ATLANTA – It’s time to “tighten the screws.”
That was the message from Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay in wrapping up his media obligations with his final press conference Thursday morning ahead of Super Bowl LIII.
The Rams are practicing at the Atlanta Falcons’ facility in Flowery Branch, and after some “above the head” and individual work on Wednesday, the focus will turn toward fine-tuning the game plan for Sunday.
“It has been outstanding, we couldn’t have asked for much more,” McVay said of the Rams’ experience this week. “You appreciate the magnitude of this game, it’s a blessing to be here. Our players and coaches have earned the right to be here.”
McVay said his players have handled the Super Bowl stage very well, but now the focus really turns to football. The Rams scored 527 points during the regular season and are 8-0 against AFC teams under McVay.
The great experience divide
Still, it’s impossible not to wonder how the 33-year-old will handle the magnitude of being on the sideline for his first Super Bowl. Across the field will be a man twice his age with infinitely more experience on the game’s greatest stage, with Bill Belichick leading the New England Patriots to the Super Bowl for the ninth time.
Belichick has won 291 career games and five Super Bowls in eight previous appearances. McVay? He has 26 wins on his resume through his first two seasons as a head coach.
McVay grew up in a football family, the grandson of legendary 49ers general manager John McVay, and has coached under the likes of Super Bowl-winning Jon Gruden and Mike Shanahan in addition to growing up around Bill Walsh. He knows great teams don’t beat themselves, and even the Rams’ best shot come Sunday might not be enough.
“To play against the Patriots is a great challenge,” he said. “You look at the amount of appearances that they’ve had, the consistency at which they’ve performed, it’s not a surprise.
“They’re a great challenge to prepare for because they do such an excellent job specific to each week. But one of the things that you consistently hear is good teams don’t beat themselves. And they’re a great team because they never beat themselves. You never see the Patriots beat themselves.
“They handle situations, their big-time players make plays at the most opportune moments, and they handle adversity extremely well. I think that consistent belief and expectation that ‘we’re going to find a way’ is a really powerful thing.”
McVay now gets to retreat from the media parade and spend the next few days focusing on how to dethrone arguably the greatest dynasty in NFL history in Super Bowl LIII. The Rams’ schedule will be akin to preparing for a typical Sunday night game, with two days of practice followed by a walk-through on Saturday.
He also wants to make sure the Rams’ players and staff get enough rest leading up to the game following two weeks of Super Bowl hype. McVay called it a delicate balance between trying to get his team as prepared as possible and over-preparing with so much information available to dissect.
“These next two days really kind of finalize, tighten the screws, and have these players as confident as possible going into Sunday,” he said. “Can’t wait for kickoff.”
–Derek Harper (@DerekAHarper), Field Level Media