Clay Matthews wrapped up the narrative and flung it to the turf as if it were his 84th career sack.
“I mean, when you lose (the Super Bowl), is there still a hangover?”
It was a well-delivered rhetorical by the 33-year-old outside linebacker. And while humorous, it inadvertently cut to one of the central issues facing the 2019 Rams.
Yes, as it turns out. There is, Clay.
Unless you’re the Patriots of course, who turned a humbling Super Bowl LII defeat into a sixth Lombardi Trophy in Atlanta last February.
The Rams take on the Dallas Cowboys in Honolulu, Hawaii!
However, New England was the first to accomplish that very specific and daunting feat since the 1972 Miami Dolphins, who famously won all 17 games of their revenge tour following their Super Bowl VI loss to the 1971 Cowboys (coincidentally, the only other Super Bowl loser to win a title the following season).
Buffalo, Denver, and Minnesota are the other franchises that have earned return trips to the Super Bowl only to suffer repeat disappointment in the world’s biggest game. The Bills lost four straight from 1990-93, while the Broncos fell following the 1986 and 1987 regular seasons (then did it again after the 1989 campaign for good measure). The Vikings lost Super Bowls VIII and IX.
Point being, our beloved game is not kind to those vanquished in the season’s final contest. In fact, in the 16-game era, teams defeated in the Super Bowl have averaged 9.57 wins in the subsequent year (since 1978; excluding the 1982 lockout-shortened season).
13 of those 40 NFL runners-up failed to reach the playoffs the following year. And there were some epic clunkers in that bunch, including the 1990 Broncos (5 wins), 1999 Falcons (5 wins), and 2003 Raiders (4 wins).
In the more concise words of Yahoo’s Frank Schwab, “Super Bowl hangovers exist, and they’re especially hard on the loser.”
Not that Matthews would or should know. He won Super Bowl XLV with Green Bay, then brushed off the confetti and helped the Packers along their 15-1 journey in 2011. So his lack of concern for the 2019 Rams is framed by that experience. Matthews sees his new team as more likely to return to that first Sunday in February than regress.
“There’s just a level of talent that we should be able to put something together and do something special. I can’t speak on behalf of any hangover or curse or whatever you like to call it. But this team looks primed and ready to make another run at it.”
Aqib Talib claimed Super Bowl 50 with the Broncos, only to miss the postseason in 2016, and offers some context from that experience. His key is to start from scratch.
“You do the same thing whether you win or whether you lose,” says the 33-year-old cornerback. “You reset in the offseason and you start that thing all of the way over from the beginning of the playbook and you put all of the work in over again. It doesn’t matter if we were the second-place team, the runner up, it doesn’t matter. It’s the same sequence of events.”
As for that offseason he references, assistant head coach Joe Barry points to the extended amount of time off that teams have – per the terms of the collective bargaining agreement – as another reason why last year’s deep run shouldn’t have any bearing on the year ahead.
“I think it’s all in your approach. I think it’s all in your culture. I think it’s all starting at the top with Sean (McVay),” he added. “We’re moving on to bigger and better things in 2019. And, to answer your question, there has not been one sign (of a hangover) … We really don’t even talk about last year except the fact that we accomplished something great. We won the NFC.”