In a battle of the coasts, the Los Angeles Rams will take on New England Patriots in Super Bowl LIII. This is what you need to know for the big game.
First of all, let’s move past all the controversy around the teams that are here. Yes, if the officials call pass interference properly then it’s likely that the Saints are playing in the Super Bowl and if Dee Ford would just lineup onsides then the Chiefs would be here. Well, its too late now, and we are getting an epic battle instead. LA vs Boston. McVay vs Belichick. New Guard vs Old Guard.
For the Rams offensively, we will watch the Jared Goff lead an explosive Rams offense trying to continue its dominance. Defensively, the Rams went all-in this year, bringing in Ndamukong Suh, Marcus Peters, and Aqib Talib as hired guns to try and win the Super Bowl this year, so this will determine whether or not those moves fully paid off.
In terms of the Patriots, it is very simple. Tom Brady and Belichick are looking to cement their legacies by winning their sixth Super Bowl. For Brady, it will make him the player with the most Super Bowl rings in history, while Belichick will extend his lead as a head coach. However, it won’t be easy against a talented Rams team.
There are really three key matchups to understand when looking at this game. Sean McVay vs Bill Belichick, the Patriots offensive pace vs the Rams defense, and the Patriots offensive line vs the Rams defensive line.
Sean McVay vs Bill Belichick
Sean McVay is all the rage right now. It felt as though anybody with any connection to him was able to get a head coaching interview. Each team wants a piece of his coaching tree. Ever since he took Jeff Fisher’s 4-12 Rams and went 11-5 the next year while simultaneously finding Jared Goff’s quarterback talent, he’s been touted as the best. Now, he’s the youngest head coach to ever take a team to the Super Bowl.
Meanwhile, he is facing off against Bill Belichick who as a head coach was won 5 Super Bowls. Belichick has been declared by many as the greatest coach ever. The best part about this matchup is that Belichick was once a defensive coordinator and is a known defensive genius, while McVay is the offensive guru of the century. The experience of each coach is reflective of their team, and that causes valid questions as to whether or not the moment will get too big for the Rams.
Both coaches have their team in the top-5 in turnover differential and have assistants that look to have lined up head coaching jobs for next season. Now, most people view McVay as younger and more aggressive while Belichick has a reputation for doing things in a more old-school manner. However, the Rams attempt to go for it on fourth down 14% of the time which is not much higher than the Patriots 12%, so this isn’t a major difference.
A lot of it will come down to the schemes, and how they prepare their teams for each other with two weeks to get ready. Belichick is well-known for developing completely new game plans for each team, but one thing remains constant, he will not allow the other team’s best receiver to beat him. So, that means he will likely do what it takes to quell the Brandin Cooks revenge tour. Sean McVay will have to heavily involve Robert Woods which is normal but should find ways to utilize Josh Reynolds and the tight ends more on Sunday.
We will have to wait and see how the styles of play change for the Super Bowl.
Patriots Offensive Pace vs. Rams Defense
Now, this is going to be an interesting part of the game. This season, in neutral situations, the Patriots had the highest pace of play in the league. On the other hand, the Rams defense faced the second slowest pace of play in the league in these neutral situations.
Now, most teams slow down against the Rams in neutral situations because they want to keep the Rams explosive offense off the field. They figure that the only way they can slow down the Rams is to not let them on the field. The Patriots ranked 14th in passing defensive DVOA per Football Outsiders, which is okay but not anything to scream about. So, will the Patriots maintain their usual high pace of play to keep the Rams defense from becoming comfortable, or will they succumb to the same logic as other teams and slow themselves down to keep the Rams offense off the field?
For comparison, we can look at the Rams defense against the Saints last week. They performed very well, holding the Saints to 23 points, compared to their season average of 31.5 points. The Saints ranked 13th in neutral situation pace of play, taking nearly three more seconds between plays than the Patriots. By slowing down, the Patriots would likely allow the Rams to play better on defense against them, so the risk of playing fast seems to be worth it. We will see what the Patriots decide to do.
Patriots Offensive Line vs. Rams Defensive Line
This is the matchup that will likely determine the Super Bowl. We know the Rams are going to score, we just don’t know if the Rams defense can stop the Patriots, a battle that will be decided in the trenches.
Let’s start by looking at the Patriots running game. Sony Michel has been dominant this postseason, rushing for 242 yards and five touchdowns in just two games. Now, he gets the pleasure of rushing against the Rams, who have the 28th ranked rushing defense, so he will have plenty of opportunities to gash their defense. If Michel is running freely, the Patriots will be able to do whatever it is they want on offense, so Aaron Donald and company are going to have to make sure he isn’t going anywhere.
Even if the Rams stop the Patriots from running the ball, they then have to deal with Tom Brady throwing the ball. The best way to slow down Brady is to get pressure on him and knock him down a few times. Last week, the Chiefs had a lot of trouble doing this, as the Patriots pass block win percentage was phenomenal.
If the Rams want any chance at stopping the Patriots offense, they will have to get to Brady and do so quickly. Brady had the third fastest time to throw among quarterbacks with over 500 pass attempts this season. This helps his offensive linemen win their blocks because they don’t need to hold off opposing pass rushers for very long. It will be on the Rams defensive line to get pressure on Brady. They will need a big game from Dante Fowler Jr. who was acquired in the middle of the season specifically for this reason.
If the Rams defensive line doesn’t win this battle, they have no chance of stopping the Patriots powerful offense.