Nickell Robey-Coleman backed his words with action, and the Rams cornerback needed only one series in the Super Bowl.
The Patriots drove into Rams territory on their opening drive behind four straight runs. But on second and 7 at the 34-yard line, quarterback Tom Brady dropped back and threw inaccurately to receiver Chris Hogan. Robey-Coleman tipped the pass and linebacker Cory Littleton was there to scoop up the interception.
Two weeks ago, Robey-Coleman said that he saw ways to get Brady “all over the place” and that he “will slowly start to reveal himself." The sixth-year cornerback said much more about the 41-year-old quarterback to Bleacher Report.
“Age has definitely taken a toll. For him to still be doing it, that’s a great compliment for him. But I think that he’s definitely not the same quarterback he was,” Robey-Coleman said. “Movement. Speed. Velocity. Arm strength. He still can sling it, but he’s not slinging it as much."
Robey-Coleman backed off his comments last week, but there was some truth to his criticism. The Patriots got rolling over the last month by staying balanced. Brady did start to play like his old self in the postseason. There were also reports that he was previously dealing with a knee injury.
But Brady got off to a slow start Sunday, tossing his fifth interception in nine Super Bowls. And Robey-Coleman, who made the controversial pass defense that many thought should have been pass interference in the NFC championship against the Saints, was there to pounce.
Brady has talked about the adversity the Patriots had to deal with this season. But the Rams also had to deal with their fair share.
The week before their Week 10 game against the Seattle Seahawks, the massive California wildfires forced many of the players, coaches and other organization personnel to evacuate their homes.
Three days before the Seattle game, 11 people were shot dead in a bar just a few miles from the team’s practice facility.
They were supposed to play the Kansas City Chiefs in Mexico City the following week. But the field was unplayable.
The league moved the game to the Los Angeles Coliseum five days before kickoff. But the Rams already had flown to Colorado Springs, where they were going to practice that week to help them prepare for the high altitude in Mexico City.
They still managed to beat the Seahawks, 36-31, and the Chiefs, 54-51, on the way to a 13-3 regular-season record.
“Because we had been displaced by the fires, we didn’t even have a Friday practice before the Seattle game,’’ Rams center John Sullivan said. “I ended up being evacuated at 3 in the morning. I stayed in a hotel room with my wife, my son, my mother-in-law, my nephew and two dogs.
“Then we had the Mexico City fiasco. So this is an adaptable football team. It’s going to be very difficult to rattle us.’’
Super Bowl LIII was running back C.J. Anderson’s fifth game with the Rams. Signed in mid-December because Todd Gurley was dealing with knee inflammation, he rushed for 299 yards and two touchdowns in the Rams’ final two regular-season games, then 123 yards and two TDs in their first playoff win against the Cowboys.
“C.J. is one of the smartest players I’ve ever played with,’’ Sullivan said. “Whether it’s been taking handoffs and running the ball on zone runs or blitz pickup and protection, he’s been all over it. When he sees something, he just retains the information.
“He came in and has been an amazing fit. He’s incredibly coachable. He communicates really well, so we’ve been able to talk things through. If one play doesn’t fit, we just work it out and roll on to the next one. He’s been a huge addition.’’
Kurt Warner knows a little about the difference between being a starting and backup quarterback. The Hall of Famer had many lives in the NFL, from failed tryout to third-stringer all the way to a Super Bowl-winning starter. So when he was asked about Nick Foles' future, he wondered how the Eagles backup would handle becoming a full-time starter again.
“He’s been able to settle in as a quarterback and grow as a person during this team when he’s been a backup and stepped into the starting role,” Warner said last week. “He hasn’t been in that position with the spotlight on him and all the pressure that now what’s best for Nick Foles? Has he grown to the point where now he feels better about accepting that role?”
Foles got that opportunity with the Rams in 2015, but for various reasons he struggled. His success filling in for Carson Wentz over the last two seasons has given him another chance to become a starter again, but there’s still some uncertainty as to how that will occur. The Eagles could try and trade him (unlikely) or simply pick up the mutual option on his contract (likely), which would compel Foles to buy back his free agency.
Warner said that he’s a big fan of Wentz, even though the last year has been unkind to the 26-year old.
“It’s amazing to me that a little over 12 months ago we have a young quarterback that’s probably our league MVP, that’s tearing it up, everything in Philly is great," Warner said. "They got the right guy at quarterback. He suffers an injury and things kind of go a different direction. Just over 12 months later, we’re talking about how this thing is falling apart in Philly.