There have been a number of these situations throughout the 2018 season.
Week 5 in Seattle, it was 4th-and-1 at the L.A. 42 with 1:39 in the fourth quarter. Jared Goff converted a QB sneak, the Seahawks had no more timeouts, and the Rams won the game.
Week 9 in New Orleans, it was 4th-and-4 from the Saints’ 16-yard line. Instead of attempting a field goal, the Rams elected to run a fake — but punter/holder Johnny Hekker was ruled short of the sticks.
In last week’s Divisional round matchup versus the Cowboys, instead of kicking a field goal to go up 26-13 with about seven minutes left in the fourth quarter, C.J. Anderson put it in the box on 4th-and-goal from the one, giving L.A. a 30-15 lead instead.
There are a number of more examples, to be sure. But head coach Sean McVay is one of the more aggressive play callers in the league. It’s a significant aspect of his coaching philosophy, which is that the Rams want to be on the attack more times than not.
But as McVay addressed it on Thursday, there’s a balance that the team tries to strike in that area.
“I think it goes back to the communication that exists amongst, really, our coaching staff and really kind of following our process. Then, there is an element where a lot of those decisions — I see the stats and different things like that, but so much of it is a product of a gut feel,” McVay said. “The one thing I think, especially when you're talking about football compared to some of the other stats where you use those numbers, you're talking about 22 moving parts on every single snap — matchups that occur. I get what it says on the 4th-and-1 — here’s what the chart says, different things like that. But, if you feel like you're getting good knock off, you've got confidence and a belief in your players to be able to execute — that's more of a gut thing, than sometimes it is. Same thing with the QB sneak in Seattle
Check out photos from practice as the Los Angeles Rams prepare to face the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship.
“So, I think we are an aggressive team by nature. I think that's our mindset, that's our mentality, but you don't want to be reckless,” McVay continued. “So, there's an element of making sure that that communication is amongst your coaches where you're utilizing those resources around you. But, then there's also a feel where, man, we feel real confident in our players ability to execute and we're going to play not fearing failure, but to go attack an opportunity to go win a conference championship.”
It’s an interesting insight into McVay’s philosophy, acknowledging the charts but also managing the game by having a good feel for it. Plenty of Rams have complimented McVay on his ability to do just that.
But it was McVay doling out more compliments at the end of his answer to this particular question, praising Saints head coach Sean Payton for how he manages the game in that area.
“[T]hat’s what I respect so much about the Saints is that they're aggressive,” McVay said, before describing New Orleans’ game situation last week against Philadelphia. “They're down 14 from the two-yard line, they go for it and they deliver in a big way. That gets them back into it. You look back at the Baltimore game earlier in the year. So, I have a lot of respect and admiration for coach Payton and the way that he calls a game to go win it — not being afraid of losing it. I'd like to think that's something that we do at the Rams as well. We're going to continue to do that going into this weekend."