It only took Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay two years to get his team into the Super Bowl. The Rams, after defeating the New Orleans Saints in a stunning road win, will now have the luxury of taking on Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LIII. That’s no small change to deal with, but considering that McVay have managed to turn the Rams into an overnight powerhouse in a matter of a two-year window, that’s nothing to sniff about, either.
Before McVay, the Rams were pretty much laughing stocks in the National Football League. The year prior to McVay getting his head coaching opportunity, the Rams posted a 4-12 record and finished third in the NFC West. That was in 2016. Prior to the arrival of McVay, the Rams had become anemic to winning. The last time the team posted a winning record before the Rams recorded a 11-5 mark in McVay’s rookie coaching campaign, the year was 2003 when they went 12-4.
In between these stints, the Rams and their fans have had to endure sorry marks of 3-13 (2007), 2-14 (2008), and 1-15 (2009) along the way. McVay and his coaching pedigree have changed the atmosphere and the trajectory of the franchise’s future. As the youngest individual named as an NFL head coach (30 years old), McVay brought the energy and passion during his first training camp, actually lining up and running routes for his wide receivers and putting in work in the defensive backfield occassionally.
All that rah-rah enthusiasm McVay injected into the team has translated into on-field success for the organization. McVay and the Rams made have made it to Super Bowl LII had it not been for the Philadelphia Eagles (reigning Super Bowl champions) knocking them out of the postseason in the divisional round. Well, McVay and the Rams proved that last year was not a fluke.
One reason is that McVay has turned quarterback Jared Goff into an elite signal-caller. Goff passed for 4,688 yards and 32 touchdowns against 12 interceptions this season. So now with all these subplots and preliminaries out of the way, McVay and the Rams can go about their business for the next two weeks gearing up to try to outduel Brady and the Patriots. During an extensive press conference on Monday, Jan. 21, McVay, beginning with his reaction to playing the Patriots in the Super Bowl, shared his thoughts on facing off against coach Bill Belichick and New England.
“A lot of respect for them,” McVay said. “They’ve been doing it as consistently as any organization in the history of this league. Gotten a chance to get to know (Patriots Head) Coach (Bill) Belichick a little bit. Had a relationship with (Patriots Offensive Coordinator) Josh McDaniels. Really, we practiced against those guys when I was in Washington early on and kind of kept in contact with them. They’re a team that you’re always watching the way they do things and you just have so much respect for the way that they’ve operated over the last handful of years. So, it’s going to be a great challenge – something that we’ll get started on as soon as we end up here.”
The Rams’ biggest challenge is to stop Brady from imposing his will on them and trying to walk off with his sixth Super Bowl-winning trophy, a task that won’t be easy. McVay talked about that dilemma with reporters.
“Yeah, really similar to (Saints QB) Drew Brees,” said McVay. “You’re talking about guys that have been doing it as consistent as anybody. You just look at the amount of Super Bowl appearances that he’s had. Just the way that he competes is understanding. The way that he plays the quarterback position the right way. When you’re teaching that position or coaching that position, whether it’s Drew or (Patriots QB) Tom (Brady), these are guys that they look – this is what it’s supposed to look like when you’re playing that position at a high level, with the decision making, the timing, the rhythm, the accuracy, the ownership of what they’re trying to get done. I have so much respect for him and he’s an elite competitor that, it’s going to be a great challenge, just like Drew Brees was for us last week.”
The Rams, which has the No. 2 overall defense in the postseason, will be tasked to stop or slow down the Patriots’ No. 1 rated offense in the playoffs. McVay and the Rams can help themselves if they can get Brady and New England off the field after third downs. Thus far, the Rams have allowed their opponents to convert on third down only 29 percent of the time in the playoffs. The Patriots, on the other hand, have made third down conversions 61 percent of the time in the postseason.
This is where the Rams may have the advantage with their stellar defensive line. McVay likes the way his defensive front has been playing in the postseason.
“I just think they play consistent,” McVay said. “I think they hit blocks the right way. I think when you start inside out, (DT) Ndamukong Suh and (DT) Aaron (Donald) and (DL Michael) Brockers have been outstanding. I think (OLB) Samson (Ebukam) and (OLB) Dante (Fowler Jr.) have both brought a physical presence to our edges. I just think then, that enables the secondary and some of our guys in the back end, to be able to be a little bit freer. But, I think the way that they’re disrupting things – they’re getting people off combination blocks. You can see, when you get disconnected on different levels up front, whether you’re in protection or in some of these zone schemes, it makes it really tough to run the football and obviously, to protect if they’re getting push in the pocket. I think Ndamukong Suh stacked another great performance on another one. Aaron made big-time plays. Michael Brockers – I thought the tip pass that he had in the overtime period was a really big play for us. Then, Dante being able to force that ball that gets tipped. Samson’s flying around. So, it’s a credit to those guys and I think (Defensive Coordinator) Wade (Phillips) and our defensive coaches have done an excellent job putting them in good spots.”