Roughly 22 months ago, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick faced the Rams in Super Bowl LIII. As is typically the case for many NFL teams, however, change year over year – whether it be personnel or the coaching staff – is inevitable.
The Rams have experienced turnover in both areas but still retain much of the same key personnel. Considering the changes both teams have undergone since then, though, that matchup understandably has little bearing on Thursday night's game at SoFi Stadium (5:20 p.m. PT, FOX/NFL Network/Amazon Prime Video) in the eyes of Belichick.
"There's certainly some familiar faces, but there's quite a few differences too," Belichick said on a conference call with Rams beat writers Monday afternoon. "Two new coordinators on defense and special teams. We didn't see (Rams wide receiver Cooper) Kupp. Defensively, there's certainly some new faces there too. But, corners (Jalen) Ramsey and Darious Williams and those guys are pretty good. Really, we're more focused on what we have now and not worry about too much about what happened a couple of years ago. It just really doesn't matter too much right now."
Indeed, Los Angeles' special teams are now overseen by John Bonamego rather than John Fassel, and its Wade Phillips-led defense two seasons ago is now helmed by Brandon Staley. Both Bonamego and Staley are doing different things schematically compared to their predecessors, according to Belichick.
"Coach Staley does a good job of disguising their defenses and changing things up," Belichick said. "It's kind of hard to know exactly what you're going to get, a lot of times you don't know until the ball is snapped. So, that'll be a challenge for us."
While Kupp, Williams and Ramsey are new Los Angeles players for New England to account for heading into Thursday's game, there are still several familiar ones, too, like quarterback Jared Goff, defensive lineman Aaron Donald and punter Johnny Hekker.
With Donald and Ramsey, Belichick said "you need to know where they are on every play" because "they can ruin a game and do ruin games."
Belichick has also seen growth in Goff, noting that Goff has been able to do all the things the Rams need him to do in the pocket, on play-action, on third-down and when dropping back as well.
"Played in and won a lot of big games, like the Tampa game," Belichick said. "I mean, he's got a good arm, has got good vision on the field. Obviously, a lot of good receivers and tight ends to throw to. He does a nice job of spreading the ball around and executing the offense. There's a lot of checks on the line of scrimmage. So, you can tell his overall awareness and decision-making, handling the offense, he's pretty comfortable doing that. So, he helps them in a lot of ways."
Of course, Los Angeles still has the same head coach in Sean McVay, whom Belichick said he "has a lot of respect for," as well as McVay's grandfather John.
"We both grew up in football families. But (I) will just keep the personal part of our relationship private," Belichick said. "Have a lot of respect for him. Talk to him. He's got some great insight and great ideas and I always enjoy talking to Sean."