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Title Game “Size-Up” With Coach McVay & Matt Stafford

Countdown To Gigantic Battle To Play In Super Bowl LVI Is On

Rams Head Coach Sean McVay, pictured at podium, as he addresses the large group of local, regional, and national Media outlets during his customary "Post-Game" Press Conferences in SoFi Stadium. A unique diversity of Radio, Television, Print, and OnLine organizations are always eager and attentive to engage the Coach with their questions. McVay, now in his 5th year as Head Coach, recently celebrated his 36th birthday. Photo Credit: Rico Cabrera, Sr., East L.A. Sports Scene Productions

(East Los Angeles, CA) January 27, 2022 [From The Editor’s Desk]: As we close in on the big NFC title match-up and “Game-Day” of this Sunday, here is more insight from the Rams two main team leaders, the youthful and resolute 5th year Head Coach Sean McVay, and his “Eye on the Prize,” clutch, quarterback, Matthew Stafford. We are bringing all of our avid Rams fans and followers as much information as possible in the “lead-up” to the game.

Los Angeles Rams Transcripts – Head Coach Sean McVay & QB Matthew Stafford – January 26, 2022

 {Head Coach Sean McVay}

(On what’s similar about the way both WR/Cooper Kupp and 49ers WR/Deebo Samuel play the position and what makes them both special)“I think they’re great football players that are complete receivers. They’re obviously both really dynamic with the ball in their hands. Some of the things that (49ers WR) Deebo (Samuel) does when he is lined up as a running back is really special stuff. This guy’s just – he’s a great football player – that when the ball’s in his hands, good things happen. He can separate, he can line up anywhere on the formation. (WR) Cooper (Kupp) is very similar. We’re just not giving him carries from the dot and from the offset gun, but he’s part of our blocking surfaces. He does so many different things. I think you’re talking about two well-deserved first-team All-Pro players, two guys that have been instrumental in getting their teams to where they’re at. And I got tremendous respect for Deebo and I’m so appreciative to have been able to work with a player like Cooper Kupp.”

(On any injury updates)…“We were kind of (doing) a mental walkthrough today, but (OL Joe) Noteboom did not participate with his peck that I mentioned to you guys the other day. (DL) Greg Gaines with his toe – he should be okay though, it’s just kind of being smart with him. And then (WR) Van Jefferson – being smart with his knee, but he should be okay. And then (RB) Buddy Howell, (S) Taylor Rapp and (OL) Andrew Whitworth were limited.”

(On if he expects OL/Andrew Whitworth to stay on track for Sunday)…“I would. Yes.”

Photo Courtesy, Los Angeles Rams

(On if he expects S/Taylor Rapp to practice fully this week thus being able to clear that final step in the protocol)…“With that type of situation, we’re just taking that a day at a time right now.”

(On if implementing the “Mamba” periods have been effective as far as helping his team)…“It actually started when he passed. There’s so many players and coaches that just admired the way that he carried himself and what he was as a competitor. (I) actually, kind of talked about it with (Chargers Head Coach Brandon) Staley – when he was here – and (I) think implementing those competitive periods where things get ramped up a little bit where you just pick and choose your spots. Once you get later on in the year, you can’t go full speed all the time. But when you do get a chance to kind of sharpen one another, we felt like that was a good opportunity. And we do those ‘Mamba’ periods throughout the course of training camp and earlier on and then we have one a week. It’s a good way to kind of just ramp up the competitiveness and heightened sense of urgency and awareness that we’re looking for on Thursdays – which usually ends up being our heaviest work day of the week.”

(On if there has been an increase in special teams’ preparations this week given how important they are in the playoffs)
“I think our special teams units have played really well each of the last handful of weeks. And I think they’ve been instrumental in a lot of the good outcomes that we’ve had. (WR) Brandon Powell’s big return ends up setting us up to go up 27-3 in that game the other day. (K) Matt Gay ends up responding and knocking the game winner in. I thought our kickoff coverage was outstanding. And then that punt return unit has done a nice job when we’ve gotten our opportunities. And I also love the way that both (WR) Ben Skowronek and (DB) Grant Haley did a great job as gunners on our punt operation, that was instrumental. In Green Bay’s win the other day where you saw they end up getting the block punt for a touchdown. A lot of other plays, but (49ers Special Teams Coordinator) Richard Hightower does a tremendous job. (I’ve) known him for a long time. And it’s going to be two good units going at it with (Special Teams Coordinator) Joe D (DeCamillis) and (Special Teams Assistant Dwayne) Stukes leading the way for us.”

