Sean McVay gives great insight into how Patriots' defense won Super Bowl LIII

Sean McVay gives great insight into how Patriots' defense won Super Bowl LIII

The mere thought of the New England Patriots holding the Los Angeles Rams to just three points in Super Bowl LIII seemed crazy before kickoff, but that's exactly what unfolded at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. 

Los Angeles had the NFL's second-highest scoring offense in the regular season, led by star running back Todd Gurley, a strong offensive line and an offensive guru at head coach in Sean McVay. But the Patriots did an excellent job giving the Rams some different looks and schemes throughout the game, often times confusing L.A. quarterback Jared Goff and forcing him into mistakes. No mistake was more costly than his interception late in the fourth quarter that essentially sealed New England's 13-3 win.

What specifically did the Patriots do so well to slow down the Rams' high-powered offense? McVay gave a good explanation Thursday at his NFL Scouting Combine press conference in Indianapolis. 

“What they did such a nice job of is they played a loaded front structure, which is something that we expected,” McVay told reporters. “They went with really, the early downs, more of a top-down principle where they were playing some quarters structures, kind of similar to what (the Chicago Bears) had a little bit of success with (in their Week 14 home victory against the Rams).

“But Chicago mixed that up and did some other things. (The Patriots) kind of exclusively stayed in that in those early down and distances, and unfortunately we didn’t really ever make them pay. That’s where it’s a great opportunity for you, No. 1 as a coach, to look inwardly and say, ‘How can we use these as learning opportunities to make sure that if these things do come up in the future, we’re putting our players in a position where they’re better ready to execute on the fly and adjust.’

"They were mostly playing more man principles against teams like the Chargers and Kansas City in the playoffs, and they played a little bit different front structure. Basically, against the Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game, it wasn’t until like, the 22nd or 23rd snap that you even saw a snap of zone. They were mostly doubling (Chiefs wide receiver) Tyreek Hill north and south where they had somebody over the top always, and then they’d put in their good matchups with who they felt like based on, whether it was (Travis) Kelce or Sammy Watkins, (Stephon) Gilmore traveled with (Watkins). They did an excellent job, and that's what makes them great coaches. You got to tip your hat to those guys."

The Patriots defense held the Rams to just 260 yards of offense, forced one turnover and sacked Goff four times. New England also dominated in key spots as Los Angeles converted on just three of 13 third downs. The Rams coaching staff wasn't able to adjust in time and it cost Los Angeles a chance to beat Tom Brady and win the Lombardi Trophy.

McVay is a really smart coach, though, so it's hard to imagine this disappointing performance not making him better in the long run.

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Patriots Talk Podcast: Youth - that means draft success - will have to fuel Pats' reboot

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Patriots Talk Podcast: Youth - that means draft success - will have to fuel Pats' reboot

It's simple, really. If the Patriots are going to avoid staying home again after the Wild Card Round of the playoffs next season and seasons to come, they've got to get younger.

And to get younger, they've got to be more successful in the draft.

In the latest edition of Tom Curran's Patriots Talk Podcast, Curran and Phil Perry focus on the last time New England was sent home this early in the playoffs a decade ago and if there can be lessons learned from that roster reboot in 2010. 

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The biggest issue confronting the Pats this time around is their age, which averages 31.6 years old (a 42-year-old quarterback skews that a little, of course). By comparison, the Super Bowl 54 opponents, the Kansas City Chiefs (26.8) and the San Francisco 49ers (26.6) are considerably younger.

Click here to listen and subscribe to Tom Curran's Patriots Talk Podcast: 

The age factor is why, as Perry pointed out, "the pressure is on for them to hit not only in this 2020 draft, where they do have 12 picks, they have no second-round pick, but 12 shots at the dartboard. Last year, they had 10 [picks] and nine guys are still with the team.

"It's clear they have told themselves, 'We need to get younger. We need to start hitting here if we want to sustain this success.' The draft is the lifeblood of any team."

The 2018 team and its victory in the Super Bowl over the Rams last February worked to hide some of those flaws from recent low-yield draft classes.

"They had a great quarterback when they needed him. They had a Hall of Fame quarterback when they needed him. The defense looked tremendous we know how that story played out," Perry said. 

What kind of draft yield are we talking about to fuel the next generation of Patriots' success?

Curran goes on to rattle off the names from 2008-2012 drafts (Mayo, Slater, Edelman, Vollmer, Butler, Chung, Gronkowski, McCourty) that fueled the second half of the Pats dynasty.

"I have upwards of 30 names from 2008 to 2012 who were contributing players to the Patriots. I'm not even talking a little contributing, but massive contributing...," Curran said.  

There's also a discussion of how the uncertainty surrounding Tom Brady will impact the 2020 draft strategy. Listen and subscribe to Tom Curran's Patriots Talk Podcast on the NBC Sports Boston podcast network.


That 617 Life Podcast: Patriots' ties to a Pats-less Super Bowl

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That 617 Life Podcast: Patriots' ties to a Pats-less Super Bowl

The Patriots may have been missing from the NFL's Championship Sunday, but that didn't stop them from being mentioned and having their former personnel play prominent roles in the AFC and NFC Championship Games.

Whether it was former Pats linebacker Mike Vrabel coaching the Tennessee Titans against the Kansas City Chiefs or former New England quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo helping the San Francisco 49ers beat the Green Bay Packers to reach Super Bowl 54, the Patriots continue to be a talked-about team. 

On the latest edition of the "That 617 Life" podcast, Leroy Irvin, Shanda Foster and Cerrone Battle discussed how the Pats still loomed over the games on Sunday.

"You can not say anything bad about the Patriots because we are always constantly producing talent," Foster said. "I think this is the perfect testament to Bill Belichick."

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Battle said it speaks to the dominance of the Patriots the past two decades that connections to their former players and staff are now all over the league.

"That's what happens when you win," Battle said. "When you win, everybody wants a piece. They want your waterboy. Look at the new head coach of the Giants [Joe Judge, the former Patriots special teams and receivers coach]?... When you're good for 20 years eventually you're going to have your roots all over the league. After years and years of success, I'm not shocked by it."

Irvin and Foster said instead of lamenting a rare NFL Final Four without New England, Pats fans should be grateful.

"I wish Patriot Nation would grow up," Irvin said. "By that I mean I'm tired of seeing on social media people just crying and complaining, 'Oh it's boring without the Patriots.' We've had almost two decades of excellence. We're not there. Get over it."

Said Foster, "I was grateful more than anything. Filled with gratitude. We may never see a run like this again."

In his "Hot Takes and Cold Cuts" segment, Battle says those crowning the Super Bowl 54 opponents as the next dynasties might want to pump the brakes a little. 

"First thing I heard [after the games] is, 'Kansas City they're gonna be around for years and San Francisco they're gonna be around for a long time. They're gonna be contenders forever,' " Battle said. "That was the story all day. 'What is anybody gonna do about these teams next year?' What are they gonna do next year? Not even worry about them. Why? Because this is the Not For Long League. The NFL. Every year, the teams that were hot the year before are never guaranteed to be hot the year after that. Unless you're the Patriots."

The crew also gives their reactions to the new Aaron Hernandez Netflix documentary. It's all in this week's "That 617 Life" podcast on the NBC Sports Boston Podcast network. Click here to listen and subscribe.