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Sean McVay Addresses Rams’ Super Bowl ‘Hangover’

Just nine months ago, the Los Angeles Rams were on top of the world as confetti reigned down inside SoFi Stadium following Super Bowl LVI. Eight games into their title defense, things couldn't be any different - and the idea of a potential "hangover" is gaining traction by the week.

What a difference a year makes.

One season ago, the Los Angeles Rams held a 7-1 record through eight games, riding high with an explosive offense spearheaded by quarterback Matthew Stafford.

Even with a winless November, Los Angeles finished the regular season at 12-5 before running the table in the playoffs en route to its second Super Bowl title.

Back to the present, the Rams have lost four of their last five games and sit at just 3-5, matching last season's loss total ... as the schedule reaches the halfway point.

The three teams Los Angeles has defeated - the Atlanta Falcons, Arizona Cardinals and Carolina Panthers - have a combined record of 9-18, with the latter two bringing up the rear in their respective divisions.

Rams coach Sean McVay established a playoff-caliber standard in his first season at the helm, and his team has made the postseason in four of the five years since he arrived.

And yet, with many of the instrumental figures from last year's Super Bowl run back in the mix, the results just aren't there. The dreaded "hangover" term has been tossed around more and more by the game, and morale appears down across the locker room - look no further than star cornerback Jalen Ramsey's rant after Sunday's 16-13 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Nevertheless, the 36-year-old McVay doesn't think his team is suffering from a hangover - yet.

“I think it's probably more the (day-to-day issues)," said McVay. "But what I would say is that what you're not naïve to is when you do well, the amount of time and preparation that teams do to make things that were simpler the previous year more difficult because they're more familiar based on the studies in the offseason (and) things that they've done."

Perhaps the biggest factor behind Los Angeles' struggles is injuries. The offensive line has been a rotating door all season, to the extent where right tackle Rob Havenstein was the lone projected starter still available in the second half of the team's Week 6 victory over the Carolina Panthers.

Stafford battled through elbow concerns in the preseason, while last year's second-leading receiver Van Jefferson didn't make his season debut until Week 8 and is still searching for his catch. Further, running back Cam Akers was the subject of trade rumors amid an extended absence from the team and didn't return until the Tampa Bay game.

As a result, the Rams offense has struggled immensely, ranking 31st in total yards and 29th points. It's a situation that McVay, now in his sixth year, hasn't yet experienced, and is attempting to navigate while getting the best shot of every team on the schedule.

"I can just speak on the experiences that I've had here, this is kind of unprecedented in terms of the amount of different guys that we've played with that we don't really have a comfort and a feel for," McVay said. "I don't want to say a comfort and a feel, but basically a nuanced understanding and experience accumulated over the course of time with them."

Teams play to win championships. Being crowned Super Bowl champions is an honor that only one team can claim each season, and it's a 20-plus game dogfight for the squad that gets it done.

Considering the difficulties it takes to get to the Super Bowl and the privilege it is to play in, very rarely are the adverse effects of making it that far discussed, but McVay did exactly that when expanding on his team's slow first half.

"There's a lot of challenges when you finish up (the season) that late," McVay began. "You have the amount of injuries and corrective surgeries that we did have with guys, that some of them are still working back to it and some of them are still having some issues that they're not quite themselves from some of the toll that 21 games ends up taking on you from the previous season, none of which is an excuse."

Los Angeles' counterpart in Super Bowl LVI, the Cincinnati Bengals, faced similar "hangover" questions after a slow start, but have overcome it and now stand at 5-4 after winning three of their last four.

But the Rams can't afford to look elsewhere. With the bye week in the rearview mirror, L.A. will play nine consecutive weeks, the pressure mounting with each passing game.

Only 17 of the previous 55 Super Bowl champions failed to make the playoffs the year after, and after setting several records through his first five years in charge, McVay is searching for ways to help his team avoid being No. 18.

Despite the underachieving first half, the Rams have nine games to flip the script - but naturally, McVay is focused on correcting the day-to-day issues that have led to this point and is keeping his feet in the present.

"We're right here right now and we've got to be able to do better," said McVay.

"Here" is a disappointing 3-5 record, but another chance to "do better" is quickly approaching, with Los Angeles hosting the similarly underwhelming Cardinals at SoFi Stadium this Sunday.

Should the Rams lose, they'll fall to last place in the NFC West and the hangover talks will only continue to get louder and louder - but in the meantime, McVay's focused on getting his team back to something they've experienced so many times over the last several years: the sweet taste of victory.

You can follow Daniel Flick on Twitter at @DFlickDraft

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