(On if 49ers Head Coach Kyle Shanahan is in his head at all in terms of trying to get past Shanahan’s team)
…“No. What I do have is respect for these guys. They’ve done a great job. You look at it, you got to play well in that three-and-a-half-hour window that we’re allotted. You look at the last time that we played them, (we) didn’t finish the game. This is a really good football team. We have a lot of respect for them. We’re competing and preparing to the best of our ability to go out and see if we can advance. But this is a really good team. (49ers Head Coach) Kyle (Shanahan) is an excellent coach. They (have) great players, great coaches, good schemes. It’s why they’re in the NFC Championship.”

Photo Courtesy, Los Angeles Rams

(On if he ever goes into a game as the offensive play caller anticipating that they are going to see some crazy or special schemes to control WR/Cooper Kupp given his success this season and against the 49ers)
…“I think it’s kind of situationally driven dependent upon is it a known pass situation? Is it not? There’s different instances where that could come up, but that’s why you’ve got five eligibles, the quarterback’s got to do a good job – (QB) Matthew (Stafford) – being able to recognize the coverage and get the ball where the coverage dictates. And sometimes, Cooper’s drawn coverage. Sometimes he gets some matchups that we want, but whether it’s (WR) Odell (Beckham Jr.), Van from the receiver position or (TE Tyler) Higbee or some of our backs, I think Matthew’s done a good job of being able to spread it around and getting the ball where the coverage dictates.”

(On if he’s seen DL /Aaron Donald’s motivation to get back to the Super Bowl and if he’s noticed if Donald has added anything to his game to help achieve that goal)…“I think when he’s as competitive as he is, he’s always pushing the of limits. Nobody’s harder, nobody has higher expectations than (DL) Aaron (Donald) does of himself. And so, to say that he’s motivated to do everything in his power to try to help lead this team to a championship, that’s been consistent really from the very first time I got here. And then when you get a taste of it and you’re that close, I think that continues to increase the urgency. The awareness of, what does it look like to put yourself in a position? I think he knows what a great challenge it is. You got to take it one step at a time, but he’s always adding little tools and things to his game. He’s very coachable. He’s got incredible football character. His work ethic is second to none. And (his) ability is so special. And so, Aaron is a guy, like many of our players, where you say you’re working so hard because you want to see these guys succeed and you want to do everything in your power – as a coach – to try to be able to put them in good positions, make good decisions to help those guys have that success. That’s why you get into coaching in the first place – to work with guys like him and be a small part of trying to achieve some of the goals that you’re talking about.”

Photo Credit: Rico Cabrera, Sr./East L.A. Sports Scene

(On what makes Kupp valuable)…“Obviously the production kind of speaks for itself, but I think the crunch time (inaudible). I think it’s the way he competes without the ball. I think one of the things that you really see is he’s a great leader that brings people with him. I think the best thing that you can say about really special people is they make everyone around them better. And Cooper does that. He makes the receivers he’s around better. He’s so conscientious. He really approaches the game where he wants to know it from an all 22 perspective. That’s why you see him play so decisive and confident. And he’s got tremendous confidence in himself, in his preparation. Then you’ve seen the production match it, but it’s all the things that he does with the ball – but also without it. Every single snap he’s doing something that’s instrumental to the outcome of the success of the play for us offensively.”

(On if he looks at the games the 49ers have lost throughout the season or does he see the 49ers as a completely different team than they were at the beginning/middle of the regular season)…“I think as the season goes, they’re playing their best ball right now. They’ve done a great job. There’s always little things that you look at in each of these games and you say, ‘Okay, what’s the formula? What’s the recipe for success?’ And in a lot of instances, it’s not necessarily rocket science, it’s being able to execute, stay efficient on early downs, take care of the football, take it away defensively and get it back for the offense, being able to convert on third downs and in the red area. These guys are a great football team. I think they’re playing really well. You certainly look at those things, but you also understand that they’re peaking at the right time and they’re playing really good football – which has been illustrated the last handful of weeks.”

