The Rams host one last autopsy on Super Bowl LIII today at California Lutheran University.
We mainly want to know one thing:
Who let Jeff Fisher back on the sideline?
Those looked more like Fisher’s pathetic 4-12 Rams repatriated from St. Louis in 2016 than the hip, fresh, cutting edge Rams of the Sean McVay Wonder Child Era.
Totally overshadowed in the Rams’ anemic offensive performance was the heroic defensive effort of Wade Phillips’ defense.
They made Tom Brady look like a 41-year-old quarterback, at last.
They limited the opponents to 13 points despite being on the field for more than half the game.
It should have been few enough to win for a team that averaged 32.3 points per game this season.
Especially when you consider Brandin Cooks had the ball in his hands in the end zone TWICE, yet failed to come down with touchdown catches.
To be fair, Jared Goff should have delivered the ball when Cooks was wide open at the New England 10-yard line in a total coverage bust.
Instead Goff, frozen by the moment all night, waited until Cooks would have needed a stepladder to come down to with the ball at the back of the end zone.
The second one, with New England leading 10-3 in the fourth quarter, was unforgivable.
This is the Super Bowl. If you get your hands — BOTH hands — on the ball in the end zone, you hang on for dear life.
Then there was the missed late hit at the sideline on Goff, and the phantom holding penalty on John Sullivan negating a 13-yard burst by Todd Gurley II that was the star back’s first hint of a pulse.
Those are all symptoms, though.
The cause of death for the Rams in the lowest scoring Super Bowl of all time was their head coach.
Sean McVay was out-coached, out-schemed, out-imagined and out-adjusted by the Vince Lombardi of our time, Patriots coach Bill Belichick.
It almost looked like McVay was seeking out Belichick and Brady afterward for their autographs.
To use a Belichick reference, McVay didn’t do his job.
Not even close.
From the moment Gladys Knight’s inspiring rendition of the national anthem concluded, McVay was reacting to Belichick, not being his usual aggressor self setting the agenda.
Where were the tight ends in the game plan?
More to the point (or just three), where were the adjustments?
Belichick put six men on the line of scrimmage to stuff the Rams’ running game.
Where were the counter plays, the draws, the pop passes to the tight ends to capitalize against that defense?
The Patriots defensive linemen were coming straight up the field. Where were the quick pitches to the flat to flank such a strategy?
The only one with a worse lamb-in-the-headlights look than McVay was Goff.
As far back as the Super Bowl Opening Night media event Monday, the Rams’ 24-year-old quarterback looked overwhelmed.
At least four times, slot receiver Josh Reynolds came free underneath for what would have been big gains.
Goff never saw him. Those headlights are blinding.
In the fourth quarter, en route to the game-sealing pick by Stephon Gilmore that came down more like a punt than a pass, Robert Woods flashed open across the middle.
He had so much Mercedes-Benz Stadium broadloom in front of him, he would have at least gotten to the New England 20.
Goff never saw him, electing instead to try a deep ball along the left sideline.
The McVay Rams looked as overmatched and overwhelmed as any of Fisher’s hopeless 2016 teams.
The Patriots’ unlikely path to their sixth Super Bowl capitalized on the defenses of the Chargers and the Kansas City Chiefs that never made any adjustments.
In the Super Bowl, it was McVay who whiffed on the adjustments.
Perhaps this dose of humble is exactly the ingredient needed to put the Rams’ preternaturally talented head coach over the top.
Belichick, who retired the title of Greatest Of All Time among NFL defensive coaches in this postseason, was no bargain in his first head coaching go-round in Cleveland.
The Charmer with all the personality of Brillo produced a train wreck.
But he learned from every one of his mistakes, which is why Noll, Walsh, Shula, Halas and yes, even Vince Lombardi, are now in his shadow.
Super Bowl LIII pointed out holes in the Rams that need to be addressed, on the offensive line and in the linebacking corps.
It can all be fixed. And quickly.
The NFC’s road to the Super Bowl still goes through Los Angeles.
Animal husbandry tells us yesterday’s sheep are next year’s Rams.
And possible future GOATs.