Only two teams in the Super Bowl era have made three straight appearances in the title game. The Miami Dolphins in 1971-73 and the Buffalo Bills from 1990-93. Now there is a third team in the New England Patriots. They had the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history two years ago against the Atlanta Falcons. Last year they fell short with a last minute sack-fumble by Brandon Graham of the Philadelphia Eagles. For this third straight Super Bowl appearance the Patriots will face the Los Angeles Rams who have some similarities to the Patriots two previous Super Bowl opponents.
Everything has already been said about New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. Being the greatest coach of all-time, a cheater, a grump in press conferences or his fascinations with hoodies. Either way it’s hard to argue with the success that he’s been able to rack up. The salary cap era wasn’t meant to prevent this kind of thing from happening, but in the long run it was going to make it so everyone had a shot of becoming instant contenders. The Patriots have created the model of success and almost every other team has been immolating it. No head coach has ever won 6 Super Bowls. Hell, he’s the only one with five.
Sean McVay is in just his second season as the head coach of the Los Angeles Rams. This being the franchises third year back in LA, it’s quite an accomplishment to see them in this position so soon. Touted as one of the brightest offensive minds in the league, he’ll have his work cut out for him against a two-week gameplan from Belichick. Many great offensive teams have had their fair share of trouble against the Patriots, but as long as you don’t make mistakes and play a perfect game you can achieve victory against them.
Players to Watch
I try not to focus too much on the quarterbacks for the Super Bowl mainly because everyone is already doing that and it’s repetitive. For the Patriots they’ve been controlling the pace of the game in the playoffs with Sony Michel being their workhorse running back in the playoffs. This is exactly what they envisioned when they drafted him late in the first round this season. Another name to watch is Rob Gronkowski. This by far has been his most disappointing season from a production stand point, but his value as a blocker and a possible decoy make number 87 and player to watch.
Looking to the Rams side if they don’t have Todd Gurley playing an effective role as their leading rusher and a threat in the passing game, this will be a long day for the Rams. Sure, C.J. Anderson has been great for them late in the season and against the Dallas Cowboys in the playoffs. Gurley is your best player on offense. This has to be his time to shine. Defensively the Rams need to get in Tom Brady’s face the entire game. They have the reigning Defensive Player of the Year in Aaron Donald primed for a huge game since it’s impossible for one blocker to be on him without help. That also means Ndamukong Suh, Dante Fowler and Michael Brockers must step up as well to provide consistent pressure. Their secondary has been prone to big plays all year and that pass rush must earn their pay.
Key of the Game
The ground game. If either one of these teams can rush for over 100 yards, the Lombardi trophy is well within reach. Tom Brady can match anyone in this league and Jared Goff is deadly accurate when he’s in his zone. The Rams have one advantage over the Patriots and that’s on the ground. Sony Michel is good, but he’s not Todd Gurley. This Rams team will have to get him going more than the 2001 Rams team who had Marshall Faulk rush for only 74 yards and catch 4 passes in a loss to the New England Patriots. As a refresher that was the first Super Bowl win for Brady and Belichick.
Who Will Win?
As I’ve said before I want the game to be a close and entertaining showcase of the two best teams in the NFL. No blowouts unless it’s my team delivering the one-sided affair. Whomever rushes the ball more effectively I believe will be the victor. Of course this game could come down to a last second field goal which would add to the importance of having a reliable kicker. Plus a quick side note, no matter which side you come down on with having to see the Patriots in another Super Bowl. You have to admit that everyone single one with Belichick and Brady has been a nail biter right down to the last second. Defense wins championships and that will proven once again in this game. The Rams will win their second Super Bowl by a final score of 31-27.