Super Bowl 53 is not even a month in the past, but the NFL is already on to preparing for the upcoming draft. That being said, the game — which saw the New England Patriots defeat the Los Angeles Rams 13-3 — still rears its head again every now and then, and the scouting combine is no exception: when Rams head coach Sean McVay stepped in front of the media earlier today, he was asked about the lowest scoring Super Bowl ever.
McVay, whose offense was one of the most productive in the league in 2018, once again shared his admiration for the Patriots’ historic performance. “Very impressed,” the 33-year old told reporters during his combine press conference when asked about his thoughts on New England’s defensive approach to the game. “Really, I think what they did such a nice job of is they played a loaded front structure, which is something that we expected.”
“They went with — [on] 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,” McVay continued. “But Chicago mixed that up and did some other things. [New England] kind of exclusively stayed in that in those early down and distances, and unfortunately, we didn’t really ever make them pay.”
The Patriots’ defensive battle plan, which was based around stopping the run and forcing quarterback Jared Goff into consistently making the correct reads against zone looks, worked to perfection: New England forced punts on Los Angeles’ first nine possessions and controlled the flow of the game very much from start to finish. For McVay, the reason for that was the Patriots shifting away from their man-coverage philosophy.
“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,” the Rams’ coach said. “Basically, against the Chiefs in the AFC Championship, it wasn’t until 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, whether it was [Travis] Kelce or Sammy Watkins — [Stephon] Gilmore traveled with him.”
“They did an excellent job, and that’s what makes them great coaches. You’ve got to tip your hat off to those guys,” continued the L.A. head coach. McVay was not too caught up in the past, however, and quickly pointed out that his team’s loss in the Super Bowl also present a change to grow as a coach and learn from the experience.
“That’s where it’s a great opportunity for you 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?’” asked McVay during his presser. If he and his staff are able to do all that next year, it would not be a surprise to see the talented Rams team back competing for the Super Bowl again in 2019.