By Jonathan Fernandez
LOS ANGELES — Sean McVay was tired, his voice almost completely shot. And he had good reason to be.
His Los Angeles Rams had just claimed their second Super Bowl in franchise history, and the first since 2000, only 12 hours earlier.
“It’s an incredible honor to be here,” McVay said. “It’s also tortuous to have a team win a championship and then make you come the next morning to do a press conference this early.”
The win Sunday night made McVay the youngest coach to win a Super Bowl in NFL history at 36 years old and 20 days, but he was consistent in deflecting praise to his players and the selflessness of the group on Monday morning.
“We wanted to win a championship, do something special for the other people that they love and care about,” he said. “It was such a selfless team. This is the most selfless group I’ve ever been a part of.”
McVay said he was grateful to be around great players such as Matthew Stafford, Aaron Donald and Cooper Kupp, who were all committed to a shared goal.
That selflessness and resilience was tested when Rams wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. went down near the end of the first half with what CBS NFL insider Jason La Canfora has reported as an ACL tear. With Beckham out, the Bengals defense was able to double Kupp, who had been uncharacteristically quiet.
With one of his best receivers out due to injury, and the other being covered relentlessly by the defense, McVay had his team run the football over and over again even though it wasn’t helping them get down the field. The Rams totaled only 43 yards on 23 carries.
That changed in the fourth quarter when the Rams were running out of time to put points on the board and the Super Bowl seemed to be escaping their grasp.
Suddenly Stafford released an onslaught of passes through the air, most of which were caught by Kupp, the Super Bowl MVP, to get the Rams downfield in a hurry.
“I thought Sean did an unbelievable job of letting us go out there and play with a bunch of tempo,” Stafford said postgame Sunday. “So many guys stepped up.”
Stafford and Kupp were able to put together an electric drive down the field after McVay trusted them to convert big plays through the air down the stretch. Kupp got loose a number of times in the Rams’ final drive and scored what would end up being the game-winning touchdown.
All they needed to close the game out was one more stop. And McVay was confident about who would close it out for them.
He approached Donald and told him he would be the one to shut down the dynamic Bengals offense on fourth down.
“He told me when I got on the sideline, ‘You want something bad enough, you go get it,’” Donald said Sunday night. It was put on the defense’s shoulders to make the big stop and make us world champions. You wouldn’t want it another other way.”
Jonathan Fernandez is a graduate student specializing in sports media at Northwestern Medill. You can follow him on Twitter at @JFERN31.