July 28, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

Rams’ Sean McVay calls facing Bill Belichick a super experience

The game was played nearly two years ago, and it always will resonate with Sean McVay.

The New England Patriots shut down McVay’s high-flying offense in the Rams’ 13-3 defeat in Super Bowl LIII.

“It was something that didn’t go according to plan,” McVay said Tuesday.

On Thursday night at SoFi Stadium, McVay will match wits with Patriots coach Bill Belichick for the first time since that February 2019 night in Atlanta.

Many of the key players and coaches from that game have moved on — including quarterback Tom Brady, tight end Rob Gronkowski and linebackers coach Brian Flores, to name a few of the Patriots — but the 68-year-old Belichick remains.

McVay, 34, said he used the game as a learning opportunity.

“It was very humbling night for myself but you can’t dwell on it,” McVay said during a videoconference with reporters. “It’s about how you move forward, how you transition. … I didn’t think that I did nearly a good enough job for our football team to give us a chance to be crowned world champs.”

The embarrassing defeat had a lasting impact on the Rams.

In 2019, they fell into a malaise typical of many Super Bowl losing teams and missed the playoffs for the first time in three seasons under McVay.

This season, after Sunday’s 38-28 victory over the Arizona Cardinals, they are 8-4 and in first place in the NFC West.

The Patriots (6-6), with Cam Newton at quarterback, have won four of their last five games, including a 45-0 rout of the Chargers on Sunday at SoFi Stadium. The Patriots remained in Southern California to prepare for the Rams.

Belichick noted that while many Rams players from the 2018 team are still on the roster, there are new coordinators and players such as receiver Cooper Kupp, who did not play in the Super Bowl because he was injured.

Belichick, who has guided the Patriots to six Super Bowl titles, indicated he does not spend a lot of time thinking about Super Bowl LIII.

“We’re focused on what we have now and not get worked up too much about what happened a couple years ago,” Belichick said. “It just really doesn’t matter too much right now. There’s a few things we can look at, but I mean overall, I’d say there’s quite a few different players.”

While Brady moved on to play for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Rams quarterback Jared Goff still is running the Rams’ offense.

In the Super Bowl, Goff completed 19 of 38 passes for 229 yards, with an interception. He was sacked four times.

He entered this week coming off a Sunday performance against the Arizona Cardinals that was devoid of major errors. After the victory in Glendale, Ariz., Goff said he was ready for a quick turnaround to prepare for the Patriots.

“It’s always tough,” he said of short preparation time for a Thursday night game. “I saw what the Patriots did to the Chargers, so we’ll have a challenge absolutely.”

A key to the Patriots victory Sunday was the play of their special teams. The Patriots returned a punt and a blocked field-goal attempt for touchdowns.

Against the Cardinals, the Rams fumbled a punt return and missed a field-goal attempt.

Is McVay concerned about special teams?

“I don’t want to say concern,” McVay said, “I think you have a heightened sense of urgency. … These guys [the Patriots] clearly see the advantage that they’ve created.

“You go back to coach Belichick’s history, starting out as a special teams coordinator.”

Etc.

Michael Brockers suffered a “stinger” shoulder injury against the Cardinals but McVay said Monday morning that he had not received an update on the defensive lineman’s status from the training staff. … The Rams are scheduled to have two walk-throughs on Tuesday. … Former UCLA and Rams assistant Jedd Fisch is the Patriots quarterbacks coach. Former USC kicker Joe Houston is the Patriots special teams assistant. “Joe obviously has a good background as a kicker and gives you background from a specialist point of view,” Belichick said. “A lot of the special teams coaches like myself — I coached special teams earlier in my career — just never had that kicking background and that’s something that you really, as a special teams coach, have to learn. … He’s really a hard-working guy. He’s in early and stays late.”