(On what similarities and differences he appreciates most between QB/Matthew Stafford and 49ers QB/ Jimmy Garoppolo)…“I think they’re both great natural throwers of the football. I think they have the ability to speed it up, speed up their release when they see things. They play with a good timing and rhythm. (I) think there’s a mastery and understanding of the systems that they’re operating with. (49ers QB) Jimmy (Garoppolo) has been in that system for a handful full years, but I can even remember the first year that he got there. Kyle did a great job getting him up to speed quickly where they end up winning a handful of games to finish out the season. And Matthew’s done a great job in the year that we’ve been together being able to kind of elevate everyone around him. So, two tough guys as well. I think you see both of those guys stand in the pocket and not flinch when the rush is coming free. Both great competitors – which is why their teams are in this position.”

(On if he sees a similarity or difference in how they handle that balance between what seems to be their natural aggressiveness and the need to play it safe at times)…“I don’t know. I can’t really speak for Jimmy, but I just know as a competitor, he seems like he’s a fearless competitor. It seems like his teammates love him. He has a nice, authentic way about himself – just watching from afar. And I know I feel the same about Matthew.”

Photo Courtesy, Los Angeles Rams

(On when he looks at the games where the team has lost after having a big lead, if it’s as simple as saying it’s turnovers or efficiency or would he do something differently play calling wise if the team is fortunate to have a two-touchdown lead on Sunday)…“I think you always try to learn from those different situations – especially when you’re responsible for some of the decision making and some of the things that we’re trying to do as you’re operating, particularly whether it’s offense, defense or special teams wise. I think the Niners game was a little bit different than the other day. I thought we had some uncharacteristic errors where we’re trying to kind of – (OLB) Von (Miller) ends up getting the sack-fumble thinking we’re going to be aggressive. We have an error (on the) snap where we turn it over right on the very next play. We uncharacteristically put the ball on the ground three times with guys that have had great ball security whereas the Niners game, (we) probably got a little bit too conservative, some different things like that. But you always learn. I’ll never claim to make all the perfect decisions, but I think the biggest thing that you’ve heard me say that we’ve talked about before is, is the intent right? And not just exclusively a result of what the outcome is, but was the process in alignment with the thinking? In a lot of instances, I feel like some of the stuff the other day was. We ended up having to go down to the wire and our guys delivered in a big way. But the Niners game felt a little bit different than the other day in terms of some of the thought processes behind trying to close that game out.”

(On if he still has top confidence in RB/Cam Akers)“No question. I think sometimes if you’ve got the right kind of guys like I have no doubt in my mind (RB) Cam (Akers) is, it can just kind of continue to lock you back in. You can be able to learn a lesson, but not the hard way where we’re not playing anymore.”

(On what kind of advantages versus challenges does a situation where you’re playing the same team three times in a season present)…“I agree. I think it’s about execution. I think the key things that are always instrumental in the outcomes of games are going to be vital – tackling well, trying to break tackles, efficiency on early downs, staying connected on blocks, being able to finish those turnovers and then the situational football. Whether you’re talking about red zone, third downs, two-minute end of the half (and) end of the game – those are the things it’s going to be about. Good, clean, sharp execution. And I agree. I think both teams are very familiar. There’s good schemes, there’s great players. It’s why we’re in this position. Let’s go roll it out and see who plays the best in that three-and-a-half-hour window and gives themselves the chance to advance.”

(On if he’s seen OLB/Von Miller see him take his post-season play to another level and has the trade for Miller enhanced the Rams’ pass rush overall)…“He’s been great. I’ve been so impressed with him. It’s hard to say whether he’s ramped it up or (that’s just him). When we got him, he was kind of coming off that ankle injury, just getting more comfortable and familiar with everything that we’re asking. But there’s so many subtleties and nuances to his game that make him special. I think he’s a great leader too. He’s influenced so many guys in the right way with consistent, positive demeanor, but it’s still real and authentic. He’s been a guy that’s been a part of a run where he ends up being a Super Bowl MVP. And so, he is bringing people with him. I think he’s happy here. And there’s no doubt in my mind that he has definitely just really increased the overall production of our defense. He’s played tremendous these last handful of weeks.”


