the sideline.

But the triple crown wide receiver had just enough to inspire a 23-20 win and deny the Bengals their first championship – with a little help from Aaron Donald.

Before Beckham went down, the Rams' superstar receiving talent had a telling impact, as their second drive ended with a 17-yard touchdown pass from Matthew Stafford to the former Cleveland Brown.

The Bengals could only come up with a field goal in response – Evan McPherson's record-breaking 13th consecutive successful conversion in a single postseason – and Stafford soon found Kupp for a fifth TD in four playoff games.

But the remainder of the first half did not play out nearly so smoothly for the Rams, who were pegged back by a career-first Joe Mixon pass – to Tee Higgins for a TD – and then lost Beckham to injury before Jessie Bates III picked off a deep Stafford pass in the endzone.

The Rams still took a three-point lead into halftime, yet that was gone within 12 seconds of the third quarter when an apparent foul by Higgins on Jalen Ramsey was not spotted, allowing the receiver to run in a 75-yard score from Joe Burrow's pass.

Burrow was quickly back on the field, too, as a Stafford throw bounced off Ben Skowronek – promoted in place of Beckham – and into the arms of Chidobe Awuzie for a second interception. Aaron Donald's second sack limited the Bengals to a McPherson field goal.

The Rams were also forced to settle for a field goal after Kupp overthrew a pass to Stafford as they ran the Philly Special, although some heavy punishment dished out to Burrow limited the Bengals' effectiveness on offense, giving Stafford one last drive with a four-point deficit.

After numerous penalties in the red zone, Stafford finally picked out Kupp for another TD, setting the stage for Donald to stall Burrow's reply and spark home celebrations.

Burrow on brand with big plays and sacks

Burrow's 51 sacks in the regular season set a record for any QB to start that year's Super Bowl, but he was largely kept clean in the first half – albeit he did not throw a TD either.

The second half was much more like what we have come to expect from Burrow and the Bengals' offensive line, however.

The NFL leader in passing plays of 50 yards or more (12 in 2021) added another with his TD pass to Higgins, although the controversy around that play – Higgins' hand grasped at Ramsey's facemask – appeared to contribute to a determined Rams response on defense.

Donald soon had his first sack and Burrow took seven in all, tying Roger Staubach's Super Bowl X record.

Kupp comes up trumps as only option

The reason for backing the Rams pre-game over the Bengals was their wealth of options, as evidenced by Beckham's early TD after a drive in which Kupp carried the ball into Cincinnati territory.

But when Beckham was ruled out, with Higbee and Robert Woods (two of five remaining Rams from their Super Bowl LIII defeat) already sidelined, Stafford turned his focus to Kupp alone.

This year's premier wideout was the target of a game-high 10 pass attempts and reeled in eight of them – another high – for 92 yards and those two decisive TDs.

Cooper Kupp led the injury-hit Los Angeles Rams in a late recovery to beat the Cincinnati Bengals 24-20 in Super Bowl LVI at their SoFi Stadium home.

Odell Beckham Jr. was officially ruled out of Super Bowl LVI after his first-half knee injury.

The Los Angeles Rams wideout required treatment in the medical tent and then the locker room after appearing to land awkwardly on his left knee.

Beckham had scored the opening touchdown of Sunday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

But a worrying injury to the same knee in which he tore his ACL in 2020 – also against the Bengals – checked both his and the Rams' momentum.

With the Bengals 20-16 up in the third quarter, Beckham was downgraded to out.

The Rams were already without tight end Tyler Higbee, who failed to recover from an MCL sprain in time to play at SoFi Stadium.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford also required attention on the sideline in the third quarter, having limped off the field with an apparent ankle issue.

Odell Beckham Jr. returned to the Los Angeles Rams locker room in the first half of Super Bowl LVI after appearing to sustain a worrying knee injury.

Beckham, who had scored the opening touchdown of the game against the Cincinnati Bengals, had to be helped from the field in the second quarter.

The former Cleveland Browns wide receiver seemed to land awkwardly on his left knee when attempting to make a catch.

Beckham tore his ACL in his left knee against the Bengals while still a Browns player in Week 7 in 2020.

On Sunday, Beckham received treatment in the medical tent after leaving the field before departing for the locker room, he was subsequently announced as questionable to return.

