Here are the five biggest takeaways from the game to me.
1.) This defense ultimately was set up for the Super Bowl
“The Rams’ defense is their biggest obstacle to the Super Bowl.” That was the shorter headline to a piece from the mothership in early November.
It was also wrong.
The defense played their best stretch of football in the playoffs especially in run defense. Whether we should attribute this to the defensive coaching staff led by Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips or defensive leaders like DL Ndamukong Suh and CB Aqib Talib, the bottom line is that they elevated their play to the moment like the best teams do.
For a unit that had so much hype behind it as early as last March, they lived up to it. That’s hard to do. They deserve as much praise as we can muster for helping us get to this point and then upping their game even more when we needed it most.
2.) Rams Head Coach Sean McVay got outcoached
Sean McVay isn't sugarcoating this loss. pic.twitter.com/OFFymG7JV0— SB Nation (@SBNation) February 4, 2019
This one’s pretty obvious, though McVay is always quick to shoulder the blame and ensure his players don’t take much of it publicly which they certainly deserve to tonight. QB Jared Goff and the offensive line, the two being linked inextricably all season, were horrible tonight. Neither improved over the course of the game, and neither could get going regardless of what McVay dialed up.
That being said, McVay lost in a match of wits with Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick. If we’re looking for the good side of things though, McVay might have learned a ton from tonight. Hopefully if the Rams are fortunate enough to make it back to a Super Bowl, we’ll see just how clearly McVay has indeed learned from tonight.
3.) The Rams’ offense really shuts down without a healthy Todd Gurley
While it’s clear that Gurley wasn’t healthy though less so why the media was willing to buy into that, it’s equally clear that without the Rams’ two-way playmaker that the offense simply lacked any single talent that could change the game. The Rams needed dynamism on the ground. As enjoyable as it is to have the human wrecking ball of RB C.J. Anderson plodding through people, it’s more useful to have Gurley’s athleticism that can make more out of plays once he bursts through the first level. And at times, he can be even more destructive in the passing game.
The Rams were lacking his skills tonight due to the injury. Here’s hoping he’s back to 100% next year and that the Rams develop a better mitigation plan than what they had tonight.
4.) WR Cooper Kupp might have been more valuable than what we’ve admitted to this point
I’m not sure there was a game in which the Rams missed Kupp more than this one. Goff started 0/7 on third downs where Kupp’s chemistry with his QB is most evident.
The impact of his absence was extremely noticeable.
5.) The Patriots are very good at football especially in the playoff
Just retire and get the hell out of the way, Tom and Bill.