Christian Martinelli and Tyler Krusz
Movies, shows, stories and sports always need a good villain. Someone that everyone hates, but seems almost impossible to stop. It’s fair to say for the last two decades, the New England Patriots have played this role to a tee in the NFL. As color commentator Scott Zolak said after the Patriots ousted the Chiefs in the AFC Title game, “America’s worst nightmare is back!”
People love to say football is a game of percentages, so here’s some percentages pertaining to the Patriots during the Brady-Belichick era. 53% of the time they will reach the Super Bowl. 76%, is how often they will make the Conference Championship. 94%, that’s how frequently New England will take home the AFC East title. Unimaginable numbers from the greatest dynasty in American team sports history, numbers that will never come close to being touched again.
All year New England has been doubted by national and local media. “They’re not good this year” and “Brady is all done.” “The Patriots have no chance to make the Super Bowl.” This is what America has been saying, hoping it would finally be true about the Pats.
Unfortunately for America, Brady and crew are back at the Super Bowl for the ninth time in seventeen years with Brady as the starter, proving their haters wrong once again.
Martinelli: The Patriots Offense
Throughout the Patriots historic run, they have been known for having prolific offenses most seasons. Although this year it may not seem like it, New England has scored the fourth most points in the league this year (27.3 ppg). This offense has quietly been great. They’ve shown that during the playoffs, putting up an astounding 78 points through two games.
The Patriots go as their offensive line goes. When the big boys up front play great so does the rest of the offense, and vice versa. This year the five man combination of Trent Brown, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, and Marcus Cannon have been fantastic opening up holes, and holding the pass rush at bay. Brady’s ability to make fast reads and get the ball out of his hand lightening quick helps mightily, but this line deserves a lot of credit for their stellar play. They have a huge test on their hands with this Rams front with many studs such as Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh, and Dante Fowler.
We know who the GOAT is, and what he can do. His ridiculous amount of records and accomplishments tell the whole story. Even at 41, he’s just as great as ever with 5,047 yards, 31 touchdowns, and a Pro Football Focus grade of 91.2 out of 100 good for third in the league (including playoffs). Don’t let that clown Max Kellerman hear me say that though. TB12, Tommy Terrific, The Comeback Kid or now The Comeback Grandpa, will shred any defense and this game won’t be any different.
The Patriots offense is very difficult to stop. When you take away the wide receivers, Brady will dump it off to the backs. When the backs are given more attention, Brady will pick your secondary apart. James White and Rex Burkhead are great pass-catching backs, and they possess the ability to make great plays after the catch. White’s past Super Bowl performances make it seem very plausible he will be a major factor in this game.
The Patriots run game has also been great all season, racking up over 2,300 yards and 25 touchdowns. The lead horse for the Patriots has been the rookie from the University of Georgia, Sony Michel. Through two games this playoffs he has 242 yards on the ground, and five touchdowns. He’s a weapon that has been vital to New England’s success, and even though the o-line deserves tons of recognition, he has ran very hard all year.
Tom Brady should be able to exploit the average pass defense of the Rams who have allowed 34 touchdowns through the air this season, and over 4,200 yards passing including playoffs.
New England definitely doesn’t have the best receivers in the league, but they have some reliable guys who can make plays. Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, Phillip Dorsett, Chris Hogan, and Cordarrelle Patterson will all need to be playmakers against the Rams’ experienced secondary.
The Patriots should take special advantage of the Edelman versus Robey-Coleman matchup in the slot this week, as I’m sure Brady will want to abuse him for his unintelligent comments he made on Monday saying Brady had slowed down this season.
Edelman and Gronkowski are the two most important and consistent pieces on offense, and will needed to make many huge plays in order for the Pats to move the ball effectively. They were the go to guys in overtime against the Chiefs, combining for three 3rd and long conversions, and they will have to be those guys all game on Sunday too. Brady has had a decade of repore with them, and trusts those guys to make the big catch when it matters most.
Tom Brady holds most, if not all Super Bowl records, and is known to be one of the most clutch athletes that has ever lived. That amongst his fantastic leadership abilities make this New England offense more dangerous on the field than they are on paper. Don’t be surprised if New England puts up a 30 spot on LA come Sunday.
Krusz: The Patriots Defense
The Patriot defense has always been somewhat of a mystery. Are they a defensive team? An offensive team? Do you beat New England with great offense, or better defense? In 2007, they had one of the worst defenses in the league, and still rode their way to an imperfect perfect season.
The Patriot’s defense excelled at two things this season- stopping the run, and limiting long drives. They finished second in the league in opposing rushing touchdowns, allowing just seven, and first in opponent’s average drive time- with 2:28. That being said, they allowed 29 passing touchdowns, and finished in the bottom half of the league in both passing yards allowed and touchdowns allowed. Their secondary did an excellent job shutting down Tyreek Hill in their last game against the Chiefs. The McCourty brothers, as well as J.C Jackson, Duran Harmon, and Stephon Gilmore will all need to do their jobs once again to shut down Jared Goff and Los Angeles’s speedy receiving attack. However, their secondary did rank third in interceptions, with 18, and Goff is susceptible to turning the ball over when the going gets tough.
New England excels at stopping the run, yes, and they’ll need it come Sunday. Through the last few weeks, Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson have been on fire, seemingly getting 100+ yard games week after week leading up to the Conference Championship. The Patriots, on the other hand, are coming off of an AFC Championship game allowing just 41 rushing yards and zero touchdowns. There are several key players New England uses when it comes to stopping the run, and they will need to be in absolutely full effect on Super Bowl Sunday.
Kyle Van Noy and Dont’a Hightower at linebacker will need to stuff whatever hole the Rams may open for their run game. Tre Flowers, who has been dominant, along with Malcom Brown and Deatrich Wise, will need to stay strong along to defensive front. If Gurley and Anderson, or whatever run game McVay decides to use, get going, it would open up the whole offensive attack. However, should they be stuffed, it would spell trouble for Los Angeles.
In arguably their worst game of the season, the Rams only managed 52 rushing yards, and Goff threw 4 picks with no scores. Stopping the run is most important to stopping the Rams, and New England has proved to be successful in that area this season. Expect Belichick to mastermind a defensive plan to cancel Gurley and Anderson out of the game, and send Goff into a confused frenzy.
The Patriots would benefit from a low-scoring game. In two of Los Angeles’s regular season losses, they failed to score more than 25 points. The Rams would benefit from a high scoring game, as they have all season long. They would need to be able to push the tempo of the game, control the pace, as well as run the ball effectively to do so. For a score prediction, somewhere around 23-15 sounds right, assuming New England comes out on top.
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