Belichick's masterpiece leaves McVay and Goff searching for offseason answers

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While Bill Belichick was able to celebrate another Super Bowl title, the Rams were left to search for answers from a dismal showing.

Belichick's masterpiece leaves McVay and Goff searching for offseason answers

While Bill Belichick was able to celebrate another Super Bowl title, the Rams were left to search for answers from a dismal showing.

Lightning supposedly never strikes twice in the same place but, as Sunday's historically low-scoring affair in Atlanta demonstrated, it can in two separate Super Bowl matchups between the same teams.

Seventeen years to the day that Patriots coach Bill Belichick produced one of his best coaching performances to guide New England to a Super Bowl XXXVI victory over the St. Louis Rams, he topped that effort as he and his staff put together an excellent defensive gameplan to limit the now Los Angeles Rams to just three points.

There is little doubt that Belichick's sixth Super Bowl triumph as Patriots head coach will not be fondly remembered by the wider public as New England emerged with a 13-3 win that marked the lowest-scoring game in the showpiece's history. 

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However, he may well see Super Bowl LIII as his most impressive achievement after the Patriots throttled a Rams offense on a par with the 'Greatest Show on Turf' attack they shut down in 2002.

After racking up 527 points in the regular season, the Rams were forced to punt on each of their first eight drives, a Super Bowl record, and became just the second team in the fixture to fail to score a touchdown.

Those are startling statistics that, when the dust settles, should lead to an inquest as to how an offense that has taken the NFL by storm over the last two seasons under Sean McVay failed so badly.

In providing his immediate reaction, McVay lavished deserved praise on Belichick for mixing up his defense's coverages and alternating the way his defensive line pressured quarterback Jared Goff.

Yet the Rams' inability to adjust and find ways to break down Belichick's defense, and the dreadful performance of Goff, should be of great concern to Los Angeles going forward.

The Patriots shutout the Kansas City Chiefs in the first half of the AFC Championship Game. However, the Chiefs – led by newly crowned league MVP Patrick Mahomes – adapted and exploded for 31 points in the second half.

What was the difference between the Chiefs' highly admirable losing effort and the performance of the Rams? McVay placed the blame on himself post-game but the reality is Mahomes and Goff are two quarterbacks operating on different plains when it comes to dealing with pressure. Mahomes seems to treat facing pass rush as an opportunity to escape the pocket and add to his highlight reel of seemingly impossible throws made on the run, while Sunday's showpiece saw Goff produce a deer-in-the-headlights display, either holding on to the ball too long or spraying into traffic with ill-advised abandon.

The dreadful pick he tossed up to Stephon Gilmore on the Rams' penultimate drive effectively killed off their hopes of reversing a 10-3 deficit and encapsulated a miserable performance from Goff, whose showing was a curious one after he thrived with pressure in his face in the deciding moments of Los Angeles' NFC Championship Game win at the New Orleans Saints.

The environment of Goff's first Super Bowl can definitely be considered a mitigating factor in the disparity between his game in New Orleans and his performance in Atlanta, and McVay expects him to take plenty from this failure.

"I think the thing that he is going to continue to learn from is the experience he has gained and what a good job he has done negotiating some of the things that we want to do better," McVay told a news conference. "Also, demonstrating that mental toughness and what an elite competitor he is – you continue to love what he is about, and I think this game will serve as a great opportunity for us to all learn from."

Future opponents will have the opportunity to learn plenty from this Rams let-down as well, though, and will hope Belichick has provided a blueprint for how to slow down an offense led by a quarterback who can at best be described as inconsistent at handling pressure and one plenty of pass rushers will relish facing.

For so much of the 2018 season the Rams were labelled the future of the NFL. Now their present becomes about finding answers to a defensive gameplan sure to be mimicked and getting further growth from a young quarterback whose biggest flaw saw them fall flat on the grandest of stages.

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