Rams head coach Sean McVay and general manger Les Snead both have ties to Atlanta and were elated about advancing to Super Bowl LIII, which will be played Feb. 3 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
McVay is a Marist School graduate. Snead was a longtime executive with the Falcons before landing the Rams position.
The Rams prevailed over the Saints, the Falcons’ hated rivals, 26-23 in the NFC Championship game on Sunday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
“Growing up in Atlanta, it’s awesome,” McVay said. “My parents are probably a little bit more excited than I am. This is about our football team. Excited about it.”
McVay was also at the last Super Bowl played in Atlanta.
“It’s kind of ironic that the only Super Bowl that I’ve been to as a fan was the last time the Rams played the Titans,” McVay said. “I was at that game. My Grandpa, when he was still involved in the NFL, he got me tickets for my birthday.”
He saw a thriller as the Rams prevailed over the Titans in Super Bowl XXXIV when Rams linebacker Mike Jones stopped Titans receiver Kevin Dyson just short of the goal line to preserve the win.
The play would go down in Super Bowl lore as “The Tackle.”
“Now, we’ll get a chance to go back,” McVay said. “There are a lot of people that a very special to the McVay family (in Atlanta). This is about the Rams and whoever we play, we are just excited to continue our season.”
Snead, a native of Eufaula, Alabama, was with the Falcons for 13 seasons. He started as a scout and moved up to director of pro personnel.
He was hired by the Rams to be their general manager in 2012 after the Falcons reached the NFC Championship game.
“We get to go to Atlanta,” Snead said. “I spent a lot of years there. That will be fun to go back there.”
The Rams were eliminated by the Falcons in the wild card round of the playoffs after the 2017 season.
Snead, outside of the Rams locker room in the L.A. Coliseum that night, was seething after the game. Snead said he never wanted to have that feeling of losing a playoff game again.
“I never allowed myself to think about that, but I can tell you that I don’t know if there is a more fitting place for me to go back to from Arthur (Blank) to Thomas (Dimitroff) to (Falcons president) Rich McKay, plenty of people mentored me to get here,” Snead said. “So, I’m looking forward to going there.”
Snead will know his way around the Falcons’ facilities, where the Rams will practice.
The road to Atlanta was bumpy as the Rams went down 13-0. They needed a fake punt called by McVay to get them moving.
“Really, it goes back to the confidence in the players,” McVay said. “We needed a little momentum. We were going to take it. … We ended up getting some points and that gave us a little bit of life to get us going.”
Snead backed the call.
“One of his messages is ‘don’t fear failure,’ ” Snead said. “We’re coming here to win.”
Rams quarterback Jared Goff, who Snead took No. 1 over in the 2016 NFL Draft, posted his first playoff win.
“It is in these chapters that you’ll be remembered,” Snead said. “I know this about Jared and there were a lot of people who helped him today. He can weather bad plays. He can weather a tipped ball for an interception. He’s always been able to do that.”
After that loss to the Falcons, the Rams re-tooled their defense by trading away several key players and adding cornerbacks Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. They added defensive end Dante Fowler at the trading deadline and he had the key hit on Saints quarterback Drew Brees in overtime.
“Those moves were to help us continue contending and move on in the tournament and win games like this,” Snead said.
Another shrewd move was adding running back C.J. Anderson, who had been out of the league, late in the season. He carried most of the rushing load as Todd Gurley struggled against the Saints.
“That’s why this is a heck of a product that people love to watch,” Snead said. “The C.J. Andersons of the world, of not being in the league and now, wow, he’s in the Super Bowl.”