INDIANAPOLIS — The New England Patriots brought one of the most explosive offenses in NFL history to a halt in Super Bowl LIII, holding the Los Angeles Rams to a single field goal in a 13-3 victory.
Speaking Thursday at the NFL Scouting Combine, Rams coach Sean McVay reflected on New England’s dominant defensive performance, which he called “very impressive.”
“Really, I think what they did such a nice job of is they played a loaded front structure, which is something that we expected,” McVay said. “And they went with really, (in) the early downs, more of a top-down principle where they were playing some quarters structures, kind of similar to what Chicago had a little bit of success with (in its Week 14 win over the Rams).
“But Chicago mixed that up and did some other things. (The Patriots) kind of exclusively stayed in that in those early down and distances, and unfortunately, we didn’t really ever make them pay. And that’s where it’s a great opportunity for you, No. 1 as a coach, to look inwardly and say, ‘How can we use these as learning opportunities to make sure that if these things do come up in the future, we’re putting our players in a position where they’re better ready to execute on the fly and adjust?’ ”
What made the Patriots’ game plan especially problematic, McVay said, was how drastically different it was from what New England had run in its first two playoff games. This confounded the Rams, who punted on each of their first eight possessions, didn’t run a single play inside the Patriots’ red zone and scored nearly 30 points fewer than their season average (32.9).
“They were mostly playing more man principles against teams like the Chargers and Kansas City in the playoffs, and they played a little bit different front structure,” McVay said. “Basically, against the Chiefs in the AFC Championship, it wasn’t until, like, the 22nd or 23rd snap that you even saw a snap of zone. They were mostly doubling Tyreek Hill north and south where they had somebody over the top always, and then they’d put in their good matchups with who they felt like based on, whether it was (Travis) Kelce or Sammy Watkins — (Stephon) Gilmore traveled with him.
“So they did an excellent job, and that’s what makes them great coaches. You’ve got to tip your hat off to those guys.”
McVay, who’s guided the Rams to a 24-8 regular-season record in his first two seasons as a head coach, plans to use LA’s Super Bowl embarrassment as a learning experience as he continues to develop his coaching style.
“Absolutely. I think really every single week provides a learning opportunity, whether it be good or bad, the 33-year-old said. “The Super Bowl was a great experience. I think any time you’re navigating through a two-week preparation, there’s always some different elements that, when you look back, you say, ‘All right, this worked out. This didn’t.’ And a lot of that entails the feedback that you get from the coaches and the players if you are fortunate enough to get in that situation again. So I certainly learned a lot.”
Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy, who had a sack and three quarterback hits in the Super Bowl, earlier this month marveled at the Rams’ lack of in-game adjustments, saying LA ran just one play New England had not prepared for. McVay has shouldered blame for this on multiple occasions since Super Bowl Sunday.
“When you get into a game like that, you expect to adjust and adapt better,” he said. “But that’s what’s exciting and motivating moving forward.”