Sean McVay and Jared Goff spoke with media after Super Bowl LIII, where they talked about the Ram’s painful loss and Todd Gurley’s health.
USA TODAY Sports
ATLANTA – Sean McVay’s players weren’t having it.
The 33-year-old Rams coach entered his Super Bowl postgame locker room with a message: This is my fault.
A series of “no” responses greeted him, punter Johnny Hekker said.
“ ‘No’s – no, coach,’ ” Hekker said in the aftermath of the Rams’ 13-3 loss to the Patriots. “Just one of those deals where he’s trying to take accountability and we have a team full of guys who are accountable as well. And when we look ourselves in a mirror, we’re going to know we all left plays out there as well that could’ve contributed to the result.”
For Sunday night, at least, that didn’t ease McVay’s disappointment.
The second-year coach said the loss on the biggest stage – when his touted offense was held to 3 points and his defense’s latest heightened playoff performance was for naught – “just stings in your gut.”
“I’m still kind of numb right now,” McVay said around 11 p.m. as he and subdued players cycled through makeshift podiums in the bowels of Mercedes-Benz Stadium. “I got outcoached. I didn’t do nearly good enough for our football team.”
In interviews, as in the postgame locker room, McVay’s players dismissed the notion that their head coach should shoulder the blame for an insufficient day of offense. Sure, the Rams defense strung together a dominant first half that included an interception of Tom Brady on his first pass and strip sack before the half (New England recovered).
The Patriots converted on just two of seven third downs amid bruising hits from Rams linemen Ndamukong Suh and Aaron Donald and a pass deflection courtesy of Mark Barron. Rams defenders batted down five of Brady’s passes in all throughout the low-scoring contest.
So even after 12 first downs, 195 yards and 19:52 of 30 minutes possession, the Patriots left for halftime with just 3 points to show.
“At the end of the day, as as a whole, we played great,” outside linebacker Dante Fowler said. “Like you said, you don’t see many 13-3 games in the Super Bowl. So that shows you how prepared we were.”
But no moral victories, said Suh. The Rams defense that limited New England to just 44 rushing yards in the first half surrendered 111 in the second. Patriots rookie back Sony Michel punched in a 2-yard score after Brady’s key 29-yard pass to tight end Rob Gronkowski on the game’s lone touchdown drive.
It was a quick drive, featuring five plays and 69 yards in 2:49.
But it was the go-ahead sequence a struggling Rams offense would never match.
Rams defenders didn’t blame their offensive counterparts for faltering while they limited the Patriots to record lows. New England remained scoreless in the first quarter of Super Bowls under Tom Brady and Bill Belichick but has won all five contests in which the first period ended 0-0. The lowest-scoring result in Super Bowl history and second-least-productive first half doesn’t leave New England any less entitled to its celebratory hats, the Lombardi Trophy, or gold-and-black “Mama We Made It” custom T-shirts that twin brothers Jason and Devin McCourty sported in celebration as Sunday night crept into Monday morning.
A few defensive miscues proved too many on an evening when the Rams defense couldn’t afford any.
“We didn’t do enough,” Suh said. “No question – it’s a cliché saying but I think it’s ultimately true: Defense wins championships.
“Their defense, in my opinion, outplayed us.”
So defined the postgame sentiment from the Rams: less focus on an offense converting 23 percent of third downs (three of 13) and more on a group performance that came up short.
A team effort, they emphasized – not a McVay coaching and game-plan one.
Thanks for the sentiment, players told rueful coach, but the reason for their loss stretched further.
“He took accountability and said he’s going to wear it pretty hard,” said Hekker, whose 65-yard punt broke the Super Bowl record by 1 yard. “A lot of the guys were quick to let him know – it’s not on you; it’s on every single one of us. If we had all made little differences here or there, then things would’ve come out differently for us.”
Fowler, the only Ram with two tackles for loss, agreed.
“He told us honestly it felt like he could’ve done better,” Fowler said. “I felt like I could’ve did better as well. That’s a great coach, very young, 33 in the Super Bowl.
“His future is really bright.”
Follow Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein.