For Cincinnati to come out victorious Sunday against Los Angeles in Super Bowl LVI, the Bengals defense will have to figure out how to slow down quarterback Matthew Stafford, wide receivers Cooper Kupp and Odell Beckham Jr. and the rest of the high-flying Rams offense.
Bengals cornerback Chidobe Awuzie is well aware of the challenge, but says Cincinnati’s defense will not back down.
“Definitely a see-ball, get-ball mentality on our defense,” Awuzie said during his Super Bowl media session this week. “… Basically our mentality is just to be aggressive and play our game. We know the opportunity is going to come. Make the play and then, shoot, try to get in the end zone after.”
Cincinnati’s defense secured 21 takeaways during the regular season (17th best in the league), but have racked up six interceptions and a fumble recovery in their three playoff wins. The final two victories were on the road with last-second field goals by Evan McPherson against the AFC’s top two seeds, Tennessee and Kansas City.
Awuzie himself has two takeaways this season, recording an interception and a 42-yard return in Week 5 against the Packers and another interception in Week 13 against the Chargers.
— NFL Africa (@NFLAfrica) February 10, 2022
In his first season with Cincinnati, Awuzie had one of his best and has certainly made an impact on a Bengals defense that recorded only 17 takeaways a year ago. In addition to his career-high two interceptions, he also had 14 passes defended, 64 combined tackles (and 19 more in the playoffs) and a career-high four tackles for loss, all despite missing three games. At one point, he was the AFC’s highest-graded cornerback according to Pro Football Focus.
Awuzie signed a three-year, $21.8 million contract with the Bengals in March after being drafted out of Colorado in the second round by the Cowboys and spending his first four seasons in Dallas.
“My mindset this offseason was so dialed in and so locked in,” Awuzie told the media this week as he recounted his various offseason training habits. “My mom always says — and this is something that I live by and a code that I live by — ‘God has done His part. God has already won. He doesn’t need to run His race anymore. He’s already won. Now you have to do your part.’
“I feel like a lot of times in our lives we wait for an opportunity or we wait for a sign, but there are signs that you have to go. You have to do it. You have to prepare. And this offseason I really went down and boiled down to that. … Like I said, God has already won. He’s already done His part. Now I have to be able to step into His grace and do mine too.”
Awuzie, a son of Nigerian immigrants who frequently wears eye black in the shape of a cross, has been known to post about his faith on social media. He says, “All Glory Always To God” in his Twitter bio. On Instagram, his bio says, “Whoever has God, lacks nothing. Jesus, Thank You,” which he said is a prayer his mother loved and taught to him as a child.
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Sports Spectrum asked the 26-year-old Awuzie about his faith this week and he was unashamed in his response.
“My faith is everything,” he said. “A testament to God always and His grace and mercy in my life, I’m a living testimony of that. In everything I do, I treat football like a platform to open eyes to the faith of Christianity and accepting Jesus Christ as our Savior.
“My name [Chidobe] means, ‘For God to protect and guide through crisis,’ so I feel like my name is a walking prayer every time that I do anything. My name is already praying for me. It’s very important to me, and my culture is very important.”
"I feel like my name is a walking prayer."@Bengals cornerback Chidobe Awuzie shares the meaning of his name and how his faith in Christ is everything to him. #SuperBowl@ChidobeAwuzie https://t.co/gSuYGg4Y0T pic.twitter.com/v1JHWc7C2X
— Sports Spectrum (@Sports_Spectrum) February 10, 2022
Later in his media session, Awuzie was asked why he chose to go to Cincinnati when he was a free agent. He said he had another offer for more money to play elsewhere, but he thought the Bengals had the pieces to be a good team, and they showed him the most respect in the process.
“I prayed about it, obviously, in the offseason for direction and where I’m going to go, and to stay humble through the process,” he told the media. “Cincinnati showed me something that I desired very early, which was respect. … I knew God would guide me from there and look where we are now.”
He wouldn’t have guessed they’d make it to the Super Bowl, but he says he’s “blessed” and “grateful” to be there. He knows that, no matter what happens on Sunday, he will leave the field lacking no good thing because of the finished work of his Savior, Jesus Christ.
Super Bowl LVI is scheduled to kick off at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBC.
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– Bengals DE Trey Hendrickson ahead of SB: ‘Anything I do on the field is to glorify Him’
– Rams WR Cooper Kupp finds ultimate purpose in honoring God on journey to SB
– Bengals kicker Evan McPherson says he ‘can’t compete my best’ without God
– Odell Beckham Jr. doesn’t see how him getting to Super Bowl ‘is possible without God’
– Former LB Vincent Rey right in God’s will as team chaplain for Super Bowl-bound Bengals
– Rams chaplain Kevin Nickerson focused on relationships, wilderness during journey to SB
– Bengals head coach Zac Taylor: Priorities are faith, family, friends & football, ‘in that order’
– Bengals’ Michael Thomas goes from unsigned to Super Bowl: ‘God’s plans are greater’
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– Cooper Kupp’s wife Anna: ‘We have prayed for a season to glorify our Savior Jesus Christ’
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