The Los Angeles Rams backed into the NFC West division title despite blowing a big first-half lead in another loss to the San Francisco 49ers. After reflection, coach Sean McVay chooses to see the defeat as meaningless in the grand scheme of L.A.'s ultimate goal.
"You can always draw on previous experiences going into the playoffs," McVay said, via the official team transcript. "Winning or losing really hasn't been much of a factor on how teams do dependent upon whichever lens you want to look at it through. So, we're going to choose to say it doesn't mean s---."
There are examples of teams heading into the postseason hot, like last year's Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and continuing that streak. And in other years, teams have had a blip in the final game and righted the ship in the postseason, perhaps most famously the 2007 New York Giants.
Leading 17-0 with under seven minutes remaining in the first half, Sunday marked the largest blown lead by L.A. in the Sean McVay era (since 2017), and the largest for the Rams since a 21-point collapse against Dallas in 2014. McVay had been 45-0 when leading at halftime entering Week 18, the second-longest such win streak in NFL history (including playoffs) -- Curly Lambeau earned 49 straight wins with Green Bay from 1926-33.
It was a bad loss but doesn't wipe out the previous five-game win streak that put the Rams in a position to host a postseason game.
Washing the bitterness out of their mouths following the collapse is the key for McVay.
"That we got a chance to respond and this group has shown that they can respond," the coach said when asked what he's looking forward to in the postseason. "Sure, you want to play every game to be able to win, but I think the fortunate thing and the 'half glass full' approach that we'll take is that (we) still found a way to win the division by winning 12 of your 17 games. Guys came ready to go. They battled. Just didn't make enough plays. And there were some things that you certainly want to do as a coach to help try to facilitate finding a way to get that done. But I'm just grateful for the opportunity that we have to continue to play and that's what gives me confidence."
The Rams host the Arizona Cardinals on Monday night at Sofi Stadium. McVay's squad might have stubbed its toe in the season finale, but the Cards have tumbled down the stretch, losing four of their past five games, including Week 13 to the Rams. The teams split the season series in 2021.