{QB Matthew Stafford}

Photo Courtesy, Los Angeles Rams

(On what he is feeling mentally as he’s approaching his first Championship matchup)…“Obviously, (I’m) excited about the opportunity, but (I’m) going about it kind of as a normal week. It’s (the) first normal week we’ve had in a little bit. Obviously playing the first playoff game on a Monday, the second one on a short week. So, this one just feels like a normal week during the season. Obviously, (there’s) a lot at stake. We know that. (We’re) playing a really good opponent that’s playing as good of football as anybody in the NFL right now. So, it’ll be a big challenge for us, but we’re excited about the opportunity.”

(On his approach to improving ball security and avoiding negative yards, so the Niners can’t take advantage of their mistakes like in the last matchup)
…“I mean, that’s kind of what the 49ers – as a defense -kind of feed off of. They have a very disruptive rush. (They) do a great job on the back end of converting when they get their hands on the football. So, we got to make sure that we are cognizant of that, trying to make sure that we’re taking care of the football while still being aggressive and taking our chances and our shots when we get those. It’s a defense that the last few weeks has been really tough to move the ball against. So, we’ll have our work cut out for us.”

(On if he leans on OL/Andrew Whitworth in terms of his experience in this type of moment)…“I haven’t talked to him about it yet. I feel like the best thing for all of us to do is just go out there and attack it like we would every single week with a heightened sense of urgency and a bunch of enjoyment at the same time. Like this is an unbelievable opportunity. It’s a whole lot of fun to be doing what we’re doing playing football when we’re one of the last four teams left. So, I’m sure (OL/Andrew Whitworth) ‘Whit’ – throughout the week – will say what he wants to say to the guys and we’ll all soak it up, knowing his experience and his passion for the game.”

(On WR/Cooper Kupp’s ascent to prominence)…“I think this year he’s gotten better and then opportunities this year. There were a lot of opportunities with the ball in the air in his area. He made those great plays and obviously (he) was great after the catch. (He) did all that kind of stuff. I think his value to our team is not only in the passing game. He’s a great weapon for us in the run game as well, whether we’re handing it to him or he’s blocking for our guys. (He) just does everything right. I think the thing that probably got him there is all the work that he puts into it and I’m glad it’s paying off for him.”

Photo-Graphic Courtesy, Los Angeles Rams

(On if there’s any mental block that he thinks they have to get over to play their best against the Niners)
…“No, we just got to go out there and play good football. We had our chances last time we played ’em to win the game – whether it was a four-minute situation for us on offense, a two-minute situation on defense, and then we still had a shot in overtime as well. So, it’s a really good football team. It’s two really good football teams going after each other (that are) seeing each other twice this year. (We’re) going to see each other for a third time. Not a bunch of secrets, just who can step up to the plate and make the plays when we need to make them.”

(On how much playing close games at the end of the season helped when pulling out a win against Tampa Bay in the last 42 seconds)…“There’s a lot of belief in our team, a lot of belief in the guys in that locker room. When we step on the field, no matter what the situation is, we’re going to have a chance to go out there and get the thing done. Obviously, I thought we played better than the score showed, especially in that first half. Second half, we kind of let them back in the game with some untimely errors. But (I) was proud the way we responded. Nobody flinched. We just stepped up to the plate. The next time we got the opportunity to go make the play and made that play and then (we) were able to win it. But that comes through experience both individually and collectively, as a group, and as a unit. So, everybody just kind of drew on their experiences and went out there and made it happen.”

(On if he knows 49ers QB/Jimmy Garoppolo personally and what he admires/respects about his game)…“I don’t know him other than just saying hey to him after games. But I definitely have a ton of respect for how he plays the game and what he’s been through. He is the guy that’s battled through, obviously, playing through an injury, a couple injuries at the moment. But he dominates the middle part of the field. I mean, that guy is as good as it comes, when it comes to throwing into tight windows and getting his guy’s opportunities in there to catch and run. So, (49ers QB) Jimmy’s (Garoppolo) playing at a really high level. He’s helping their offense be as efficient and as explosive as they are. He’s running the show over there and he’s gotten them to this point. So, (I’m) happy for his success.”

