By Barney Stone, Deputy Online Sport Editor and third year history
On Sunday 3rd February, at 23:30 GMT, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots will face off against Jared Goff’s Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl 53. Will it be the old veteran, or fledgling newcomer, who lifts the coveted Lombardi trophy in Atlanta?
In both the NFC and AFC Championship games, drama and controversy were rife. Despite some dodgy officiating, both the Patriots and Rams sealed impressive overtime wins on the road; Belichick sunk Reid’s Chiefs 37-31, whilst McVay thwarted Payton in New Orleans 26-23. The stage is now set for a mouth-watering contest in the world’s premier sporting spectacle. Pitting master against apprentice, in both the coaching and quarterback arena, legacies must either be solidified or forged.
The game promises to be explosive; with both teams in the NFL’s top five for points per game, total yards per game and rushing yards per game, a high scoring affair is almost a certainty – good news for the neutral.
With Tom Brady and Bill Belichick leading the Patriots into their third consecutive Super Bowl, their ninth in total, the team from Massachusetts have experience firmly in their wheelhouse. The tactical nous of Belichick, and Brady’s ability to thrive in clutch situations, has already delivered them five Superbowl rings – one more this Sunday, and the Patriots will level the Steelers’ record for most franchise titles. On the opposite sideline, at 33 years old Sean McVay will be the youngest coach to ever challenge for the prestigious title. Coupled with Jared Goff, who is making similar history of his own at the age of 24, their inexperience may become a factor; the young quarterback has been mediocre during his two playoff appearances, boasting only a 58% pass completion record between the 2 games, with only 483 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT.
After handling the home crowd in New Orleans, Sean McVay is confident QB Jared Goff can cope with the pressure of a #SuperBowl— The Swype Sports ⚽ (@TheSwypeSports) January 25, 2019
"I think Jared will be himself, which is exactly what we want him to be"
The Rams take on the Patriots in Super Bowl LIII on… pic.twitter.com/fpxU6h8lDR
After finishing the regular season with a respectable, but not dominating, record of 11-5, many had touted the end of a Patriots controlled era; Brady is after all, no spring chicken at the age of 41. Speaking after the Patriots’ rout over the Chargers in the Divisional play-off round, Brady satirically responded to this consensus: “I know everyone thinks we suck and you know, can’t win any games – we’ll see”. This was followed up by an impressive victory against Kansas City and NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes. The Patriots seem fired up and determined to reaffirm their position at the top, a dangerous proposition for Rams fans. Note: as seen below, Brady's confidence and swagger is back, if it was ever gone in the first place.
Averaging 28.6 points per game, the Patriots boast the league’s 4th best offence. Supporting Tom Brady and ever-present targets Edelmen and Gronkowski, running back sensations James White and Sony Michel have been brilliant; the latter accrued 113 yards and 2 touchdowns in an electric performance during the AFC Championship game. The pair will look to exploit the Rams’ poor record against the run; this year, they allowed 5.1 yards per rushing attempt, the league’s worst. The broader defensive picture doesn’t look much brighter for the Rams – they have conceded 24 points per game, the league’s 24th ranked team. Having said this, the Rams do possess the league’s Defensive MVP. Indeed, Aaron Donald has picked up 20.5 sacks and 59 tackles, and must pressure Brady to disrupt the Patriots’ rhythm.
On the other side of the ball, New England have allowed 20.3 points per game, good enough for 7th best in the league. However, given that the Rams scored 32.9 per game this season, they will remain a significant offensive threat. Indeed, Todd Gurley has been immense, notching up 17 touchdowns (most amongst running backs) and 1251 yards (3rd best). Recently bolstered by the collaborative efforts of CJ Anderson, the Rams’ running game comes into the Super Bowl with renewed impetus. Supplemented by Robert Woods, who led the Rams with 1219 yards receiving, and the speed of Brandin Cooks, Goff also has the weapons to cause some serious damage in the Patriots secondary.
Although I’m sure most will be supporting the Rams and pleading for a refreshing break from the Patriots’ domination, I believe Brady will secure his 6th ring this weekend. The roster’s experience will be of paramount importance in the game, with the Rams lacking players who have ‘been there and done it’. I see this game ending: Los Angele Rams 28 – 31 New England Patriots.
Brady/Belichick or Goff/McVay - who you picking? Get involved in the debate!