“At the end of the day, you’re all going to die,” said Los Angeles Rams left tackle Andrew Whitworth following a 13-3 Super Bowl LIII loss to the New England Patriots this past Sunday.
That’s not really something you tend to hear in the aftermath of football games. But Whitworth, a 12-year veteran, had never reached the playoffs before, so a loss of this magnitude may have him reflecting on his own mortality.
A Los Angeles offense that ranked 2nd in the league in yards-per-game and points-per-game in the regular season was anemic in the Super Bowl, with 260 yards of total offense and three points, tying a Super Bowl record for futility.
The Rams offense in the Super Bowl didn't look much like the one that averaged 32.9 PPG during the regular season. pic.twitter.com/d8cPNjiKra
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 4, 2019
The Patriots’ strategy was to put stress on QB Jared Goff mentally by calling two defensive plays in the huddle, one for pre-snap reads and the other for what the actual play would be post-snap. The Patriots were in man coverage in 62% of snaps this regular season, the highest in the NFL. In the Super Bowl, the New England ran man coverage only 10% of their snaps, according to ESPN. The result was a befuddled Goff, who had only a 57.9 QB rating after ranking 8th in the league during the regular season with a 101.1 QB rating.
The running game didn’t fare much better. After hearing about the renewed health of star RB Todd Gurley, he managed only 35 yards on 10 carries. Backup RB C.J. Anderson was held to 22 yards on seven carries. comparison’s sake, this is a Rams rushing offense that ranked 3rd in the regular season in rushing yards with 139 per game and 2nd in rushing touchdowns with 23.
Defensively, defensive coordinator Wade Phillips put together a masterful game plan which held Tom Brady to only 262 passing yards, zero touchdowns and an interception. New England reportedly scrapped their offensive game plan in the fourth quarter because of how well Philips prepared the team. While the Patriots relied on running-back screens throughout the playoffs with 27 total receptions by their running backs in the previous two playoff games, in Super Bowl LIII New England only had five receptions by running backs. Wideout Chris Hogan was held without a catch.
Punters don’t usually get a lot of recognition but Johnny Hekker was fantastic, with 417 total punt yards (46.3 avg) and five punts inside the 20, with a long of 65 yards.
The Patriots were able to neutralize Defensive Player of the Year defensive tackle Aaron Donald, at times triple-teaming him. This left several opportunities for other defensive linemen to win 1-on-1 matchups, which they were largely unable to do.
— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) February 4, 2019
In the fourth quarter, New England started to rely on their 22 personnel, aka two running-backs and two tight-end sets. This created mismatches and saw their rushing offense gash the interior of the Rams defense. Overall the Rams rushing defense gave up 154 yards (4.8 avg) and a touchdown.
Los Angeles is a team built to win in the short-term, facing key roster decisions this offseason on players like DT Ndomakung Suh, DE Dante Fowler and OT Roger Saffold. They were built to capitalize on the window they have with Jared Goff on his rookie deal, as he will make $4.2 million in the 2019 season. The Rams may pick up his fifth-year option for the 2020 season which will see his yearly salary balloon to $21 million. And after 2020, Goff will likely command one of the most lucrative QB contracts in league history.
Despite his poor performance in Super Bowl LIII, Goff is still a 24-year-old with a 100-plus QB rating each of the last two seasons. Gurley is one of the most explosive offensive weapons in the league. Sean McVay is still one of the most coveted young coaching minds in the game. Los Angeles will still be a problem in the NFC next season and beyond. While there are no moral victories to losing in the Super Bowl, the Rams have had a wildly successful season and the post season experience will be invaluable for the franchises core going forward.