(On if he relates to having to decide when to play it safe and when to take risks)…“Yeah, it’s every quarterback in the NFL. I mean at some point – either during a play, during a game, during a drive – you’re having to make that decision. Lots of times it’s multiple times a game. So, I think he does it at a really high level as all the four quarterbacks still left do. I mean, that’s just the name of the game. To make those decisions at a high clip is what helps get your team to these points from an offensive standpoint. But yeah, (it) gives him a bunch of firepower when he is out there when he is out there throwing it around.”

Photo-Graphic Courtesy, Los Angeles Rams

(On how they are able to avoid the 49ers rush and play their own style of football successfully)…“The biggest thing is execution. There aren’t a ton of varied looks. They do a great job stunting their defensive line and moving guys after the snap. But as far as what you see as the quarterback before the snap, there are some intricacies, but a lot of it is pretty straightforward. They are going to let their guys go out there and play fast. That’s their M-O. Their guys attack up front. They attack on the back end. (They) do a great job against the run and have done a great job this season keeping the pass game in front of them as well. So it’s about execution for us, guys doing the right thing play in and play out, and when we’re getting the opportunities to hit big plays, we have to hit them.”

(On what it is like to be chased by DL/Aaron Donald and how his appreciation of him has evolved)…“As far as being chased by him, that usually ends pretty quickly at least for me. I don’t get too far away from him. He’s a talented guy obviously, really explosive, and can still move. And as far as watching him up close and personal, it’s been pretty unbelievable to be honest. Practicing against him every single day and really back in training camp watching him dominate practice if he got the opportunity to, was incredible. What he does for our defense, he’s a tone-setter. He’s a guy that shows up every single day. We all know what we’re going to get out of (DL) Aaron (Donald) every single day. That just shows up on Sundays too. When the moment is big and we need a big play, he is in the backfield causing trouble and helping our defense out. So, it’s been awesome to play with him. It sure beats playing against him.”

(On if the 49ers front four poses a different challenge)…“Definitely. One less guy coming forward means there’s another guy in coverage. They do a nice job of playing their assignments on the back end, keeping everything in front of them, making it difficult on an offense, trying to make you drive the field, while still creating pressure with four. It doesn’t matter who they’re cycling in there on the defensive line, they’re all playing with their ears pinned back and coming after the quarterback and stopping the run along the way. So, it’s a challenge for us. A challenge for us both in the run game and in the pass game, and is something that – if you look at the playoffs – has showed up. They’ve done a great job. They did a great job against Dallas. (They) did a great job against Green Bay. It will be a big challenge for us as well.”

(On if it is hard to have the first normal week in a while come in the NFC Championship week with friends and family all wishing congrats)…“Yeah, I have that. Buddies saying good luck and all that kind of stuff. But when I’m in between these walls, all I care about is what we’re trying to do and what we’re trying to achieve. So, in that respect it is a normal week for me. I am just trying to go about my business, prepare to play at a high level, and help our team win.”

(On what he needs to do in order to execute against their front)…“I’m just trying to execute each play – whether it’s a pass play, a run play, get us into the right run play, get us into the right pass play, go through my reads if it’s a pass play, and make sure that I’m delivering the ball to who the defense is allowing me to deliver it to, and let our guys go work. In the run game, just trying to make sure that I’m getting us into the right run play and doing everything I can to make sure we communicate, and we’re on the same page, go out there and execute. That’s all you can do is go out there and everybody be on the same page, communicate well, and play at a high level.”

(On what it will be like to be home this week and potentially home for the Super Bowl)…“I hope so. It’d be awesome, but to be honest with you we’re excited to play in front of our home fans. There’s no question about that. I’m excited about this opportunity. I couldn’t care less where we were playing, as long as we got this (opportunity). It just so happens that we’re getting to do it at home, which is amazing. We’ll take it one game at a time and go from there. But it is nice to not have to hop on an airplane and go travel somewhere. Then, obviously going to have a big contingent of Rams fans there. That should be a lot of fun.”

(On his theory of why he never made it this far with the Detroit Lions)…“I haven’t thought too much about it to be honest with you. I’m just trying to make sure that I’m in the present, being kind of where my feet are planted, and taking care of business here. I had a great time, a great run there. I loved playing there for 12 years, but I’m in this place now and enjoying the opportunity to be a part of this team and see where we can take it. So, that’s kind of where I’m at the moment.”        –RAMS–

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