ATLANTA — In the end, Sean McVay said it simply.
"There's really no other way to put it," he said while sitting at a podium in the bowels of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, "I'm pretty numb right now, but definitely I got out-coached and didn't do good enough for our football team."
Three points — the lowest output Los Angeles has managed since McVay was hired as head coach. No third-down conversions in the first half on six tries. Only two first downs in the first 30 minutes.
It simply wasn't a game that lived up to the Rams' standards on offense. And that's a big part of what seemed to frustrate McVay so much about Los Angeles' 13-3 loss to New England in Super Bowl LIII.
"The thing that's so tough about all this is the finality to it," McVay said. "Usually if you go through some adversity, you get a chance to bounce back right away — this one is going to stick with you. It just stings in your gut. I have so much love for these players and coaches, that's where really it eats at you where you feel like you didn't do your part to help them."
"They did a great job and it was a great gameplan," McVay added, "but no other way to say it but I got out-coached tonight."
Granted, the Rams' standards are lofty. They did average 32.9 points per game in 2018, good for No. 2 in the league. But as McVay said, when the defense plays that well, it makes things a bit worse.
"I thought they did an outstanding job and really you can't say enough about the effort. Defensive coaches put together a great plan and I thought the players played with urgency and awareness and great concentration throughout the game," McVay said. "That's a really tough offense and they provided a variety of different looks. They made some plays in crunch time right there and I really love the way that our defense competed. … That's where I feel like I really let our team down."
Nothing seemed to work for the Rams offensively on Sunday. The team didn't have a drive longer than five plays until a 10-play possession netted a field goal late in the third quarter. That meant the offensive unit could never get a true rhythm established — especially with running back Todd Gurley, who had just 10 carries for 35 yards.
As McVay has said over the last couple weeks, Gurley is healthy. The star running back's lack of production, McVay said, was much more about a lack of execution.
"I just think really it's a result of kind of the opportunities that he had. And I don't want to be a broken record, but the reality of it is we didn't get a lot of plays of in general until you get down into some of those known-passing situations at the end," McVay said. "And it seemed like when we did end up having some success — I thought the holding call was really tough for us. We had a good drive going, Todd makes a good cut back run on a tight zone and then it puts us at 1st-and-20."
"Those kind of plays seemed like they continuously presented themselves throughout the night, and it never really enabled us to get into a rhythm, and that was really tough," McVay added.
One of the more significant issues was how the Patriots adjusted defensively. Left tackle Andrew Whitworth noted that the Patriots played more zone structures than they had shown throughout the postseason.
"A lot of the same stuff [that they'd run up front], except for instead of really playing man on top of it, they played zone — which created a little bit of a different look in a sense for Jared [Goff], that now those stunts, you might have to hold it a little bit longer and find somebody that's open. It's expecting man and you end up in some zone stuff. And, like I said, they did a good job of preparing, but nothing that we honestly hadn't seen all year and had the opportunity to be prepared for. We just didn't execute."
"They definitely changed it up with what they had done over the past couple of weeks, especially when you look at some of the things that enabled them to have success against the Chargers and against the Chiefs," McVay said. "They still played some front structures that we anticipated and they did an excellent job with it. When [Patrick] Chung went out, they ended up playing a little bit more of a base defense just based on the personnel groups we were presenting. Their coverage principles were definitely mixed compared to what they put on tape. They did a great job, and it is something that I'm disappointed that I didn't do a better job of adjusting in the framework of the game. That is one of the things that makes them great."
And that, really, sums up why McVay was so frustrated, so numb. But in some ways, it also seemed to be a motivator.
"At the end of the day, you can always learn," McVay said. "Certainly, this is going to be a very humbling tough one that you learn from, but you have to demonstrate that mental toughness you talk about and that is all I know how to do."