Cooper Kupp claimed a share of NFL history with his second-quarter touchdown in the Los Angeles Rams' strong start to Super Bowl LVI.

Outstanding wide receiver Kupp captured the receiving triple crown in 2021, becoming the first player since 2005 to lead the NFL in receptions, receiving yards and receiving TDs.

And the Rams superstar's form has continued into the playoffs, as he headed into Sunday's Super Bowl against the Cincinnati Bengals with four TD receptions across three postseason games – including at least one in each.

It came as no surprise then when Kupp added another score at SoFi Stadium that gave the Rams a 13-3 lead.

An 11-yard catch made Kupp just the second player in NFL history to have a TD reception in four consecutive games in a single postseason. Larry Fitzgerald did so for the Arizona Cardinals following the 2008 season.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford had already thrown one TD pass to Odell Beckham Jr., meaning he continued his run of tossing two or more scores in playoff games.

Stafford was already the first Rams QB to throw multiple TDs in three straight games in one postseason, his early success against the Bengals making him the first to do so in four straight including streaks that spanned seasons.

Cincinnati Bengals tight end C.J. Uzomah will play in Super Bowl LVI despite suffering a knee injury in the AFC Championship Game.

Uzomah sustained a sprained medial collateral ligament during the Bengals' comeback win over the Kansas City Chiefs two weeks ago.

However, the tight end has been able to make a speedy recovery and was not on the Bengals' inactive list for the season-ending showpiece against the Los Angeles Rams.

During Monday's virtual media day, Uzomah said: "I'm not missing the biggest game of my life.

"I'm not missing it. That's my approach going every day into rehab."

He has made good on that promise and will provide Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow with an extra weapon to add to an already impressive list.

Uzomah caught a career-high five touchdown passes during the regular season and averaged over 10 yards per reception for the third time in four seasons.

Super Bowl LVI will be a tale of the student versus the master with Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor going against the man he used to work for on the Los Angeles Rams' staff in Sean McVay. They have not worked together since the 2018 season and their two offenses have taken somewhat divergent paths since that point, but the meeting between a coach schooled in the McVay offense and the man whom he learned it from is a fascinating subplot of the NFL's grand season finale.

When two coaches have a strong knowledge of each other and are born of the same scheme, how do they go about manufacturing an edge?

"It becomes a little bit of a game of chess," former NFL wide receiver Andrew Hawkins told Stats Perform.

"Typically I give the upper hand to the Mr Miyagi of the two because you can teach a system, you can put somebody in the system, the longer you're in that system, the more you know, 'I've taught you this so I know how you're gonna approach something because I taught you to do it, I know how to break your own rules', and there will be some gamesmanship and some of the Kyle Shanahan-McVay elements here with McVay and Taylor.

"Ultimately it'll come down to players making plays."

Two of the biggest playmakers in Super Bowl LVI will spend a lot of time face to face, with Offensive Rookie of the Year Ja'Marr Chase set to line up against arguably the NFL's elite cornerback in Rams superstar Jalen Ramsey.

Chase, just as he was in college, has been the go-to receiver for Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow, and it could be the level of success Ramsey enjoys in severing their connection that decides who lifts the Lombardi Trophy.

Cincinnati's vindication

The Bengals may continue to have offensive line problems, but at this point few are still questioning their decision to eschew addressing them and select Chase instead.

In terms of individual awards, the most emphatic vindication has already been secured, with Chase taking home the hardware at Thursday's NFL Honours ceremony.

A decisive performance from Chase would end any debate, and the numbers illustrate the task on Ramsey's hands in attempting to stop him.

Chase's 2021 burn rate, which measures how often a receiver wins his matchup with a defender when he is targeted, of 64.3 per cent was just above the NFL average of 62 for wideouts with at least 100 targets.

However, when he has won his matchup, Chase has done so decisively. His burn yards per target average of 13.85 stands below only that of Tyler Lockett (14.72), with his tally of 3.2 burn yards per route good for tied seventh among wideouts.

And when it comes to making big plays, only three receivers have fared better in the 2021 campaign, Chase producing a big play – a 20-yard burn or a burn for a touchdown – on 36.6 per cent of his targets.

No quarterback had as many passing plays of 50 yards in the regular season as Burrow (12) and no wideout had as many receiving plays of that distance as Chase's six.

