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Los Angeles Rams vs. New England Patriots

New England Patriots Keys to Victory

Super Bowl LIII will mark the New England Patriots’ ninth Super Bowl appearance since 2001.  The Patriots will battle the upstart Los Angeles Rams in a rematch of Super Bowl XXXVI. That very season, Tom Brady began his storied ascent towards football immortality.  Eighteen years later, Brady is now seeking his sixth Lombardi Trophy and third in the last five seasons. The Los Angeles Rams reached Atlanta under extremely controversial circumstances.  In the NFC Championship round, the Rams defeated the New Orleans Saints after they were beneficiaries of arguably the worst blown call in the entire history of the league.

Tale of the Tape

Call it “Patriot fatigue” or not, there seems to be very little belief among observers that the Rams can actually win this game.  Most seem resigned to the fact that Patriots will overwhelm a young, inexperienced Rams squad that doesn’t deserve to be in this position.  Still, the Rams are a worthy adversary with a exceptional coaching staff.  They have a number of talented skill-players in all phases, that if utilized properly, pose a serious threat to topple the Patriot regime.  If the New England Patriots are going to bring a record sixth Super Bowl trophy back home to Foxborough, they must execute effectively in the following areas:

Protecting Brady’s Pocket

To begin, the Patriots offensive line must continue to play at a high level and neutralize a loaded Rams defensive line.  This is a front four unit that boasts the likes of Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh. Rams Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips will employ a scheme that applies constant pressure to the Patriots O-line in hopes of disrupting Tom Brady’s rhythm.  In essence, the Rams defense will be following a blueprint laid by the New York Giants during their Super Bowl victories over New England in both 2007 and 2012. Some argue a dominant defensive line is the Patriots one true kryptonite, when in reality it’s a quality that stymies teams of every caliber.  Nevertheless, the Patriots are in severe danger of losing if they are unable to protect their quarterback.

Establishing the Ground Game  

Furthermore, the Patriots will win this game game if they are able to run the football efficiently like they have the entire month of January.  Sony Michel has been an absolute revelation for this football team. The rookie halfback has racked up 242 yards with five touchdowns this postseason. His strong play has opened up the entire field for Tom Brady and has allowed his receivers to gain consistent separation downfield.  The Rams have quietly been very successful in stopping the run this postseason. Their D-line completely shut down standout backs Ezekiel Elliott and Alvin Kamara in successive weeks. However, this is a defense that allowed the most yards per rush attempt over the regular season (5.1 YPA).  It is in New England’s best interests to exploit a suspect rush protection by establishing an immediate rush presence behind Michel, James White and Rex Burkhead.

Avoiding Another Sluggish Start

Even though crowd noise is rarely a factor in the most important football game of the season, momentum is still a legitimate phenomenon that swings the trajectory.  Another key for the New England Patriots will be forcing getting out to an early lead that puts pressure on the Kansas City Chiefs last Sunday. To do so, New England must leave the first quarter with points, a task that has not come easy in past attempts.  The Patriots have somehow only produced a staggering three points in their eight trips to the Super Bowl. Early on, expect to see aggressive play-calling from Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels in an proactive attempt to stop this worrisome trend.

Defensive Efficiency on First Downs

Lastly, the Patriots must prioritize stopping the versatile Rams offense on first downs.  Los Angeles has relied on first down production all season as evident by the statistics. During the regular season, Los Angeles averaged 6.8 yards on first down.  They also averaged a league-best 5.5 yards per carry on first-and-10 alone. This ability to gain chunk yardage on first down has minimized third-and-longs which is ideal for a rookie quarterback still gaining confidence.  It will be fascinating to monitor the amount of touches distributed to Todd Gurley and the suddenly en-vogue veteran C.J. Anderson. The Patriots are lauded for being such an outstanding situational football team and both head coaches will give their teams the best chance to win.   

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