California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

Super Bowl LIII: Rams Return Empty Handed

Two years ago, when the New England Patriots erased a 25-point deficit to defeat the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI, it was the phrase “28-3” that haunted the city of Atlanta, as it became a meme-worthy piece of history that symbolized a large second-half lead blown away by the Falcons.

This time around, “13-3” is that painfully symbolic set of numbers for Los Angeles. As both the final score of Super Bowl LIII and the regular season record of the Los Angeles Rams, “13-3” represents a season of coming up short.

The Rams saved their worst offensive performance of the season for the worst possible time, suffering a crushing defeat in Super Bowl LIII at the hands of the New England Patriots—a dynasty that seemingly won’t die, so long as the dynamic duo of Head Coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady are still around.

“They’ve been here three years in a row for a reason and they got the job done again,” said Rams running back Todd Gurley.

Gurley, the highest-paid running back in NFL history, followed up his ineffective outing in the NFC championship game with a Super Bowl performance of only 35 yards rushing on 10 carries and one reception for minus 1-yard.

Running back C.J. Anderson, who signed with the Rams in mid-December as injury insurance while Gurley was sidelined with a knee injury, also proved to be ineffective with seven carries for 22 yards.

Gurley’s lack of playing time has led many to believe that the star running back is still dealing with lingering effects of his knee injury. However, in post-game interviews, Gurley dismissed that idea.

“I felt good,” Gurley said. “Whenever my name is called to get in, I’m ready.”

Rams Head Coach Sean McVay shouldered a lot of blame in his post-game interviews, agreeing that he could have put Gurley in more positions to succeed.

“Certainly that is going to be something I’m sure I’ll say, ‘I wish I could have got him more involved,’” McVay said. “The film is always a good chance to go back and look at it and I know there is a handful of decisions that I’m going to want back.”

Offensively, the Rams looked nothing like they did in the regular season, when they finished second in scoring offense. Los Angeles ended all of their drives with punts until 2:11 remained in the third quarter, when placekicker Greg Zuerlein scored the only points of the game with a 53-yard field goal to tie the game at 3-3.

In what was their first Super Bowl appearance since the 2001 season, and their first as a Los Angeles franchise since the 1979 season, McVay’s Rams were stifled on offense by a stout gameplan from Patriots’ linebackers coach and de-facto defensive coordinator Brian Flores, who utilized mostly zone coverage behind a defensive line that wreaked havoc with various stunts.

But on a second-and-6 with 4:22 remaining in the fourth quarter and the Rams looking to even the score at 10, Flores scrapped his predominantly zone defense in favor of a “cover zero” man-to-man defense with no safety help over the middle of the field and an all-out blitz.

Recognizing that the Patriots were sending the house, Rams quarterback Jared Goff took the snap out of shotgun and retreated as Patriots safety Duron Harmon made his way through the Rams offensive line untouched. In hope of finding the arms of a single-covered wide receiver Brandin Cooks for the game-tying touchdown, the 24-year-old Goff lofted a desperate, off-balance throw that instead fell into the arms of Patriots defensiveback Stephon Gilmore for an interception that put the dagger into the dream of bringing a Super Bowl to Los Angeles.

“Obviously, I should have thrown it away,” said Goff, who finished 19-of-38 passing for 229 yards and that devastating fourth quarter interception. “I knew it was ‘zero’—of course I did—but I thought I could make a play. I didn’t realize Gilmore was staring at me, and I threw too early. I put it in a bad spot. It was dumb. It was stupid. I will learn from it.”

With the win, the New England Patriots secured their sixth Lombardi trophy under Belichick and Brady—and on the heels of the Boston Red Sox defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2018 World Series, the second-consecutive major sporting event championship victory for the greater New England area over a Los Angeles-based franchise.

Jake Gould

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