Rams must prove last season was no fluke
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.