The initial pain and shock caused by their Super Bowl defeat ebbed in the days that followed. But Rams players and coaches are still processing their loss to the New England Patriots.
And they said they would use it as motivation as they begin looking to next season.
“If you can’t handle getting gut-punched and responding, this business probably isn’t for you,” McVay said Tuesday after a team meeting in Thousand Oaks. “The unfinished element of it will just continue to drive you in the right way as you move forward.”
Two days after a 13-3 loss to the Patriots, Rams players took physicals, turned in their digital playbooks and cleaned out their lockers.
But thoughts of what might have been remained.
“As time goes on, I’m sure it’ll get easier,” quarterback Jared Goff said. “But, it definitely stings. It’s hard and you can’t really ever get over it, maybe.
“It’ll be tough, but it’ll be definitely something that will motivate us and something that we will use.”
Goff struggled against a Patriots defense that shut down the Rams’ rushing attack and powered through the line to pressure the 24-year-old quarterback. Goff was late on several passes and hurried others, including a pivotal one that was intercepted in the fourth quarter.
“It was a lot of missed opportunities and a game where I wish I would’ve played better,” Goff said. “I wish I would’ve done my part better and I can promise next time, if we get that opportunity, I will.
“It’s just part of learning and part of growing and getting older and experience.”
Quarterback Tom Brady, 41, showed his experience during a textbook fourth-quarter touchdown drive that set up the Patriots’ sixth Super Bowl victory. But the Rams otherwise held the Patriots in check.
Two days later, that only made it more difficult for Goff to come to terms with the result.
“You say, ‘You’re going to be in the Super Bowl and … your defense is going to hold the New England Patriots to 13 points and you guys aren’t going to win,’ ” Goff said. “It’s like, how? That’s the part that you kind of keep replaying in your mind, is how that can even happen.”
Running back Todd Gurley’s lack of production in the NFC championship game and the Super Bowl, and the status of his injured left knee, will remain offseason topics until the Rams reconvene for organized team activities in April.
Gurley left the locker room Tuesday without speaking to reporters. He has said his knee is fine. McVay said Gurley “took part” in exit physicals.
Asked whether Gurley was expected to undergo an offseason procedure on his knee, McVay said he hadn’t discussed that with team medical personnel.
“As far as I’m concerned and as far as I know that isn’t the case where we’re planning to do anything like that,” he said.
The Patriots, who lost to the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII, were only the third team to win a Super Bowl the year after they lost. The Rams’ quest to become the fourth begins this week as McVay and his staff evaluate the roster in preparation for the NFL scouting combine, free agency and the NFL draft.
During the 2013 season, running back C.J. Anderson was part of a Denver Broncos team that lost to the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl. Two years later, he helped the Broncos defeat the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50.
He said the Rams would learn from their Super Bowl defeat.
“I do believe they’ll be back,” said Anderson, a pending unrestricted free agent. “Whether it’s new faces, same faces, I think coach McVay and the staff here, and then some of the key players here have the talent and the expertise to get ’em over that hump,
“And, you know when they get a chance, whether that’s [Super Bowl] 54 or 55, who knows what Super Bowl it will be but, when they get chance they’ll be able to learn from this experience.”