2019 Super Bowl: Rams give inside details on how Patriots were able to shut down their high-powered offense
ATLANTA — If we learned one thing about Rams coach Sean McVay on Sunday, it’s that he’s not a man who makes excuses.
After watching his high-powered offense completely flop on the NFL‘s biggest stage, McVay took all the blame following the Rams’ 13-3 loss to the Patriots in Super Bowl LIII. The 33-year-old was out-coached and out-classed and he had no problem admitting it. As a matter of fact, instead of sounding defeated, the Rams players and coaches who met with the media following the game almost sounded somewhat impressed with the brilliant defensive game plan put together by Bill Belichick and the Patriots.
There aren’t many coaches in the NFL who will admit that the other coach was just better, but that’s what McVay did.
“I’m pretty numb right now, but there’s no other way to say it: I got out-coached,” McVay said. “I didn’t do nearly good enough for our football team.”
Saying you got out-coached is one thing, but explaining how that happened is a completely different thing and that’s exactly what McVay did. If you’re wondering why the NFL’s second-highest-scoring offense only scored three points — tying a Super Bowl record for fewest points — it’s because they had no idea what the Patriots were going to do next. McVay said his offense was confused by all the stunts that the Patriots were bringing.
“They did a good with job with that, with the stunts and different things. They mixed it up,” McVay said. “They played almost exclusively some man coverage principles and decided to take away — really in the early downs, all they ended up was playing some single high buzz structures with some quarter principles. They did a great job. it was a great game plan. There is no other way to say it, but I got out-coached tonight.”
Remember, McVay is the puppet master in Jared Goff’s helmet, so if he’s confused, then Goff is going to be confused and that was definitely the case in this game. According to Goff, the Patriots defense was disguising its looks on nearly every play.
“Everything,” Goff said. “They were doing such a good job defensively mixing it up on us and we had a hard time moving the ball. They played so well, and we know what type of offense we are, and for them to do what they did to us tonight is impressive.”
Although Goff struggled in the game, finishing just 19 of 38 for 229 yards and one touchdown, he wasn’t the only player on the Rams offense who wasn’t great. Left tackle Andrew Whitworth said the Rams couldn’t get their run game going because the Patriots switched up their defensive front and started putting six guys on the line.
“They did a really good job of playing us with six on the line all day and limited space to be able to get the runs through there,” Whitworth said. “Just missed opportunities for us.”
Running back C.J. Anderson saw the same thing Whitworth saw: The Patriots controlled the gaps on the offensive line for all four quarters, which made it nearly impossible for the Rams to run the ball.
“Gap control,” Anderson said of why L.A. had so much trouble on the ground. “They played New England football, that’s what they do. They’ve been doing that for years, so nothing changed. We just didn’t execute today.”
According to Whitworth, the Patriots were doing things that the Rams hadn’t really seen on film all season.
“I think they ran some games and then had some different looks where maybe guys who had been kind of the rushers all year, where different guys were rushing and some of that stuff,” Whitworth said. “And then we just had some early things you can’t do, some miscommunications on which protections and different things. It’s just unfortunate that we didn’t take advantage of the opportunities we did have.”
The Patriots used defensive stunts to confuse McVay, which in turn confused Goff. And then they followed it up by putting six guys on the defensive line. It was a unique game plan that won’t be easy to replicate and that’s mostly because of McVay’s photographic memory. He’s well aware of what beat him once and he won’t let it happen again.
The problem for the Rams in Super Bowl LIII is that McVay just seemed overwhelmed by the spotlight and he never seemed sure about what to do when he saw his his team’s offensive struggles begin to unfold on the field. In something you’ll almost never hear from an NFL coach, McVay admitted he didn’t have a good feel for the flow of the game and that he struggled making in-game adjustments.
“I was not pleased at all with my feel for the flow of the game and kind of making some adjustments as the game unfolded and giving ourselves a chance to have some success and put points on the board,” McVay said. “Credit to [the Patriots], they did a good job and I certainly didn’t do good enough for us.”
On one hand, it might sound odd for McVay to admit that he made multiple mistakes on the NFL’s biggest stage, but on the other hand, by holding himself accountable for his actions, his players might be more likely to do the same for themselves in the future.
The good news for the Rams is that the sting of this Super Bowl loss won’t last forever and that’s because, as Whitworth noted, they’re all going to die some day.