Rams head coach Sean McVay enjoyed the pomp and circumstance of Super Bowl LIII Opening Night but eagerly turned the page to final preparations for the New England Patriots on Tuesday.
“After last night, you can appreciate the magnitude of this game. Getting up this morning, we’re going to put the finishing touches on the game plan. The guys will have the day off with the exception of the guys you’re going to visit with today,” McVay said from the Marriott Atlanta Buckhead Hotel and Conference Center.
McVay spent last week studying the Patriots and specifically the final eight games of the season. The takeaway?
“They’re one of the best for a reason,” McVay said.
The Rams are one of the best – 15-3 including the playoffs – this season because of their ability to score, a combination of McVay’s inventiveness and a boatload of talent. Quarterback Jared Goff passed for 4,688 yards and 32 touchdowns, the Rams had two 1,200-yard receivers and running back Todd Gurley put up 1,831 combined yards with 21 touchdowns.
“A lot of coaches try to fit players into their offense, whereas he’s fitting an offense around our players,” Goff said Tuesday. “The scheme he brought from Washington is great. But it’s changed so much. Based on what I’m good at, what Todd’s good at, what Brandin (Cooks) is good at.”
McVay’s film study revealed a key challenge the Patriots present. They rarely wear the same look twice.
“Anytime you’re able to keep your quarterback clean and run the football, that’s going to be a recipe for success. You can see there’s been a commitment to run the football,” McVay said. “Tom (Brady) does a great job with play-action, knowing when to run the football. What you respect so much about coach (Bill) Belichick and (Josh) McDaniels is there a definite identity with the way they are using those play calls.”
McVay has more than adjusted his scheme. He credits his family for engaging the many big personalities on the Rams’ roster as individuals. McVay laughed when pressed about why star status hasn’t become unmanageable in a locker room lined with Pro Bowl talent.
“It starts with people. These are all very smart players passionate about the game of football,” McVay said. “Everybody’s kind of got a voice. We share that ownership. You want to make sure you are listening, learning and then you are leading. It’s for coaches too. … I’ve had nothing but pleasant experiences with these guys. They play for each other, they play for one another.”
Goff said players praise McVay, at 33 the youngest head coach in Super Bowl history, for his leadership style.
“It starts with accountability, and he is the one that sets that example,” Goff said.
Stadium roof expected to be open for Super Bowl
The retractable roof on the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in downtown Atlanta is expected to be open on Sunday when the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams meet in the Super Bowl, a stadium official said on Tuesday.
Rain and cold weather early in the week are expected to give way to drier and more temperate conditions, allowing the 70,000 fans in attendance to experience the game under partly cloudy skies.
When asked whether he expected the roof to be kept open, stadium manager Scott Jenkins said: “We do. We’re waiting for direction from the NFL and it’s weather dependent and part of that is temperature.
“It’s warming up, which is good, we just have to keep the rain away,” added Jenkins, the general manager for the $1.6 billion stadium, during a media tour.
The target temperature for keeping the roof open is about 60°F (15.5°C), he said, which is below the current forecast for Sunday.
The stadium will still keep out wind even with the roof open because the steep stadium bowl rises 300 feet high, Jenkins said.
“You don’t get a lot of wind in here when it’s open so I don’t expect wind to be a factor,” he said.
“People come in here and are wowed by the experience at Mercedes-Benz Stadium and entertained with a great football game.”
Brady sees great early signs from Patriots in Atlanta
Tom Brady, preparing to start his record-stretching ninth Super Bowl on Sunday, knows positive signs when they appear.
And after two sleeps at the J.W. Marriott in Atlanta, the 41-year-old quarterback loves what he sees from the New England Patriots.
It started Monday night, when tight end Rob Gronkowski broke into spontaneous dance moves during Opening Night introductions at State Farm Arena.
Brady said Gronkowski’s gyrations should give everyone associated with the Patriots “a good feeling.”
“I was standing right next to him and he was having a good time, which tells me a lot of good things,” Brady said of Gronkowski, who was not available to media Tuesday afternoon. “It means he’s feeling good, and he’s excited. I think we should all be happy about that.”
The next sign Brady needs to see: execution at practice. The Patriots will be on the field Wednesday at Georgia Tech University.
“Having a good practice gives you confidence — all of those things are going come up on Sunday,” he said.
Brady is well-practiced when it comes to the Super Bowl. While the Patriots are playing for a Lombardi Trophy for the third consecutive season, the experience is still novel for a handful of players on the roster. Brady is sharing his advice in-house.
“It’s a long game, a lot of timeouts, a lot of breaks,” Brady said, adding he will encourage players to spend Saturday searching out rest and reminding families on hand the one remaining day of the season is by far the most critical.
For Brady, weekend distractions are not an issue.
His family will arrive Thursday, when the Patriots host a family meal and help players set priorities for the two remaining days of preparation: a Friday practice and Saturday walkthrough.
“I know what I need to prioritize,” Brady said. “Nothing really gets in the way of that. I’m not really going out at night.”
Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said the reason Brady is still playing at a high level is no one expects more from Brady than Brady himself. Practice and game day are not dramatically different in terms of Brady’s level of intensity.
When asked to identify the best things about the season the Patriots will close the book on this week, Brady didn’t discuss the dramatic overtime win at Kansas City or any other victory.
“It was nice this season with no injuries to be a full-go at practice,” he said.
McDaniels was willing to point out Brady is one of the best “in the history of the game” at getting rid of the ball quickly. Brady said he will be mindful of getting the ball out of his hand Sunday against likely NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald and his sidekick at defensive tackle, Ndamukong Suh.
“This is a really unique defense,” Brady said, with a wry grin. “It’s going to take our best game.”
Patriots fans are beyond looking for positive signs in Brady. His 5-3 record in the Super Bowl includes wins in 2002, 2004, 2005, 2015 and 2017. The losses, to the New York Giants (twice) and last year against the Philadelphia Eagles, provide “mental scar tissue,” the type of endemic Brady uses as fuel.
But if New England fans needed a morsel of optimism on Tuesday, it could be found in a wide-open and relaxed Brady sharing stories about snapping a golf club, punching a hole in the wall and smashing a video game controller in what turned into a spontaneous Ask Me Anything style session with a couple hundred members of the media and cameramen.
“Must be a big game,” he said to start the festivities.
However, Brady, trained under tight-lipped head coach Bill Belichick, wanted no part of the “GOAT” questions again Tuesday.
“Football is a team sport,” he said.
Even so, a win over the Rams would put New England, Brady and Belichick on a plane all their own, peerless and unparalleled by the most legendary winners in the sport.
“He’s a great quarterback,” Belichick said of Brady. “I’d certainly put him up there against anybody. I don’t think it’s my job to rate anyone. His record is unmatched and I’m glad that he’s my quarterback.”