ATLANTA — Sean McVay felt bad for his defense. With good reason.
There was not much more the Rams head coach could ask from a unit that limited the Patriots to one touchdown in Super Bowl LIII. Allowing one touchdown is supposed to get you a win. All it got the Rams is heartache.
“I thought they did an outstanding job,’’ McVay said of his defense. “That’s a really tough offense and they did a nice job presenting a lot of different looks. I feel responsible for the offense and I felt I let our team down with the way our offense played.’’
Giving up 13 points should have been enough defense to lead the Rams to victory, but they lost 13-3 inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Chalk it up to bad luck that as limiting as the Rams were on defense, they had the misfortune to play in the lowest-scoring game in Super Bowl history.
“In my mind we were supposed to win this game, but we didn’t,’’ said Aaron Donald, the Rams’ star defensive tackle. “It sucks. When you feel you didn’t do enough to win and be part of the success, it just makes you want to work even harder.’’
Tom Brady completed just 21-of-35 passes for 262 yards and one interception, for a passer rating of 71.4. Nothing special. The Patriots rushed for 154 yards, but 52 of the yards came on runs by Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead late in the game. The Rams certainly did not control the game with their defense but defensive coordinator Wade Phillips devised a game plan that worked and should have brought a Lombardi Trophy to Los Angeles for the first time.
“They made every play tough,’’ Brady said. “I give them a lot of credit. The played really well on defense. Fortunately, our defense really played the best game they have all season.’’
If you told the Rams beforehand they would not give up a touchdown until seven minutes remained in the game, they would have asked where to sign up. Time after time, the Rams turned aside the Patriots.
“We didn’t do enough,’’ defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh said. “We had opportunities to get off the field and we didn’t get off the field. Simple as that.’’
The Patriots rolled up 122 total yards in the first quarter and at times seemed as if they could move the ball however they wanted. But they came away with no points as the Rams did what they often do best: Bend, bend but do not break.
This was far from dominant defense but somehow, some way, the Rams kept the Patriots off the board, continuing a stunning trend. In nine Super Bowls under Bill Belichick, the Patriots have yet to score a touchdown in the first quarter. They have been outscored 78-3.
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The first Patriots series was humming along, advancing to the Rams 37-yard line before Brady’s first pass of the night was behind Chris Hogan, allowing Nickell Robey-Coleman to break up the play and deflect the ball into the hands of linebacker Cory Littleton for an interception.
Early in the third quarter, Marcus Peters broke up a third-down pass intended for Julian Edelman. On the next series, Peters defended on a pass down the field for Chris Hogan, making Brady 0-for-6 when targeting Hogan.
Next, Littleton broke up a pass to James White on a third-down play. Edelman, the game’s MVP, caught 10 passes for 141 yards and was too shifty for the Rams to stop, but once again, they kept the scoring down.
Asked what it felt like to limit the Patriots to their fewest points in their nine Super Bowl appearances with Belichick and Brady, Littleton said “It feels like I lost. We didn’t do enough to win.’’