The most compelling matchup heading into the Super Bowl was on the sideline.
In a game with a dominant pass rusher in Aaron Donald of the Los Angeles Rams taking on an elite offensive line protecting an all-time great quarterback of the New England Patriots, the projected chess match between Bill Belichick and Sean McVay took top billing.
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It was the all-time great with more than a fistful of Super Bowl rings against the 33-year-old upstart who’s changed the game with innovative scheming and unprecedented aggression.
McVay runs in to Belichick buzzsaw
The upstart got knocked down a peg in a 13-3 loss that saw the Rams offense that dropped 54 points on the Kansas City Chiefs in November come up empty. McVay acknowledged his role in the drubbing after the game.
“I’m pretty numb right now,” McVay told reporters after the game. “Definitely I got outcoached. I didn’t do nearly good enough for our football team.”
Rams looked nothing like themselves
None of the McVay’s signatures were present on Sunday. The high-octane offense that played a significant role in the second-highest scoring season in NFL history was ground to a halt.
The scheming and misdirection that confused defenses from Week 1 were non-factors against New England. The Rams never got into position for McVay to take the calculated risks that defined the successful offenses of the 2018 season.
When your team’s first eight drives end in punts, it’s hard to make the game-changing decisions to go for it on fourth down in the red zone or go for two when others would kick the extra point.
McVay hurting after game
McVay took the shortcomings to heart.
“I have so much love for these players and these coaches,” McVay said. “That’s where it eats at you because you feel like you didn’t do your part to help them achieve success.”
Where McVay has been one of the biggest NFL stories of the past two seasons, reinvigorating a once-moribund franchise into a team that captured the attention of a fickle Los Angeles fanbase, he’s left with hard lessons learned from playing across the game’s greatest coach on its grandest stage.
He’s still the wunderkind coach he was when he took the sidelines before Sunday’s game. But missing a chance to win a Super Bowl that may not present itself again is one that truly stings.
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