Sean McVay went into greater detail on how he thought the New England Patriots defense shut down his Los Angeles Rams offense in Super Bowl 53.
Whether you think Rams head coach Sean McVay is a genius or not, you have to at least respect his humility and his willingness to discuss what must still be a very painful subject for him. Over three-and-a-half weeks have passed since the conclusion of Super Bowl 53, and while most NFL coaches are being asked about college prospects at the scouting combine, McVay continues to receive questions on how his team coughed up a championship to the Patriots in Atlanta.
To his immense credit, McVay hasn’t ducked any of these questions; nor has he appeared surly or argumentative when answering them. Even the great Bill Belichick, McVay’s opposite on Super Bowl Sunday this year, would probably have rattled off some version of “we’re on to the combine” or “we’re on to 2019” at this point.
But McVay keeps giving those inquisitive reporters the answers they’re looking for. Early Thursday morning, he was asked to elaborate once again on how Belichick’s defense suffocated his Rams’ offense.
"“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 explained. “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?’”"
Several prominent members of both participating squads in Super Bowl 53 have opened up on what they thought went wrong or right for their team in the championship game.
Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy, who has blossomed into a premier four-down defender since being traded from Detroit to New England, sounded almost incredulous when he was asked about his unit’s success in holding the high-flying Rams offense to just three points.
“They really didn’t do… one wrinkle,” Van Noy marveled. “They’ve got so many good players, they’ve got so many things they’ve done all year, and the one play they gave us which was a wrinkle was the [Brandin] Cooks screen that hit for a little bit. And that was it.”
For the Rams, power running back C.J. Anderson went on television and said “it sucks” to lose to New England the way Los Angeles did in Super Bowl 53.
“They played great gap control against us. They gave us some different coverages that (were) not shown on tape. If anybody wants to go back and watch the Super Bowl — if you watch their season, 90 percent they’ve been in (man-to-man defense). They play a little zone (here and there) but they probably played 80 percent zone against us, because they probably didn’t think they had the best matchups.”
According to McVay, Anderson’s analysis was spot-on.
"“They were mostly playing more man principles against teams like the Chargers and in Kansas City in the playoffs, and they played a little bit different front structure. 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.”"
Hopefully at some point, McVay and the rest of the L.A. Rams can close the book on Super Bowl 53 and fully turn their attention to 2019. Until that point, though, it’s still fascinating to hear from the Patriots’ opposition on what made New England so unstoppable that day on defense.