Rams Head Coach Sean McVay – Media Availability – December 26, 2021
Great team win. Really so proud of this group. Just the way they continued to battle and fight. Certainly wasn’t perfect, but you talk about the three phases picking one another up. Brandon Powell’s punt return for a touchdown when we had to have it after they started to get momentum back in their favor was huge. The defense was outstanding. (Travin) Howard’s pick was big time. They made them earn everything. Really what says as much about Matthew Stafford as anything is, it wasn’t perfect. I put him in some bad spots, but in key crunch time known passing situations, he delivered in a big way. The one to Kupp on the third down. The one to Odell for the touchdown. Just big time plays, and then I thought the one off-schedule to Higbee on the right sideline in the high red area was huge. Sony Michel was outstanding. Alaric Jackson, to be able to step in and play left tackle, no flinch. Coleman Shelton bumping into center. David Edwards starts the game at left tackle. You know what we’re saying, it’s unbelievable. It takes all 48. I’m exhausted. Let’s keep the questions to a minimum. I’m just kidding.
Q; You did clinch the playoff spot. You’re in control of the division.
A: Yeah, it’s one step, just like you said. To be able to get into the playoffs, it’s something you never take for granted. It’s such a challenging league; it’s so competitive, so hat’s off to our players, our coaches. Can’t say enough about the resiliency of this group, the mental toughness. Now we want to stay on top of this division. We’ve got a great opportunity and a great challenge against a Baltimore Ravens football team next week. It will be good to hopefully get some guys back and have somewhat of a normal week of preparation. These last three weeks have truly been a whirlwind. For our guys to be able to go undefeated in the month of December after the month of November we had, that says about as much about this group that you need to know. We’ll keep it rolling.
Q: You got all your starters back Friday. Can you take us through what happened with Whitworth this weekend?
A: Kind of found out later on he ends up after we have that practice, he’s positive for COVID. We were potentially going to get Joe Noteboom back. If we’re playing on Monday, he would have been back. Joe is a guy we’re looking at as a starting caliber tackle. So now you’re saying, “What’s the best way to operate? Because of the way Coleman Shelton had played, let’s put him at left guard. Let’s move big Dave Edwards out to left tackle. We lose Brian Allen fairly early in the game, Coleman slides, in, David goes back to his original spot, and then Alaric Jackson, man, he’s a pretty impressive rookie. Definitely was unfazed, came in and did a great job. Really proud of that group. It says a lot about Kevin Carberry, Nick Jones, Zak Kromer, but also the leadership. It was great to get Rob Havenstein back today, and then looking forward to hopefully getting big Whit and Noteboom back. We’ve really had our depth challenged. It shows the strength of that unit with the way these guys have been able to step up the last few weeks.
Q: On Brandon Powell…
Q: How did you guys identify him?
A: Really it was one of those deals kind of keeping eyes open. Great job by Les and his group. Raheem Morris had some familiarity with him. Matthew even played with him in Detroit. He’s a guy that’s kind of been around. He is an impressive guy. He’s brought a great spark to our team. He’s been excellent in really both phases of the return, not only the kick return and punt return. You felt his presence made immediately when he started returning them against Jacksonville, and for him to have the punt return for the touchdown, what a great job by the special teams. Then Van Jefferson to close it out, I was really pleased with that.
Q: Do you have any updates on Brian Allen and Darrell Henderson?
A: Don’t have any updates on those guys. None of those guys were able to return. Don’t have any updates yet.
Q: And Travin Howard stepping up the way he did?
A: You felt his presence. His athleticism, run and hit ability. Made a bunch of plays. I think, as much as you can say about him, he was active. Made a big impact on the game. Another guy that it’s not too big for him. I think Chris Shula did a great job having the depth of that unit being ready to go. Any time you lose Ernest, that’s a big loss for us. I thought Travin did a great job stepping in for us today.
Q: I don’t know what Sony plays per average, but at the point it was over six yards a carry.
A: Yeah, we thought that was going to be the case just based on some of the things they were doing defensively, but I thought guys got great removal at the line of scrimmage. The run game truly takes all 11. Sony was outstanding, especially to be able to kind of control it when we needed to get the momentum back in our favor. I think after everything was going as poorly as it was offensively, to come back, be able control the football running it, getting two scoring drives in a row when we got the momentum back in our favor was huge. Sony, really for the last month, he’s been a workhorse. He’s been one of the standouts for us when we’ve gone 4-0 in the month of December. Really pleased with him. Great to get Thomas Brown back today as well.
Q: Not too many teams can overcome a three-turnover game. Do you point that to the punt return?
