ATLANTA — Before the bull’s eye could even land on Rams quarterback Jared Goff, his head coach Sean McVay stepped in front of it.
As he ran through all the ways the Rams’ offense struggled in their 13-3 Super Bowl loss to the Patriots, he shifted the focus from Goff to himself.
It wasn’t about Goff going just 19 for 38 or giving the Rams just 229 yards through the air or throwing the fourth-quarter interception that all but iced the Patriots’ sixth championship.
McVay pointed to all the ways he left Goff and the entire offense hanging with the game plan he designed.
“I never enabled us to get into a rhythm offensively,” McVay said. “We didn’t have any third-down conversions really the whole first half. They did a good job. Then it seemed like every time we got a little bit of a positive play then we’d end up having a penalty or move ourselves back.
“I think a lot of it was a result of some of the things they did but then also the play selection. I was not pleased at all with my feel for the flow of the game and kind of making some adjustments as the game unfolded and giving ourselves a chance to have some success and put some points on the board.”
Goff wouldn’t have any of it.
“I feel his pain, but for him to say something like that, we wouldn’t be here without him,” Goff said. “We wouldn’t have won 13 games in the regular season without him. We wouldn’t have done all the great things we did on offense without him. We wouldn’t have the culture we have without him. We wouldn’t have any of the people here without him. He’s done so many, so many good things for this whole organization. I hope he knows that and we’re still behind [him].”
New England coach Bill Belichick practically dared Goff to beat the Patriots. He made Goff play a guessing game whenever he stepped under center, forcing him to decode masked coverages that changed with every snap.
“They were doing such a good job defensively mixing it up on us,” Goff said. “We were having a hard time moving the ball. That happens. You think at some point you’re going to come out of it — as we have all year — and we almost did. We were moving [the] ball there well at times during the game. Just one play. We couldn’t get one play and they did.”
The Rams had the second-most explosive offense in the league this season, but the Patriots defense managed to defuse it. The Rams tied the record for the fewest points in a Super Bowl. It was the lowest point total in any of the 36 games McVay has coached in his two seasons in Los Angeles. The Rams joined the 1971 Dolphins as the only teams in Super Bowl history to fail to score a touchdown.
They scraped together 260 yards of total offense. The Patriots bottled them up for 57 yards in the first half, the second-fewest in a half in Super Bowl history.
“We got completely outplayed,” Goff said. “For an offense like we know we’re capable of being, for them to do what they did to us is so impressive and you tip your cap to them. But at the same time, we left so much out there on the field. It’s so hard to take right now. I’m mad at myself, I wish I had done things differently, I wish I could go back and make a bunch of plays but all this stuff I can learn from and use moving forward.”
The shots Goff tried to take either missed or backfired. Down, 10-3, in the fourth quarter, he tried to go downfield to Brandin Cooks, but left the throw short, giving Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore an easy game-sealing interception.
“I can’t put us in that situation,” Goff said. “I knew they were bringing a Cover 0 blitz there, tried to hit Brandin on a go-ball and Gilmore was too far off to make that decision. Bad decision by me.”
Still processing how the Patriots managed to pull the plug on such a high-powered offense, it was hard for Goff to find any immediate takeaways.
“Kills,” he said. “It hurts. It hurts me so much just knowing how well our defense played against that team and against Tom [Brady]. We played that well defensively and we didn’t hold up our end of the bargain. It’s our job to score points and we didn’t do that tonight.
“It’s the toughest lesson I’ve ever had. It kills. It’s terrible. But there are some good things you can take from it. But right now, there’s nothing. It’s a game I wish I would’ve played better. I wish we would’ve played better offensively as a whole. I wish I could’ve had a million plays back. There’s nothing you can do about it. You’ve just got to put it behind you and move forward.”
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.