Chase is not one of the league's elite separators but, when he does get even the slightest step on a defender, the results can be devastating.

In Ramsey, however, he is facing a defender with the ability to lock down receivers for an entire game.

A strength on strength matchup

Team-mate Aaron Donald might feel aggrieved at not winning Defensive Player of the Year on Thursday, but Ramsey also had quite a compelling statistical case and could be considered a snub.

Among cornerbacks with at least 100 matchups with a receiver, only two defenders had a better combined open percentage allowed across both man and zone coverage than Ramsey in the regular season.

His combined open percentage of 17.07 trailed just Bryce Hall (14.61) and Casey Hayward (14.83), with burns for significant yardage rarely something Ramsey gives up.

For cornerbacks with a minimum of 50 targets, Ramsey is top 10 in 2021 in burn yards per target (8.12, sixth) and burn yards per snap (1.39, 10th).

But where does Ramsey excel the most? Preventing the big play.

Indeed, his 2021 big-play rate of 14.2 per cent can only claim to have been topped by Avonte Maddox and Tre'Davious White (both 13.9). Maddox started only five games while White's season was cut short in his 11th by a knee injury.

When Chase lines up against Ramsey, it will be a case of strength on strength, but neither appears to be spending too much time worrying about how to combat the other.

"He's got to check me"

Asked about Chase, Ramsey replied: "I respect his game, I respect how he's played this year, he's come in as a rookie and tore the league up, he has great chemistry with his quarterback and you can tell.

"I'll let the world keep talking about it [the matchup]. We're going to get out there on Sunday; I'll be ready to play, I'm sure he will be too."

Chase undoubtedly appeared ready for the challenge when speaking to the media on Friday, hinting that Ramsey will have the tougher task playing the reactionary role on defense.

"I'm just gonna play my game, he the one gotta check me," said Chase. 

"I'm not playing defense, I'm playing offense, so he got to check me. We're going to go with our matchups and go as we go."

From the evidence of their respective stunning seasons, those matchups may well command the greatest attention when two of the stars of 2021 face off under one of sport's brightest spotlights.

Los Angeles Rams tight end Tyler Higbee has been officially ruled out of Super Bowl LVI.

Higbee will not face the Cincinnati Bengals after he and offensive tackle Joseph Noteboom were placed on injured reserve on Friday.

Running back Darrell Henderson Jr. and nose tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day were both activated ahead of Sunday's game, but Higbee's absence comes as a blow – albeit one that was expected.

The former fourth-round pick suffered an MCL strain in the NFC Championship Game win over the San Francisco 49ers.

Higbee had 61 catches for 560 yards and five touchdowns in the 2021 regular season, adding nine receptions for 115 yards in the playoffs.

He has been targeted 14 times in the postseason, third-most on the Rams behind superstar wide receivers Cooper Kupp (32) and Odell Beckham Jr. (23).

Bayern Munich head coach Julian Nagelsmann has no favourite for Super Bowl LVI and may well not be awake to take it in regardless.

The Los Angeles Rams take on the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday in California, though it will be beyond midnight in Germany by the time the game starts.

This week, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced Germany would stage four NFL games over the next four seasons, starting from the 2022 campaign.

Indeed, it will be Bayern's Allianz Arena that hosts the first NFL regular-season game to be played in mainland Europe, with Frankfurt the other venue.

With the Super Bowl dominating headlines in the lead-up to this weekend, Nagelsmann was quizzed on his preference ahead of the Rams-Bengals clash.

"I don't have a favourite. My favourites have all been eliminated," Nagelsmann explained in a news conference on Friday.

"I don't have one favourite team. I have a connection to the Kansas City Chiefs, but I also find the Green Bay Packers interesting."

He then quipped: "Most of the time, when I watch the Super Bowl I fall asleep at halftime because I have a [lot of] work to do."

Asked if he is excited by the prospect of the NFL coming to Germany, following its success of staging games in London over recent years, Nagelsmann joked: "The anticipation in Germany is very great... when I get tickets!"

In total, five NFL regular-season games will be played outside the United States next season.

Three will take place in London, one in Munich and one in Mexico.

The Los Angeles Rams are in the Super Bowl thanks to stunning seasons from the likes of Cooper Kupp and Aaron Donald, but it turns out Dr Dre might have had something to do with it too. 

Sunday's Halftime Show will be a parade of hip hop royalty, with Dre set to be joined on stage by Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar and Mary J. Blige. 

A cultural icon in Los Angeles, Dre is delighted to be sharing the spotlight with the hometown team, claiming to have spoken their success into existence. 

"Who else could do this show here in LA, who else could perform the Halftime Show other than these amazing artists that we put together for this thing?" Dre said during the Halftime Show media conference on Thursday. 

"Not only that, I've been manifesting the Rams, since the beginning of the season, I'm just thinking about it every day, I'm meditating on it and I'm like: 'Okay, it would be perfect if we are in the Super Bowl performing and the Rams are in the game as well.'" 

Dre promised surprises in the show, though he would not go into any further detail. 

He and Snoop vowed there would be no wardrobe malfunctions. Dre joked he had dissuaded him and Eminem from any provocative displays during the performance. 

Snoop, though, expects to have the greatest impact during the show. 

Asked what he wants the audience to take from the concert, Snoop replied: "[That] I'm the greatest to ever do it. 

"Somebody gotta say it, Tom Brady wouldn't say it, I'm the GOAT." 

And although Snoop is a fully fledged Pittsburgh Steelers fan, he is backing the Rams to keep the Lombardi Trophy at SoFi Stadium. "I gotta go with LA," he said. 

In a moderated conversation, Dre, Snoop and Mary J all emphasised how much work has gone into the show. 

Asked what will be on her mind once the performance is done, Mary J said: "A drink. A really nice tall drink because I've just been so focused on me and the Super Bowl." 

With Dre describing their act as "f*****g incredible" and Snoop labelling it "magnifico", one of the most anticipated Halftime Shows in Super Bowl history appears set to be one not to forget. 

Zac Taylor believes Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow is "built for this stage" ahead of Super Bowl LVI on Sunday.

The Bengals face the Los Angeles Rams in their first Super Bowl in 33 years following a dramatic AFC Championship Game win over the Kansas City Chiefs.

Burrow completed 23 of 38 attempts for 250 yards and two touchdowns in that game as the Bengals rallied from 21-3 down to win 27-24 in overtime, equalling the biggest comeback win in a Championship Game.

Sunday's game at SoFi Stadium will be Burrow's first taste of the Super Bowl, yet Taylor thinks the 25-year-old will take it in his stride.

"He is built for this stage. He's played for state championships, he's played for national championships, now he's playing for the Super Bowl," the Bengals' head coach told a media conference.

"I think that's been his expectation all along. He's not surprised by it. He rises to these occasions, and we're certainly happy to have him.

"When you believe that your quarterback can take it the distance, it allows everybody just to play that one per cent better because they know on the other side that the trigger man's capable of doing some really special things.

"So I think he's helped us take us to these heights. We have a lot of confidence in him. He's got a lot of confidence in himself. It's fun to be a part of."

Burrow agreed with Taylor's assessment of his confident nature and does not think he will be overawed by the magnitude of Sunday's game.

"I have always been a confident player," Burrow said.

"More so now than I have ever been before, because I feel like I've proven to myself that I can play at a high level at this level of football.

"I think as a quarterback, it's really important to exude that confidence, not only in yourself but all of your team-mates.

"The quarterback sets the tone for the culture in the locker room, and so I try to be that kind of player and person for everybody here."

Tom Brady looks to have played his last Super Bowl.

The quarterback extraordinaire has decided to retire after completing a second year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, ESPN reported on Saturday.

It means there will be no farewell season for Brady, no lap of honour, and he has declared on seven Super Bowls and out.

Brady could have walked away after capturing a sixth Lombardi Trophy with the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LIII three years ago with his legacy as the greatest of all time secured.

But whether it was down to a desire to outstrip Michael Jordan's six NBA titles, win a Super Bowl without Bill Belichick or simply because of his love of competing and winning, Brady felt the need to keep going further into his 40s in search of a seventh.

That came in emphatic fashion in his first season since leaving Belichick and the Patriots, as the Buccaneers routed the Kansas City Chiefs 31-9 at Raymond James Stadium 12 months ago.

The man who entered the NFL as a skinny sixth-round pick in 2000 proved yet again that it is foolish to doubt him, and now he has gone about surprising everyone again by deciding time is up. At the age of 44, Brady is done with throwing touchdown passes.

