Super Bowl LIII: LA Rams should’ve used former Vols RB John Kelly

ATLANTA, GA - FEBRUARY 03: John Kelly #42 of the Los Angeles Rams runs with the ball prior the Super Bowl LIII at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on February 3, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - FEBRUARY 03: John Kelly #42 of the Los Angeles Rams runs with the ball prior the Super Bowl LIII at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on February 3, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /
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Sean McVay should’ve used former Tennessee Volunteers running back John Kelly in the Los Angeles Rams’ 13-3 Super Bowl loss to the New England Patriots.

Cordarrelle Patterson makes it the 10th straight year that a former Tennessee football player is going home with a Super Bowl championship. But the New England Patriots wide receiver was the only former Vol to play in this game despite another one being on the Los Angeles Rams.

With Todd Gurley hurt in December, the Rams signed C.J. Anderson and used former Vol John Kelly, whom they drafted in 2018. Kelly was a serviceable backup, running for 70 yards over two weeks to help the Rams win both games and clinch a first-round bye in the NFL Playoffs.

Then came this Super Bowl. Gurley was clearly more hurt than any of us expected. Sure, he still had a reception and 35 rushing yards. But overall, he couldn’t do anymore than the rest of the offense with Jared Goff playing so poorly.

Anderson wasn’t much better, though, getting 22 rushing yards. So what could have been the answer? Well, Sean McVay, the offensive genius whom Bill Belichick had completely figured out, could have thrown in John Kelly.

That would have completely thrown everybody off. Belichick is all about preparation (even if he has to videotape the other team’s signals ahead of time), and Kelly is a very good big-game performer when things get tough.

Even in defensive struggles, Kelly specifically has a history of stepping up. Remember when the Vols faced the Florida Gators in the game Butch Jones and Larry Scott choked away in 2017? Kelly single-handedly brought the Vols back in that game, and they clearly lost because Jones and Scott weren’t smart enough to give him the ball every play.

In this game, McVay needed some spark offensively. We have enough evidence to see that Kelly can provide that spark, if even for a few plays on one drive. The guy proved himself to be a solid pass-catcher as well as a runner, so he could even bring more versatility than Anderson in certain ways if Gurley is hurt.

Look, Gurley and Anderson both deserve more carries than Kelly overall. And Kelly would never have been a Super Bowl MVP or even considered for his performance. But use of him could have mixed things up just enough.

This is a hallmark of Kelly throughout his career, though. He has always been an overlooked player. Coming out of high school, Kelly was a three-star recruit who fell out of the sky into Jones’s lap. Then he had to sit behind Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara his first two years.

But in 2016, when Hurd left the team and Kamara was banged up, Kelly got his chance to shine and helped the Vols set offensive records down the stretch of the season. He was the only bright spot for a horrendously bad offense in 2017.

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After what happened Sunday, don’t you think McVay could have given the guy a few touches? Nothing else was working, and Kelly could have given this team just enough of a spark. Instead, McVay stuck with what was working. And that’s why Patterson, with 21 yards from scrimmage plus a 38-yard kickoff return, is the former Vol going home with a Super Bowl ring this year.