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Rams

Rams coach Sean McVay ready to show what he learned in Bill Belichick’s master class

Rams head coach Sean McVay gestures during the second half of a preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys in Honolulu.
Rams coach Sean McVay
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Pacing along the sideline, Sean McVay enthusiastically called out formations and plays, never breaking stride while discussing the philosophy behind each one.

The Rams’ coach was not on the field with his players. He was below ground, inside USC’s John McKay Center, a featured speaker at a football clinic for high school and college coaches.

A month after getting schooled by New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick in the Super Bowl, the 33-year-old McVay enthusiastically played the teacher, peppering his unscripted presentation with motivational phrases and jokes that mesmerized an audience hanging on every word.

McVay spoke for 48 minutes without a discernible pause. Then, while answering a question about the rhythm of play-calling, he finally invoked the Rams’ 13-3 Super Bowl defeat.

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“It’s humbling but true,” McVay began before explaining how Belichick and then-Patriots defensive coordinator Brian Flores stymied the Rams with a defensive front he was unable to solve.

“They kept calling it,” McVay said, “because we weren’t able to make ‘em pay.”

On Sunday, when the Rams open the season against the Carolina Panthers, McVay finally gets a chance to show some of what he learned from the 67-year-old Belichick’s Super Bowl master class.

They lost in the Super Bowl and then shed five starters, but the Los Angeles Rams remain contenders to return for another shot at the title.

Immediately after that defeat, McVay said he got outcoached. Then, on his way back to the locker room, he told a reporter, “I don’t think I’ll ever get over it.”

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Seven months later?

“I don’t think I’ll ever forget,” he said in an interview, “but I’m over it.”

The Rams are confident that is the case.

In July, they gave McVay a hefty raise and a contract extension that will keep him with the team through 2023 . This week they gave quarterback Jared Goff a $134-million extension — with a record $110 million guaranteed — in a deal that ties the two-time Pro Bowl player to the team through 2024.

McVay has joked privately and publicly that Goff is stuck with him.

“I told him, ‘I think I’m OK with that,’” Goff said. “It will be a good marriage.”

With their coach and quarterback in place, the Rams envision more Super Bowl runs. The first became possible because Goff, the No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft, proved a reliable starter while playing on a rookie contract. That situation enabled general manager Les Snead to shop and trade for proven — and sometimes expensive — talent while making deft selections in the lower rounds of the draft.

Now, McVay must act on lessons learned from the Super Bowl flameout. “You can’t run away from it,” he said.

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Rams players said McVay has not changed outwardly in the aftermath of the offense’s worst performance in two seasons under his guidance.

“Same guy personality-wise,” offensive lineman Austin Blythe said.

But the Rams have felt the impact from the lessons McVay learned and processed.

Effectiveness of sitting Todd Gurley all summer over much-scrutinized left knee will be tested for first time Sunday when the Rams open at Carolina.

“He’s definitely thought about that game and thought about every single possibility from that point,” receiver Robert Woods said. “We see it at practice.”

That, apparently, is nothing new.

Cornerback Nickell-Robey Coleman referenced the run-up to last season, when McVay took what he learned in the Rams’ 2017 playoff loss to the Atlanta Falcons and made sure the Rams were prepared for similar situations.

“Now he’s reflecting off the Super Bowl,” Robey-Coleman said.

And perhaps taken another step in his maturation as a coach, punter Johnny Hekker said. “The way he’s gone about it, I think he’s come into his own.”

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Time will tell. The Patriots became only the third team — and the first since the 1970s — to lose in the Super Bowl and return the following season and win it. The Rams have worked to correct the mistakes they made against the Patriots.

“There’s other teams watching that film and we better be ready to have answers,” McVay said, adding, “We’re excited to see if some of the work we’ve put in this offseason serves as a chance to improve if we do see those looks again.”

Super Bowl LIV will be played in February at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami. If the Rams return to the Super Bowl, McVay said he would slightly alter his approach, making sure nearly everything is in place during the first week of preparation.

“We kind of tweaked and tweaked and tweaked as the second week went on when we were in Atlanta,” he said.

That lesson was only one of McVay’s takeaways for the Super Bowl. The entire experience has prepped him for what comes next.

“To say that you wish you could have done better in that moment for your players — I’ll always feel that way,” he said. “But to say that it’s taken [away] any bit of confidence or the ability to move forward, that’s not the case at all.”

Etc.

Goff, who agreed to terms on his extension Tuesday, signed the contract Friday, McVay said. … Left tackle Andrew Whitworth was a full participant in practice. On Wednesday, Whitworth did not practice because of a non-injury related situation, according to the injury report. ... The Rams departed for the airport after practice. Their flight to Charlotte, N.C., was scheduled for Friday afternoon.


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