Here, we rank Brady's seven wins on the grandest stage.

7. Super Bowl LIII

Brady's last triumph with the Patriots was probably his least impressive, at least in the vacuum of the game itself.

An uninspiring defensive struggle with the Los Angeles Rams unsurprisingly fell in Belichick's favour as he outcoached Sean McVay in a 13-3 win. Brady did, however, connect with Rob Gronkowski for the telling blow, a 29-yard pass that set up Sony Michel for the game's only touchdown. 

Boosting Brady here is the fact he led the Patriots to victory over Mahomes and the Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game, but that's not enough to move it off the bottom of the list.

6. Super Bowl XXXIX

Last year's Super Bowl was the second in which Brady dealt a defeat to Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, but the 39th edition of the Greatest Show on Earth was a much tighter affair as Brady guided the Patriots to back-to-back Lombardi trophies.

But Reid, who in this February 2005 game was coaching the Philadelphia Eagles, perhaps bore as much responsibility for the Patriots' victory as Brady. Reid was significantly criticised in the aftermath of the Eagles' 24-21 loss for a lack of time management, their final scoring drive taking up nearly four minutes and making New England's task in closing out the game much easier.

Reid's shortcomings in that regard do not take away from Brady's performance or the achievement in winning successive Super Bowls, one that has not since been repeated. But, in terms of memorable performances, this is not one that ranks highly.

5. Super Bowl XXXVIII

Brady's second Super Bowl win is one that deserves more recognition than it gets as the Patriots held off an underdog Carolina Panthers team that refused to lie down. 

After the Panthers overturned a 21-10 deficit to lead in the fourth quarter, Brady led an 11-play drive to restore the Patriots' advantage and, after Carolina responded in kind, orchestrated a game-winning field goal in the final 58 seconds of regulation to secure a 32-29 triumph.

It was a perfect encapsulation of Brady's ability to deliver when the moment is the biggest, one which he has demonstrated time and again with all the marbles on the line.

4. Super Bowl LV

Brady's first Super Bowl win outside of New England may have been one of the most unexpected, but it doesn't quite crack the top three.

There is so much Brady deserves credit for. From taking the chance to leave his familiar surroundings and successfully adapting to a new offense to the manner in which he dissected the Chiefs defense in the first half.

But the Buccaneers' victory was a team performance built as much on a swarming defense that continually had Patrick Mahomes running for his life as it was on Brady's prowess leading the offense.

Brady was a deserved winner of the Super Bowl MVP but, without the Bucs' pass rush, this would have been a very different game, one in which the Chiefs' offense may have been able to change the outcome.

3. Super Bowl XXXVI

Brady was not close to being the quarterback he would become, and that is what makes his first Super Bowl still so incredible.

In his second season in the NFL, Brady came in and successfully filled the void after starting quarterback Drew Bledsoe suffered a chest injury in Week 2 of the 2001 season and led them to an 11-5 record, but he was not expected to go blow for blow with the vaunted St. Louis Rams offense.

As it happened, he received significant help from an excellent defensive display by New England, but the defining moment came in the final 90 seconds, with legendary commentator John Madden calling for the Patriots to play for overtime. Belichick had the faith in Brady to go the opposite route.

He promptly delivered a nine-play, 53-yard drive that began the legend, setting up Adam Vinatieri for a 48-yard field goal that clinched a 20-17 win for the Patriots and their first title. For a player of his relative inexperience to deliver in a situation of that magnitude, it remains one of Brady's most remarkable achievements.

2. Super Bowl XLIX

It gets lost with the fact that Brady and the Patriots would have lost this game to the Seattle Seahawks if not for Malcolm Butler's goal-line interception, but his fourth quarter in a 28-24 classic was one of the finest periods produced by any quarterback in the Super Bowl.

The Patriots trailed by 10 points midway through the fourth quarter, but Brady fearlessly and precisely led them on two touchdown drives against one of the best defenses in NFL history to turn the tide in their favour.

Of course, this game will always be remembered for the Seahawks' inexplicable decision to attempt a pass on the one-yard line with victory in their grasp, but the game never gets to that point without what was at the time Brady's greatest comeback effort in the Super Bowl.

1. Super Bowl LI

It was always unlikely Brady would ever top this performance, his Super Bowl piece de resistance.

