by Garrison Williams
Week two of the 2018-2019 NFL regular season played out very differently for our two Super Bowl bound teams.
Jacksonville, Florida, September 16, 2018
The New England Patriots fall to the Jacksonville Jaguars. A team that would finish the season with only five wins total, and they have every right to be proud of that one. If you would’ve told anyone that a team who lost to the Jaguars would win the Super Bowl, they would’ve laughed in your face.
Los Angeles, California, September 16, 2018
The Los Angeles Rams defeat the Arizona Cardinals, a division rival. Nevermind the idea that the Cardinals ended their season at the bottom of the league, the Rams were sending an obvious statement: they are serious about this season. This continued until they lost to the New Orleans Saints in week 9. They were a dominant force heading into the playoffs.
Atlanta, Georgia, February 3, 2019
Tom Brady hoisted his 6th Lombardi Trophy. After a gruelling defensive match, the New England Patriots defeated the Los Angeles Rams 13-3. So what on earth happened? How did these two teams seemingly trade skill sets?
Super Bowl LIII was very much a defensive game. Careful offensive play calling, lots of defensive flexing, lots of kicking and punting units. Neither offense shocked us like we thought they would. Rams head coach Sean McVay said it best in a post game interview: “There’s no other way to say it, I just got outcoached tonight.”
There are several examples as to why this is more than accurate. It seemed like play after play, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was opening up his playbook to areas McVay and the Rams hadn’t even touched before. However, Los Angeles did not lose that game just to out-coaching. That was part of it for sure, but ultimately what it comes down to is experience.
When Sean McVay was born in 1986, Bill Belichick was the defensive coordinator for the New York Giants, and had been a coach for 11 years in the NFL. While McVay was learning to walk, Belichick was forming the very playbook and strategy he used to beat the Rams over 30 years later. When Rams quarterback Jared Goff was born in 1994, Tom Brady was a senior in high school. While Goff was learning to crawl, Brady signed with the University of Michigan. In other words, New England has had over double the time to prepare for their matchup in 2019. The Brady/Belichick pair had been to 8 Super Bowls before this season, and had won 5 of them. They had a system, a process. They knew the pressure of the stadium, and the fans, and the cameras and the lights. Key elements to this game that the Goff/McVay duo could never adequately prepare for.
To the naked eye, this was more prevalent in Jared Goff. An “off-the-hip” throw under pressure late in the 4th quarter that was intercepted by Patriots defender Stephon Gilmore easily sealed the game for New England. However, claims that Los Angeles needs to reevaluate their choices at the quarterback level, or that Jared Goff’s performance in Super Bowl LIII were “concerning” are more than premature. They are untrue, unfair, and ultimately a reminder that the football world has forgotten that football is just as much of a mental sport as it is a physical. The pressure got to Goff, yes, but this isn’t the last we’ll see out of the young guys, they just might not be so young when they get back to the big game.
From being out coached, to the moment simply just being too big we leave yet another Super Bowl in awe. Someday the world will learn that it truly is a different game. Los Angeles didn’t lack the skill or the smarts. If it were just about that, they would’ve won handily. They’ll be back, and next time they won’t lose.