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Rams' Sean McVay stands alone among championship weekend coaches

Rams head coach Sean McVay during the NFC

Rams head coach Sean McVay during the NFC Divisional Round playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Jan. 12, 2019. Credit: Getty Images/Kevork Djansezian

Of the four coaches remaining in the postseason, two have won at least one Super Bowl and three have coached in the game. Only Sean McVay of the Rams has never before reached the conference championship level.

But the 32-year-old insists that he isn’t in over his head.

“It’s the people around you,” McVay said this week. “I think it goes back to those same things. You've got people that have been through these experiences. You talk to a lot of coaches who have been a part of conference championships, played in and won Super Bowls.”

The key, he said he’s been told, is to maintain a consistent routine.

“We know the magnitude of this game,” McVay said. “But, I think as long as we do a great job with our planning, our practice, our preparation, hopefully it'll lead to a good performance from our players and hopefully it'll lead to good decision-making by us, as coaches."

41-34-0

Rams' all-time record against the Saints.

Thomas gets Talib, too

Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas uses the handle “cantguardmike” on social media. It never seemed more appropriate than in November when he torched the Rams for 12 catches, 211 yards and a touchdown. In that game, the Rams had cornerback Marcus Peters futilely trying to keep up with Thomas.

In Sunday’s rematch, the Rams will have reinforcements. Cornerback Aqib Talib, who was on injured reserve with an ankle injury earlier in the season, will be available. That should make a difference for them.

"We got somebody that we were missing that we didn’t have when we were playing them the first time,” Peters said. "I think we all know they are going to feed him the ball. That’s no question that they’re hiding. [But] we get Aqib back this time. I’ve got an extra person out there with me.”

'The Mormon Missile'

Most teams don’t want to even think about using their backup quarterbacks now. The Saints? They welcome the opportunity. That’s because theirs is Taysom Hill, a do-it-all utility player who lines up at quarterback, receiver, running back, and even contributes on special teams. Last week it was Hill who took the snap and converted the fake punt that got the Saints offense going against the Eagles.

“Every once in a while you’re around a player you just feel brings the energy to the rest of the team, and he’s one of those guys,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “When he makes a play, you can feel the bench react. He’s very unselfish.”

He’s also earned some good-natured ribbing from his fellow Saints. Payton this week said Hill “runs fast, but a little bit like Fred Flintstone. His arms don’t bend.” Some players, running back Alvin Kamara admitted, have taken to calling the BYU product “The Mormon Missile.”

Hill doesn’t seem to care what they call him, as long as they keep calling him.

“I like being on the field and I like having opportunities to help the team win,” he said. “Whether I’m [Payton’s] new toy or however it is, as long as I get on the field I’m happy about it . . . When you get with a coach who believes in you and then he shows it by creating opportunities for you to get on the field and make plays, it goes a long way.”

By the numbers

4: Championships won by Rams LT Andrew Whitworth in the Superdome. He captured three Class 5A Louisiana state titles there with West Monroe High School and was a starting sophomore on the 2003 LSU team that beat Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl for the BCS Championship.

4: Players on the Saints’ 53-man roster who were first-round draft picks by other teams: Benjamin Watson (Patriots, 2004), Ted Ginn Jr. (Dolphins, 2007), Teddy Bridgewater (Vikings, 2014) and Eli Apple (Giants, 2016).

1: Player in NFL history to rush for 100 or more yards in each of the first three postseason games of his career. That’s Arian Foster, who did it with the Texans. Todd Gurley has a chance to join him having reached 100-plus rushing yards in his first two postseason appearances.

162: Fourth-quarter points scored by the Saints in 2018, the most in the NFL.

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