Los Angeles hasn’t had a Super Bowl winner since 1983. New England hasn’t had a Super Bowl winner since 2016.
The frustration of the droughts probably feels about the same to both areas.
Of course, it was the Raiders who won L.A.’s last NFL championship and they’re now in — well we’re not quite sure at the moment but next year they’ll be in Las Vegas. Speaking of Sin City the Patriots are 2.5 point betting favorites for SB LIII.
That’s probably the Brady-Belichick factor and I don’t think you’ll find many people who will argue the Patriots are not vastly more experienced in games like this. However, in the legendary words of Ric Flair:
“To be the man you’ve gotta beat the man!”
The Rams went after as many established Pro Bowlers as they could fit under the salary cap and geared up to win it all this year. Sure, they did it more to try and sell as many seats in their new stadium as they possibly could than to hoist the Lombardi Trophy, but you have to admire Stan Kroenke’s all-in attitude nonetheless.
In the two weeks since the conference championship games, this game has been dissected in as many ways as are possible but we are a professional news organization so what do you say we go ahead and do a little preview, too?
Here are three keys to the game; one for the Rams, one for the Patriots, and one neutral.
Rams Key: Blast Brady But Bypass Blitzing
In the Super Bowls where the Patriots lost, the teams that beat them were able to generate pressure on the quarterback without bringing extra pass rushers. The Rams only blitz about 22 percent of the time — below the league average — yet they led the league in pressure rate by getting to the QB on 40 percent of dropbacks.
This is because Aaron Donald is not human. He had half of L.A.’s sacks and was the runaway winner of a second straight NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award. He’s also the reason the Rams don’t have to (and shouldn’t) blitz Tom Brady.
No team in the league gave up a higher QB rating on blitzes than the Rams did and if they try that against Brady they’ll get skewered. But if Donald and his defensive line mates can be the new version of the Fearsome Foursome, then Brady won’t have the time or quick passing lanes he covets, slowing down the Pats attack.
Patriots Key: Ground Gurley and Corral C.J.
Sure the Rams have Jared Goff, Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods, and a lethal passing attack, but when this offense is truly humming it’s because they’re running the ball effectively. It’s like if like a pitcher working off his fastball; you establish the hard stuff and go from there.
Todd Gurley is the anchor of the league’s third-best rushing offense but the late-season addition of C.J. Anderson has taken it to a whole new level. Both guys went over 100 yards against the Cowboys. However, Gurley only carried four times for 10 yards against the Saints in the NFC Championship game and despite his and the team’s claims that he has no physical limitations his left knee has been an issue during the second half of the season.
New England has to assume he’s as healthy as the Rams claim and that means it has a monster challenge. If the Pats have to bring in extra defenders closer to the line of scrimmage, then Cooks and Woods can be menaces in the secondary.
If that happens, the Rams are borderline impossible to beat. But if L.A. can’t run then a whole lot more pressure falls on Goff’s right shoulder and he’s never been in a situation like this before.
Overall Game Key: Geniuses Match Wits
Belichick will find a way to take the other team’s best offensive player completely out of a game. Sean McVay will find a way to create mismatches that puts his best playmakers on guys who can’t cover them.
There hasn’t been a better chess match since Ron Weasley was at Hogwarts.
Belichick and McVay have a friendship built on respect. The most successful coach in NFL history sent many a congratulatory text message to the wonder kid during the season.
As good a game planning defensive coach as Belichick is, McVay is proving to be his equal on offense. Both guys will come to this game with an ace up their sleeves. The coach who plays the better hand will be the one who walks away a champion.
The only thing that would surprise me about this game is if it’s low scoring. I can see either team winning a shootout. But there’s something about this Rams group that I love. Tom Brady’s first Super Bowl was a win over the Rams. His last Super Bowl will be a loss to the Rams.
Final score: Rams 33, Patriots 30