All seemed lost for Brady when the Patriots trailed 28-3 to the Atlanta Falcons in the third quarter, but what followed was an accumulation of all the clutch moments he has produced in his unparalleled career.

The Falcons were reduced to near helpless spectators as Brady masterfully instigated the biggest fightback in Super Bowl history.

When the Patriots won the coin toss to start overtime, their 34-28 triumph was inevitable. Everyone knew what was about to happen, with the Falcons as powerless to stop it as the Chiefs were last year.

It was a revival that added immeasurably to Brady's aura, his desire to collect Super Bowl rings unsurpassed in the sport's history.

Crowds came flocking back in force, we had the full complement of golf majors and tennis grand slams, and sport almost ran smoothly over the past 12 months.

To boot, there were sensational moments, featuring both the biggest names in sport and some that few had heard of at this time last year.

Here, Stats Perform looks back at some of the biggest stories of the year, and the numbers that made them so remarkable.

Jacobs, the shock Tokyo Olympics sprint king

Entering 2021, Italy's Lamont Marcell Jacobs had a career-best of 10.03 seconds for the 100 metres. By most standards that is staggeringly quick, but at the very elite level of sprinting it ranks as only middling. To put it into some context, 34 men ran quicker than 10.03 seconds in 2021. Jacobs finished only 19th at the 2019 World Championship and few outside of athletics circles knew the name. The former long-jumper grabbed a little attention when he produced a world-leading 6.47 seconds to win the 60 metres at the European Indoor Championships in March, then he ran 9.95 for the 100m in Savona in May, but he still headed to the Tokyo Olympics as a big outsider, not expected to be a factor. Jacobs made a mockery of his lowly billing, as he powered to personal bests in the heats and semi-finals before doing so again in the final, dashing home first in 9.80 seconds to grab gold and leaving rivals gasping in astonishment. He led Italy to sprint relay gold too, a glorious double in that country's remarkable year of success.

Emma Raducan-who? From A level exams to US Open top marks

Twelve months ago – no, make that barely six – London-based Raducanu was simply not a factor in grand slam discussions. Fresh out of school, she had to fight to earn a wildcard for Wimbledon when organisers initially baulked at the idea, but they were persuaded and Raducanu went on to reach the fourth round. The teenager who was born in Canada and has a Romanian father and Chinese mother had arrived, but it was at the US Open that she roared into the history books. There was no wildcard in New York for the British youngster, but Raducanu won three qualifying matches and then raced through the main draw, defeating 19-year-old Canadian Leylah Fernandez in the title match. She did not drop a set in 10 matches and became the first women in the Open era to win 10 main-draw matches in her first two grand slams. It made her the first qualifier to win a slam and the first US Open women's singles winner since Serena Williams in 2014 to triumph at the tournament without dropping a set along the way. The $2.5million in prize money was followed by endorsement offers from across the world as Raducanu became an instant superstar. The tennis world waits to see what comes next.

No country for old men as US win Ryder Cup

The youngest Ryder Cup team ever assembled by the United States torched European hopes at Whistling Straits in September, scoring a 19-9 victory. That was the widest margin of victory by either side since Europe, rather than Great Britain and Ireland, became the USA's opposition in 1979. Dustin Johnson bounced back from losing four of his five matches in the 2018 edition to finish with a 5-0 record, just the third player in US v Europe battles to finish with a perfect record (after Larry Nelson in 1979 and Francesco Molinari in 2018). Johnson, at 37, was the oldest player on the team. European veteran Lee Westwood matched Nick Faldo's record of 11 appearances in the match, while Sergio Garcia stretched his points record from 25.5 to 28.5 as he and Jon Rahm combined well, but it was emphatically an event that belonged to the host Americans.

Veteran Mickelson still had his day 

He might have been absent for the US team's Ryder Cup triumph, but Phil Mickelson's name was up in lights again as he became the oldest winner of a men's golf major, landing the US PGA Championship title in May. At the age of 50, Mickelson caused a huge upset at Kiawah Island, scooping his sixth career major when he held off Brooks Koepka and Louis Oosthuizen on the final day. It was his only top-10 finish of the year on the PGA Tour.

