When the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams last met in 2016, then-Rams coach Jeff Fisher struggled to recall the names of key Patriots running backs.
Don’t expect the same sort of gaffes from current Rams head coach Sean McVay in the leadup to Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta in two weeks.
The Rams wunderkind of a head coach is known for an apparent photographic memory of plays from years prior, and it’s clear just by listening to him that he seeks out and retains more information than just about any other football coach you’ve heard.
So in his first press conference since learning of his Super Bowl LIII opponent, it wasn’t surprising to hear McVay go long when talking about the Patriots and explaining how Bill Belichick’s team is able to disrupt teams time and time again.
“I know they do an excellent job specific to game planning where they’ve got the ability to understand from a defensive standpoint ‘How can we manipulate your protections? How can we play a variety of coverage principles that take away what that team does best?'” McVay said Monday in a press conference. “They’re going to identify a couple of things that they say, all right — Coach Belichick’s the best at this — ‘what do the Rams do best, and how are we going to say we’re not coming out of this game letting them beat us doing this?'”
McVay tipped his hand at how LA might try to remedy that, pointing out that the Rams have been able to spread the ball around on offense, but he also acknowledged his club might need to have a Plan B or C at the ready.
“We’ll see what kind of approach they’ll want to take,” he said. “You know that they’ve got a great understanding of how to attack you and make you feel like you’re in defense mode when you’re on offense.”
The offensive-minded McVay unsurprisingly demonstrated an intricate understanding of what makes the Patriots offense so effective. Obviously, having Tom Brady helps, but McVay acknowledged the Patriots’ own ability to do so many things at a high level makes it hard to prepare for everything.
“They have the ability to personnel-group you, change some different things specific to some things and how they wanna attack a defense,” he explained. “Obviously Tom’s understanding and the experience he has with seeing a variety of different defensive structures is what makes him unique. His ability to throw the ball with accuracy and anticipation. The level of detail they operate whether it be in their screen game, their ability to run out of two backs, their ability to run it out of one-back looks, ability to spread you out into empty formations and into some ‘check with me’s’ at the line of scrimmage, they’re not limited in any way.”
McVay, who got to know Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels during joint practices from his time in Washington, certainly won’t be taking the Patriots lightly at all, and he knows he’s in for the coaching battle of his young life.
“That approach and that intricate understanding of ‘What can we do to really apply pressure whether it be on offense to the opposing defense, whether it be their defense to the offense and then some of the intricate things they do specific to special teams with Coach Belichick’s history as a special teams coordinator is why they’ve been one of the teams that everybody’s saying ‘This might be the year for the Patriots (to fall off),’ and here they are again in the Super Bowl playing their best ball when it matters the most,” he said.
“Really impressed with watching what they did against the Chargers with how good and how complete the Chargers were as a team. And then to go into Arrowhead and do what they did, unbelievable. So it’s gonna be fun but it’s gonna be a great challenge for us without a doubt.”
Thumbnail photo via Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY Sports Images