Rams respect Patriots but look forward to Super Bowl challenge

The Rams were back at practice, a day after defeating the New Orleans Saints and advancing to Super Bowl LIII.


After winning the NFC championship with a last-second field goal in overtime, the Rams did not know their Super Bowl opponent.

Players and coaches watched the AFC championship game between the Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots on their phones until their chartered plane took off from New Orleans. Shortly after they were airborne, they learned it would be the Patriots — and it was something to contemplate amid their celebratory flight home.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady have won five Super Bowls in eight appearances.


“They’ve been doing it as consistently as any organization in the history of this league,” Rams coach Sean McVay said Monday during a news conference in Thousand Oaks.

McVay has history with the Patriots. He was an assistant for Washington Redskins teams that practiced against the Patriots, and he remains friends with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and other staff members.

During the last offseason, McVay got to know Belichick and helped put the finishing touches on the trade that brought receiver Brandin Cooks to the Rams.

Players are looking forward to playing against Brady, who again engineered a comeback in the 37-31 overtime victory over the Chiefs.

“It’s an honor, honestly, he’s the all-time great,” safety John Johnson said in the locker room. “He’s beatable though.

“So, I mean, you just can’t go in there with the mind-set of, ‘Oh, it’s Tom Brady.’ He’s definitely beatable, so we’re going to go in there and give it a go.”


The Rams will practice three times this week before departing for Atlanta, where they will prepare for another week.

“When you’re playing the Patriots, you need all the time you can get,” punter Johnny Hekker said. “They’ve been in these games very consistently for the last decade for a reason.”

The two-week window could help running back Todd Gurley, who had only 10 yards in four carries, and could not hold onto two passes, in the Rams’ 26-23 victory over the Saints.

Gurley said after the game that his performance was “sorry as hell.”

Gurley was sidelined for the last two regular-season games because of a left knee injury. He returned to rush for 115 yards and a touchdown in the Rams’ divisional-round victory over the Dallas Cowboys.


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Gurley is healthy, McVay said, citing his short but physical touchdown run in the second quarter. He also said Gurley did a good job in pass protection on key drives.

“I should’ve gotten Todd a little bit more involved,” McVay said. “But again, like the flow of the game, we’ve got to do kind of what we think is in our best interest.”

McVay complimented Gurley for “the ownership that he talks about with regards to, ‘I’ve got to play a little bit better.’ ”

He said that Gurley would have a larger role in the Super Bowl.

“He’ll get a chance to make a big-time contribution and have a big role in our game against the Patriots,” McVay said.

The Rams will install the majority of their game plan this week so players will not be affected by “the distractions” that are part of Super Bowl week, he said.


“We want them to be able to go play, be decisive,” McVay said. “So, it’ll be more similar to a normal game week, with the addition of tightening things up that following week.”


McVay on the controversial noncall involving cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman against the Saints: “I feel bad for when it occurred in the framework of the game, but I thought [Saints coach] Sean [Payton] said it best too where, there’s a lot of other opportunities and there’s a lot of things that do dictate and determine the outcome of the game.” ... McVay’s girlfriend and family were emotional after the victory. “I could tell that my mom and my girlfriend had been crying, they were so happy,” he said. “Shoot, my dad, who knows? He was more worried probably about chest bumping all the players afterwards than coming and seeing me. He was excited though. It’s a pretty cool thing right now.” … The Rams will play the Cincinnati Bengals in an International Series game in London next season, the NFL announced. The date, time and location of the game will be set during spring. The NFL requires teams playing in temporary stadiums to play one International Series game each season. This season, the Rams were scheduled to play the Kansas City Chiefs in Mexico City but the game was moved to the Coliseum because of poor field conditions at Azteca Stadium. In 2016, the Rams lost to the New York Giants 17-10 at Twickenham Stadium outside London. The Rams defeated the Arizona Cardinals 33-0 at Twickenham in 2017.

Follow Gary Klein on Twitter @latimesklein