Patriots, Rams Square Off in Super Bowl 53
Like the past Super Bowls, the 53rd edition of the National Football League’s Championship Game features 2 teams from opposite directions: You have the New England Patriots, who’ve become a regular in these games, as they’re now in their 3rd consecutive game, and NFL-record 10th overall, while the Los Angeles Rams are in their first Super Bowl since they were the St. Louis Rams in 2001, when they lost to these same Patriots. The last time they made the Super Bowl as the LA Rams?? 1979 when they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
This year’s game will be played at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the new home of the Atlanta Falcons, Sunday February 3rd with the Rams as the designated ‘home team.’
Many felt like this year’s Patriots team was going to be the one that signified the end of their dynasty. QB Tom Brady is 41-years old, TE Rob Gronkowski seemed broken down with injuries and their defense had been less than stellar, and then suffered a rare feat: A loss to the Steelers, a team that they’ve owned since their dynasty began. But when the smoke cleared in the American Football Conference, there were those Patriots at the #2 seed and once again (like it or not) they’re back in the Super Bowl.
In 2018, the Patriots weren’t always great, but they were great when they had to be. They turned it on in the second half of the season and proved that the loss to the Steelers wasn’t a sign of the end, but just another loss on the schedule, especially since the Steelers didn’t even make the playoffs. It was expected that the Houston Texans would be greater than the Patriots in the Divisional Round, (they weren’t) and then it was assumed that the top-seeded KC Chiefs would send the Patriots home in the AFC Championship Game (they didn’t) just the same-old song: Head Coach Bill Belichick finding ways to out-coach their opponents.
Brady (4,355 yards, 29 TD) is hardly showing signs of age, and WR Julian Edelman (74 rec, 850 yards, 6 TD) truly wasn’t affected by his 4-game suspension that began the season. Even in a limited role, Gronkowski 682 yards and had a key reception in the AFC Title game that helped set up the winning score. But they have some weapons at the running game: Sony Michel (931 yards, 6 TD) and James White (425 yards, 5 TD) Teams underestimated these two RBs and got burned.
On defense, DE Tre Flowers had 7.5 sacks (30 as a team) and S Duron Harmon led with 4 interceptions and K Stephen Gostkowski remained consistent with a FG percentage of 84%. This team didn’t have the flashy stats, but here they are, back in the Super Bowl.
Ever since they returned to Los Angeles, the Rams have experienced a revival. After an impressive 11-5 2017 which notched them the NFC West Division Title, the Rams took it up another level, signing DT Ndamukong Suh, to compliment reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Aaron Donald, CB Sam Shields and acquiring WR Brandon Cooks, the Rams proved that they meant business. And then they signed RB CJ Anderson to backup All-Pro Todd Gurley
which proved to be wise as Anderson excelled in the postseason. These moves paved the way to a 13-3 season, good for #1 in the National Football Conference (NFC) They got past reigning Super Bowl Champ Philadelphia in the Divisional Round and the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Title Game in OT.
Goff (4,688 yards, 32 TD) has proven that he can lead this team with his arm and his play- calling. Gurley (1,251, 17 TD) had another stellar season, but was slowed by injury, which paved the way for Anderson who led the team with 167 yards in the postseason. The WR duo of Cooks (1,204 yards), and Robert Woods (1,219 yards) was very effective, but, it’s obvious that the soul of this team is on defense, led by Donald.
The 5th-year All Pro out of Pitt, continues to get better as he set the sack record for Defensive Tackles with 20.5. He’s already won the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year awards, and this year, he would wrap up the NFL MVP award. And with Suh’s 4.5 sacks, the Rams interior line proved to be a nightmare to opposing teams. As a team, they registered 41 sacks. Safety John Johnson III led the team with 4 interceptions, and K Greg Zuerlein proved clutch when he nailed a 57-yarder to lead the Rams to an OT victory in the NFC Championship Game.
If the Patriots win, they will tie the Steelers with the most Super Bowl wins in NFL History (6), if the Rams win, it will be their 2nd in team history since the ‘Greatest Show on Turf’ in 1999.
If the Rams have a chance against the Patriots, it will be like the Eagles did last season: defense and scoring TDs when in the Red Zone. You can never settle for only FG against Tom Brady and Co, because eventually they will find a way to strike back, especially when the score is close. Goff can’t make mistakes, Gurley and Anderson need to effectively run the ball, and Donald and Suh need to go after Brady. The Patriots just need to play the way they’ve done so all postseason: Consistent and clutch. Brady needs to outsmart the Rams defense and Michel and White need to run over the defense. Prediction: 29-24 Rams.
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