A: I think that’s a big factor. I think us getting a turnover in the tight red area with T. Howard’s interception, and then guys just keep battling. That’s not the formula for success for our team. We’ve talked about that over and over, but it doesn’t mean that the game ends if you do lose the turnover battle. I think Matthew Stafford’s resilience, mental toughness was on display. There’s a couple things where, first and foremost, you want to put our guys in better spots. But I think that’s why he’s our leader, he’s our guy. You talk about competitive greatness. Being your best when the best is required. He found a way to gather himself. I never felt like he was fazed. I think he was more just frustrated at some of the things we know we’re capable of executing and operating at a higher level, but when we had to have it, he delivered in a big way. That was outstanding, and I’m not surprised at all.
Q: The sudden change situations that your defense was put in, did you feel sort of a calmness, assertiveness from them, despite sort of the chaotic nature of that?
A: I certainly did. That’s not ideal. For those guys to be able to do what they did, especially on the first few where they’re holding up the field goals was big time, can’t say enough about that. And we’ve got to do a better job of not putting our defense in some of those spots. They came through in a big way. Obviously, Aaron made his presence felt throughout the course of the day as well.
Q: This defense, obviously, there’s a bit of a learning curve, adjustments, personnel changes, things like that early in the season. Particularly in those specific situations where their best is needed as you say, are you starting to feel that identity solidified down the stretch here?
A: I don’t think there’s a question about it. There’s no doubt. Guys have done a great job. We talk about next man up. We’ve had a lot of adversity. To lose Ernest Jones when we did and T. Howard to be able to step in. Troy Reeder continues to make his plays. It was good. These guys are playing their best. I think as a team, what I like is the way we’re picking one another up. For the special teams to make that play when we had to have it, it’s a great team win. There’s some things that we certainly can learn from, but I was pleased with these guys and love this defense.
Q: What went into Brandon Powell’s punt return? And I’m wondering what your feeling is when one of your guys somersaults into the end zone.
A: Hey, he scored, he was clear right there. It was a great job. I was very excited. Any time you see a play like that, it’s a good reflection of the unit. That’s why football is the greatest team sport there is. We were able to get the wall set up perfectly. He goes right down the sideline. I thought Hoecht’s block at the end to really finish that out was instrumental and really being able to punch that in. We had to have that. You talk about you could feel it was a three-point game. We were sputtering a little bit offensively. To go back up 10 was big time. What an outstanding job by our special teams, Joe (DeCamillis) and Dwayne Stukes deserve a lot of credit, but mostly those players that make it come to life. I was fired up for them. He can flip in as long as it’s safe and there’s nobody by him.
Q: What all went into Travin Howard’s interception?
A: I was kind of looking at the Surface. I didn’t see that one. I was trying to get some things together, so I’ll have to watch the film. That was one of those deals where I’d say, if you’re going to take it out, you’d better get past the 20-yard line there, but it was a huge play for us.
Q: Can you just talk about your third down efficiency today, especially being at 50 percent. What was your assessment of those drives?
A: I thought they did a really good job, and I thought the key third down conversions towards the latter parts of the game were huge. I mentioned it, and that’s to me where Matthew really came to life. The one to Higbee, the one to Cooper Kupp, and ultimately the touchdown to Odell, I thought those were three of our biggest conversions. Had a couple of opportunities early on in the game where we missed some chances, we were able to run a couple. I was really pleased with the group as a whole, and I thought they were at their best at the most important times. That’s a credit to all 11. I thought we had really good protection too. Coach Zimmer and those guys do a great job of stretching your protections, your rules with the different pressure packages they can activate. We did a good job towards the latter part of that game for sure.
Q: I don’t know if you were asked this, you were kind of cutting in and out. The Vikings have a good offense, but you were able to contain them. What gave you an edge over their offense? Anything specifically?
A: I really just think the way Raheem and the defensive staff did a great job, and then the players made it come to life. I thought we were able to kind of shut down the run. I thought Jalen did a good job when he was matched up on Jefferson. I thought some plays here and there, I thought we really limited their opportunities. For them to be 2 for 11 or whatever they finished up on third down, I thought was a big part of it. This is an explosive offense. They make a lot of plays. I think Klint Kubiak does a great job mixing it up. I have tremendous respect for Kirk Cousins. If it wasn’t for Kirk Cousins, I would never be a head coach, based on our experiences going back to Washington. I know how good those guys are. They have a great scheme, great players, and I thought our defense answered the bell in a big way today.
Q: What was the key to your team stopping the run today?
A: I just think really all hands on deck. We were able to hit blocks at the point of attack. We were sure tacklers, and I thought guys were being able to win. Run defense is a reflection of being able to hit blocks and then guys being able to finish plays on contact. Mattison’s a tough, strong runner, but I thought we were able to do a pretty nice job throughout the course of the day. Any time you keep them to three yards a carry, you know they’re going to be patient with it. I was really pleased – 17 of those came from Cousins.