At about mid-season this year, it seemed like the Patriots’ Dynasty wouldn’t have what it takes to make it deep in the playoffs for the first time in what seems like forever, but as the Patriots are known to do they always found a way to slow down their opponent’s key weapons. The Patriots rallied at the end of the season and earned the AFC’s second seed.
Once the playoffs began, the Patriots atypically leaned on their run game in order to control the clock. They went on to beat the Los Angeles Chargers and the Kansas City Chiefs, arguably two of the best teams in the NFL and now find themselves in the big game.
Keys to the Game
When the Patriots are on offense, they need to find a way to stop the most dominant player in the NFL, Aaron Donald. In this postseason, the Patriots have not allowed a sack and the Rams’ vicious pass rush is going to try to change this.
A way to slow Donald is run it straight at him. This strategy has been practiced by many teams and completed with great success. Donald is known for doing everything in his power to pursue the QB, and he is so talented that he finds himself in the backfield nearly every time. The problem with that is he may run past the RB.
With that said, if the Patriots commit to running the ball with the correct scheme, not only does it chew the clock and prevent the Rams’ offense from being on the field, but it will also be productive for them.
The Rams were the highest scoring offense in 2017 and second to the Chiefs in 2018. The Patriots can’t do much to stop them, but they can make it more difficult on the Rams’ young QB, Jared Goff who will already be extremely psychologically pressured. The best way to do this is to normally create a pass rush, but there’s not much they can do facing such a dominant offensive line, what they must do is eliminate Goff’s most reliable target, Robert Woods. This is not an easy task but the Patriots have the top-rated cornerback according to Stephon Gilmore of Pro Football Focus.
The Patriots may be hesitant to put Gilmore on Woods because that’ll leave the Rams’ secondary receiver Brandin Cooks a chance to destroy his former team, but it may be their only option. It’s been proven time and time again that young QBs don’t typically perform as well in big moments, and when panicked, Goff looks in Woods’ way, therefore, if Woods is well covered, the Patriots may end up with an additional interception or two.
The 2018 season was the second season with the Rams’ remodeled offense, but their first with their renovated defense. Despite not being dominant, their defense got them to where they are. Having been the league’s highest scoring team, it was clear to the Rams front office that they should seize this opportunity. That is why in the off-season, they were aggressive to get new players, especially on defense like cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters and interior rusher Ndamukong Suh. Now, the Rams might be the best all-around team in the NFL.
Keys to the Game
On offense, simply put, the Rams need to continue what they’ve been doing. They need to run the ball efficiently and pass when deemed necessary.
It can’t be stressed enough that young players like Goff can’t allow the pressure to get to their head. He showed everyone last week that he can lead a crucial drive, but he also must perform from the beginning of the game.
On defense, the Rams have more work to do than they do on offense. They need to face Tom Brady. There’s not too much you can do to plan against the greatest of all time. All you can do is try to slow him down. Keeping that in mind, a few ways the Rams may be able to slow down Brady is by limiting his options.
In order to win, the Rams linebackers must step up and have superb a game. Aaron Donald will play the only way he knows how: aggressive to get to the QB. This assigns the Rams’ linebackers the task of stopping the Patriots’ rookie RB, Sony Michel.
If the Rams can stop Michel, then the Patriots will surely have a counter to that. This could be found in the quick passing game to RB, James White, and WR Julian Edelman. Typically, when a team has a successful run game, the linebackers of their opponent will have to focus more on that and line up closer to the line of scrimmage than normal. This will lead to struggles for the Rams in the quick passing game. As Brady’s age has progressed, the Patriots have used their quick passing game better than anyone else and it’ll be up to the Rams’ linebackers to make game-changing plays.
With such a great all-around team, if the Rams are able to defeat the Patriots, this game could represent the passing of the torch from dynasty to dynasty.