THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. –– Nearly two years ago, the Bears hosted the Rams on Sunday Night Football with Brandon Staley coaching Chicago's outside linebackers and Sean McVay serving as Los Angeles' head coach.
Staley and the rest of the Bears defensive coaching staff had been preparing all week for a Rams offense tied for second in scoring average (32.3 points per game) and ranked second in total offense (439.9 total yards per game), having scored at least 30 points in all but two of their 12 games to that point.
"It was stressful, I know that," Staley, now the Rams defensive coordinator, said this week when reflecting on the contest. "It was a hard week of preparation."
Conversely, McVay and the rest of the Rams offensive coaching staff were gearing up for a Bears defense allowing the fourth-fewest points per game (20.1) and fourth-fewest total yards of offense (317.9), having surrendered 30 or more points three times in 12 games.
Staley and the Bears came away with a 15-6 victory – the first time the Rams did not score an offensive touchdown in a game in the McVay era and just the second time they failed to reach double figures in scoring.
"He basically ruined my night that night," McVay said during a video conference Thursday. "I mean, that was not a good night for us."
Now sharing the same sideline entering Monday night's game against the Bears, that 2018 matchup would prove impactful for both coaches in the nearly two years since.
The 6-1 scheme – six defensive linemen, one linebacker – deployed by the Bears resurfaced for the Rams less than two months later against the Patriots in Super Bowl LIII, holding the Rams to 3 points. Staley noticed other schemes were constructed in an attempt to limit L.A.'s high-powered offense following that season.
"I think that what you saw, as much as Sean impacted the league offensively, what he's done has (also) impacted the game defensively, people engineering an entire defensive structure to try and stop him," Staley said. "It's no easy task when every week you're facing possibly a new defense that's trying to stop you."
By that point, McVay, who called the loss to Chicago "humbling" that night, was forced to adjust an offense that had otherwise been largely unstoppable in Los Angeles' previous 28 regular season games.
Per sharpfootballstats.com, L.A. utilized the 11 personnel grouping – one running back, one tight end and three wide receivers – on a league-high 89 percent of their total plays in 2018.
In 2019, that usage dropped 73 percent, while the use of 12 personnel – one running back, two tight ends and two wide receivers – jumped from eight percent to 21 percent. That grouping is advantageous for a passing attack like the Rams with two tight ends who can create mismatches as receivers, but it also adds an extra blocker closer to help counter the sixth defender along the line of scrimmage.
As for Staley, that 2018 game likely played a role in McVay hiring him earlier this year. Staley also brought some of those concepts from Chicago with him to Los Angeles, and now the Rams practice against them according to wide receiver Robert Woods. That 2018 game also shows up on Staley's "teach tape," or instructional film he uses to help players learn the defense, according to McVay.
One thing Staley has noticed from working around McVay this year is how he takes "full ownership of everything that happens." While Staley knows McVay has been hard on himself about that night, he believes that same ownership of the result continues to make the Rams a better team.
"I think that as a competitor, you're always trying to learn from your experiences," Staley said. "I think that night, he learned a lot about himself. He learned a lot about his team, and I know that after that game, the Rams played really, really well and ended up getting into the playoffs and going to the Super Bowl. I would say that he learned quite well from that night and put his team in a position to be successful."