Historically, losing the Super Bowl results in a disappointing following season. To be able to come out on top of the conference two years in a row is very, very difficult. And some teams struggle to summon the motivation and drive that got them to the peak the previous year.
So here’s how the Los Angeles Rams beat the odds.
The most glaring reason why teams have success getting to the Super Bowl is the avoidance of season ending injuries to key players. The Rams were able to overcome the loss of WR Cooper Kupp to get to Super Bowl LIII, but he was sorely missed in the big game.
The Rams also had key injuries in their secondary leading to a lengthy absence for CB Aqib Talib from the starting lineup returning just in time for the Rams’ incredible run through the playoffs. Talib’s presence on the field was a key ingredient to the Rams’ improved rush defense and took the pressure off of CB Marcus Peters. The young kids who stepped in during the interim received valuable experience. With a healthy Talib for the entire season, the Rams secondary should be fine.
If there’s a player the Rams can ill afford to lose due to injury it’s LT Andrew Whitworth. Moving any of the replacements for C John Sullivan and LG Rodger Saffold III, likely in Joseph Noteboom and Brian Allen, around to adequately compensate for the loss would make an already precarious situation worse. Stability along the offensive line is a key to keeping the pocket clean for QB Jared Goff and providing confidence for RB Todd Gurley that holes will develop for him to run through.
On the Gurley situation, it was clearly evident that he was not the same running back at the end of the season as was at the start. The Rams have told the fans that moving forward it’s merely going to be an issue of lightening his load due to wear and tear on his knee rather then any long-term injury issue.
What I saw at the end of the year and throughout the playoffs wasn’t the same Todd Gurley we have been lucky to have when he was drafted. Something was wrong at the end of 2018, but at this point I have to put my trust in the Rams that its not as serious as some believe.
No team remains the same in the NFL due to free agency. The Rams of 2019 are not the same team that won the NFC Championship last year. Along with Saffold and Sullivan, the other departures include starting S Lamarcus Joyner to the Oakland Raiders and starting DT Ndamukong Suh to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Rams also declined to pick up the option on starting ILB Mark Barron.
Normally, losing that many starters would raise serious concerns about the 2019 defensive unit, but to be honest the Rams’ defense wasn’t that great last year. Don’t get me wrong. They were absolutely lights out on defense in the playoffs. They shut down Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott in the divisional round, kept the NFC Championship against the New Orleans Saints close enough to get the overtime win, and were absolutely fantastic in the Super Bowl against the New England Patriots and QB Tom Brady. But I had expected a lot more during the regular season. Suh struggled to find consistency. Joyner didn’t play as one of the top three safeties deserving of the franchise tag in 2018. And I haven’t been a fan of Barron against the run although he does play the pass very well.
The key here is what the Rams did to make up for the loss of so many starters.
They signed S Eric Weddle and LB Clay Matthews in free agency. They drafted S Taylor Rapp and DT Greg Gaines both from the Washington Huskies who are slated to receive plenty of playing time.
All in all, I think the Rams defense will be better this year, then last year, especially against the run and with a healthy Aqib for a full season with backups having gained valuable experience. And in particular don’t forget about recent USC graduate CB Nickell Robey-Coleman who can make pass interference deceptively easy to avoid.
Aside from the money, the reason you play football is to win games. But the passion to win, to give every ounce of energy for the cause can be tempered when there’s a big “X” on the back of your jersey. Every team the Rams play in the regular season will look upon it as a chance to knock off the NFC Champs knowing that they will have to play their best football to win.
It’s going to be up to Head Coach Sean McVay to put the Rams on the right track, motivating them, reminding the team winning the conference is just the first step and in order to hold the Lombardi Trophy you have to win it and If you don’t play every game to expectations then your never gonna be able to get the chance to hold it.
That’s a tough sell when things don’t necessarily go south by losing.
So the simple answer to this dilemma? Don’t lose! The mission, the goal in 2019 isn’t about getting to the Super Bowl, its about winning it.
Let’s get ready to rumble...