Rams must prove last season was no fluke

Antelope Valley Press (Sunday) - - Sports -

That isn’t merely Bank of Amer­ica Sta­dium where the Los An­ge­les Rams will take on the Carolina Pan­thers Sun­day to open the 2019 Na­tional Foot­ball League season.

It’s the world’s largest ope­nair grand jury hear­ing room.

The Rams don’t just have to win a foot­ball game.

They have to prove they’re still not un­der the cloud of the most pa­thetic Su­per Bowl per­for­mance in his­tory.

The 13-3 outcome in Su­per Bowl LIII last Jan­uary did for TV’s great­est sport­ing event what that shoulda-worn­leather-hel­mets fi­asco Thurs­day in Chicago did for the NFL’s 100th an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tion.

Rams coach Sean McVay was so in­tim­i­dated and over­matched by New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots le­gend Bill Belichick, it’s a won­der why he didn’t ask for an au­to­graph rather than a postgame hand­shake.

McVay’s abil­ity to in­no­vate on the fly was nowhere to be seen.

Only Jared Goff, who looked like he’d stum­bled into the wrong chem­istry lec­ture, had a worse case of deer-in-the­head­lights paral­y­sis than his head coach.

A bril­liant de­fen­sive game plan con­ceived by Wade Phillips, one that made Tom Brady look like a 41-year-old quar­ter­back for the first 53 min­utes, was all that kept it from be­ing a blowout.

McVay in­sists he has learned from his su­per cha­grin mas­sage.

Know­ing the com­peti­tor he is, be­lieve him.

Notwith­stand­ing Goff’s as­ton­ish­ing $134 mil­lion con­tract extension, we’re not so sure he has.

You know Carolina coach Ron Rivera and his ‘Cats will roll out the same de­fen­sive scheme to­day that the Pa­tri­ots did in Su­per Bowl LIII.

Goff has to prove he can be at his best when things are worst, that he doesn’t need a per­fect 90-de­gree an­gle to the ground to de­liver clutch throws, that he can think on the move.

That last part is the most trou­bling.

Teams and play­ers have lost Su­per Bowls and per­se­vered right back to the moun­tain­top.

But there are many, many more cases where Su­per Bowl fail­ure, leave alone Su­per Bowl ig­nominy, has poi­soned ca­reers al­most ir­repara­bly.

Jackie Smith was the best tight end of his gen­er­a­tion.

But be­cause he couldn’t catch a ball Roger Staubach threw at his hip in the end zone in Su­per Bowl XIV, he had to wait an ad­di­tional decade to get into the Hall of Fame.

Paul Krause is the NFL’s all-time in­ter­cep­tions leader, and it’s not even close.

But he lost four Su­per Bowls with the Min­nesota Vik­ings.

That’s how a player who re­tired in 1982 had to wait un­til 1998 for the call to Can­ton.

So Happy New Year, Rams fans.

The case of fate vs. Sean McVay and his team be­gins Sun­day in Char­lotte.

All rise.

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