Federer bagelled, Djokovic denied Golden Slam

Strange things happened in men's tennis in 2021, not least the sight of Roger Federer suffering a 6-0 'bagel' at the end of a straight-sets Wimbledon quarter-final defeat. That happened against Hubert Hurkacz in July, and it was the last match Federer played in the year. He wants to play again, and the 40-year-old believes he can, but knee surgery will keep him out of action until mid-2022 at the earliest, by his own reckoning, and that Centre Court defeat to Hurkacz could turn out to be how his eight-title Wimbledon career ends. Novak Djokovic joined Federer and Nadal on a joint-record 20 grand slam titles by cleaning up at the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon, and he has now spent a record 353 weeks at number one, passing Federer this year. But Djokovic could not make it a Golden Slam, losing to eventual champion Alexander Zverev in the Olympic Games semi-finals, and a Grand Slam was just beyond him too, Daniil Medvedev winning his first major when he swept the Serbian in straight sets in the US Open final.

Another year, more records for Brady

At the age of 43, Tom Brady was MVP in the Super Bowl as he led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to their 31-9 win over the Kansas City Chiefs in February. He now has seven Super Bowl wins behind him, another outright record, and has been MVP in the game on an unmatched five occasions. Brady, having turned 44 in August, is in the hunt for another Super Bowl ring and perhaps outright NFL MVP honours this season, although Aaron Rodgers will likely deny him the latter accolade. Still, the records keep coming for Brady. He has moved in front of Drew Brees to have the most pass completions in league history (7,200 and counting), become the first ever 15-time Pro Bowler, and in December became the first quarterback to throw 700 career touchdowns.

England's Ashes surrender calls for Root and branch review

Joe Root became the first England captain – or player, indeed – to suffer nine defeats in Tests starting in a single calendar year, in a strange 12 months for the Yorkshireman. His form with the bat has been up there with the best of his career, the 31-year-old scoring 1,708 Test runs to go third on the all-time single-year list, with only Mohammad Yousuf and Viv Richards ahead of him. Even in the Tests that England have lost, Root has made a number of handy contributions with the bat, scoring 648 runs at an average of 38.11. Overall he has scored 26 per cent of England's Test runs across the year, the highest proportion of any player for their respective team in 2021. Yet the Ashes were lost by lunch on day three of the third Test, an outrageously dismal result. Root top-scored in England's two innings in Melbourne, typically, but he cannot get a tune out of many of his team-mates, so ends the year with his future as skipper in doubt.

Curry still hot as NBA records fall

In January, LaMelo Ball became the youngest player to post a triple-double in the NBA, as the 19-year-old Charlotte Hornets prospect grabbed 22 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists in a win over the Atlanta Hawks. Come December, the Memphis Grizzlies set two records in the same game, scoring a franchise-high number of points and winning by the biggest margin in NBA history, as they handed out a 152-79 thrashing to the Oklahoma City Thunder. December was also the month when Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors set a new three-pointer record, becoming the first man to make 3,000 threes in a career after going past Ray Allen's previous NBA record of 2,973.

Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis has confirmed the Allegiant Stadium will host Super Bowl LVIII for the first time in 2024.

The Raiders moved to southern Nevada from Oakland in 2020 to play in the new Allegiant Stadium, with the expectation that the 65,000-seater venue could one day host NFL's showpiece event.

That has now come to fruition, with the 58th NFL championship game heading to Las Vegas after it was moved from Caesars Superdome in New Orleans for scheduling reasons.

New Orleans will now host the finale in 2025, after the league's move to an 18-month regular season meant the Super Bowl final would clash with Mardi Gras celebrations in the Louisiana city.

Davis announced the widely-expected news in a statement on Wednesday, as the Raiders owner said: "The Raiders are thrilled the National Football League has selected Las Vegas to host Super Bowl (58) LVIII in February 2024.

"Hosting the 2022 Pro Bowl, the 2022 NFL draft and now the 2024 Super Bowl are just some of the ancillary benefits resulting from the public-private partnership we created with the state of Nevada to bring the Raiders to Las Vegas and build Allegiant Stadium. It's only the beginning."

The Allegiant Stadium will also host the 2022 Pro Bowl and NFL Draft, which was originally scheduled to be in Las Vegas in 2020 before the coronavirus pandemic enforced changes.

The next two Super Bowls are scheduled to be played in Inglewood, California, at SoFi Stadium on February 13, 2022, and in Glendale, Arizona, at State Farm Stadium on February 12, 2023.

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