The Patriots, by and large, were the better team for 60 minutes at Mercedes-Benz Stadium this past February. Rams coach Sean McVay also will be the first one to tell you New England was the better team in the two weeks leading up to Super Bowl LIII.
There are no two ways about it: the Pats outsmarted the Rams on football’s biggest stage. New England limited L.A.’s high-flying offense to just three points, and the NFC champions at no point seemed comfortable against Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and Co.
McVay admitted after the game he was outcoached by Belichick and since has acknowledged his extended preparation didn’t the Rams any favors either. The Patriots, meanwhile, made the absolute most of their time off, which McVay believes went a long way in determining the outcome of the game.
“When you’ve played in that game nine of the last 18 years—and what a huge amount of respect I have for them—it’s how that time available enables you to be able to get some different things in, if you feel like they’re within the framework of how to win against the opponent, different than how a normal week lends itself to it,” McVay told Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer. “That’s what separates them. They do a good job on a short notice, being able to adjust and adapt their personalities.”
McVay is spot-on, and it can be seen on a week-by-week basis. The Patriots’ core strategies will remain intact, but their gameplan will be unique to each opponent. It’s not uncommon in New England to see Brady throw the ball 50 times one game and proceed to heavily lean on the run the week after. In the case of the Rams, they clearly were caught off guard by the Patriots’ zone concepts after seeing New England play a man-to-man style of defense for the bulk of the season.
This adaptability and flexibility are what make the Patriots so tough to play against, and it likely will continue as long as Belichick is at the helm.