ATLANTA — Sean McVay’s last call turned out to be about the only one that felt right.
“There is no other way to say it,” the Rams’ coach and offensive wunderkind said after his team was held without a touchdown in a 13-3 loss to the Patriots in Super Bowl LIII on Sunday, “but I got outcoached today.”
That he was bested by perhaps the greatest coach in pro football history offered little consolation after a game in which the Rams’ high-powered offense was almost completely shut down by Bill Belichick and his crew.
After a season in which McVay was hailed as a mastermind and the Rams marched to the NFC title with the second-best offense in the league — they even won a 54-51 shootout with the Chiefs — nothing they tried seemed to work Sunday.
The Rams had only 260 total yards, only 14 first downs and only three third-down conversions. That’s a lot of “onlys’’ for a team that spent the past five months setting offensive records.
In a game in which some believed the Rams could score more points than any other team had, they wound up tying the record for the fewest (Dolphins in Super Bowl VI).
“It kills, man,” said Jared Goff (19-for-38 passing, 229 yards). “It hurts me knowing how well our defense played against that team, against Tom [Brady]. Our job is to score points and we didn’t do that tonight.”
The Patriots’ 13 points were the fewest by a Super Bowl winner, one less than the Dolphins in Super Bowl VII.
“It’s shocking,” left tackle Andrew Whitworth said of the offense’s performance. “It’s just embarrassing. It stings to play that way, and I almost would have rather scored a lot and lost in some way.”
The Rams did have two very good chances to get in the end zone, both times on passes intended for Brandin Cooks.
The first came late in the third quarter. Cooks was wide open in the end zone, having broken the Patriots’ coverage in the one systemic failure by New England.
Instead, Goff’s pass was a little ill-timed — he seemed shocked to see Cooks so open and was slow to launch the football — and safety Jason McCourty had time to recover and break it up.
“I tried to get it to him as quickly as I could,” Goff said. “Unfortunately, it was too late.”
The other opportunity was late in the fourth quarter. This time Goff put the ball in the perfect spot at the perfect time, but Cooks could not pull it in. Duron Harmon came across and delivered a hit that helped dislodge the ball, but it already was slipping out of Cooks’ hands when the safety arrived.
“We had some opportunities there and we have to capitalize,” Cooks said. “We were biting ourselves in the butt.”
Belichick said it was a total team effort to stop the Rams’ offense and gave credit to his players. McVay said the Patriots did some stunts up front that were confusing and that the Rams were unprepared for some coverages.
Goff defended McVay against the assessment that he was out-coached. “I feel his pain,” the quarterback said before noting that the Rams would not have gotten this far without him. “He’s done so many good things. I hope he knows that.”
Still, on the field, his team looked bewildered and overwhelmed.
“They were able to keep us guessing,” Goff said. “We were guessing.”