PREVIEW: Los Angeles Rams, New England Patriots Set to Play Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta

By  //  February 3, 2019

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Kickoff set for 6:30 PM ET ON CBS

ABOVE VIDEO: CBS Sports’ James Brown, Bill Cowher, Phil Simms, Boomer Esiason and Nate Burleson bring you their prognostications about tonight’s matchup between the Los Angeles Rams and the New England Patriots for the 2019 NFL championship. 

ATLANTA, GEORGIA – Later this afternoon, the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams will meet in Super Bowl LIII (6:30 PM ET, CBS) at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

Super Bowl LIII will feature the No. 2 seed in each conference – the AFC Champion Patriots against the NFC champion Rams – and is the first Super Bowl matchup of No. 2 seeds since the NFL began seeding teams in 1975.

It also marks a rematch of Super Bowl XXXVI, when New England defeated the St. Louis Rams 20-17 on February 3, 2002.

The Patriots earned a trip to their 11th overall Super Bowl with a 37-31 overtime win against Kansas City in the AFC Championship Game.

New England is making their ninth overall appearance in the big game in the Belichick-Brady era, the most in NFL history by a player and coach. The Patriots are the third team in NFL history to appear in three straight Super Bowls.

The game has many intriguing storylines and one of them is the age gap between the head coaches and starting quarterbacks. Either Bill Belichick will become the oldest coach to win a Super Bowl at 66 or Sean McVay will become the youngest coach to win it at 33.

The age gap between the two is the largest in Super Bowl history.

As for Brady and Belechick, what they can accomplish with a win today is astonishing in this day and age of professional sports.

ABOVE VIDEO: AFC Championship: Patriots vs. Chiefs

With a New England victory, the Patriots will have captured their sixth Super Bowl championship, tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers (six) for most in NFL history. A win would also give New England its 37th postseason game victory which would surpass the Steelers for the most all-time.

Bill Belichick can join legends George Halas and Curly Lambeau as the only coaches ever to win six NFL championships.

Belichick’s quarterback, Tom Brady has a little history on the line as well. With a win, Brady would win his sixth Super Bowl ring, breaking a tie with Hall of Famer Charles Haley for the most by any NFL player.

Brady, who is making his NFL-record ninth career Super Bowl start, is the only starting quarterback in league history to win five Super Bowls and the only player ever to be named Super Bowl MVP four times (XXXVI, XXXVIII, XLIX and LI).

Tommy Terrific set a Super Bowl record with 505 passing yards last year and is the all-time leader in Super Bowl passing yards (2,576), completions (235), passing attempts (357) and touchdown passes (18).

Brady is also the NFL postseason leader in wins by a starting quarterback (29), completions (984), passing attempts (1,554), passing yards (10,917) and touchdown passes (73).

The Patriots can also become the first team since 1972 undefeated Miami Dolphins to lose the Super Bowl, then win it the in the following season.

There is another team playing in today’s game, the Los Angeles Rams, who advanced to the game in controversial fashion with a 26-23 overtime victory against the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship Game.

ABOVE VIDEO: Highlights of the Rams win over the Saints through the voices of those that played in the overtime thriller. 

However, many fans believe the blatant pass interference penalty and hit to the head infraction that wasn’t called on the same play near the end of the game, cost the Saints a chance to avoid overtime and win in regulation.

The NFL called Saints head coach Sean Payton and admitted they blew the call immediately following the contest.

With that said, sports is not without human error and controversy and as a result, Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein converted the longest game-winning field goal in postseason history hitting a 57-yard kick in overtime and it’s the Rams facing the Patriots, not the Saints. 

The Rams are playing in their fourth Super Bowl in franchise history (1979, 1999 and 2001) and are looking for their second Super Bowl title.

The Rams are led on offense by quarterback Jared Goff, who becomes the first quarterback selected No. 1 overall to lead his team to a Super Bowl victory within his first three seasons. Goff was seven years old when Brady won his first Super Bowl.

Their 17-year age gap is biggest in Super Bowl history

On defense, Los Angeles is led by Aaron Donald, who on Saturday night, captured his second straight Defensive Player of the Year honor at the NFL Awards Show.  Donald led NFL with 20.5  sacks in a regular season but has no sacks in the postseason.

HOW THE PATRIOTS WIN:

ABOVE VIDEO: Patriots head coach Bill previews the Rams pass rush & more challenges they’ll present on the Belestrator.

As great as Tom Brady has been, the Patriots must continue to run the football with success.

Rookie running back Sonny Michel has five rushing touchdowns this postseason, the most rushing touchdowns by a rookie in postseason history.

The former Georgia standout has rushed for at least 100 yards in each of his first two career postseason appearances and can join Arian Foster as the only players in postseason history to rush for at least 100 yards in each of their first three playoff games.

To compliment Michel, the Patriots are also turning to running back James White, who had a rushing touchdown in last year’s Super Bowl.

White has scored four touchdowns (three rushing, one receiving) in two career Super Bowl appearances. Over the past three postseasons (2016-2018), White leads the NFL with eight total touchdowns.

The successful use of the two backs has allowed Brady to play his dink and dunk passing game to near perfection. Future Hall of Fame TE Rob Gronkowski has reemerged in the playoffs making several big plays late in games for New England.

Brady will also rely heavily on WR Julian Edelman, who ranks second in postseason history with 105 receptions. He has five or more catches in 12 consecutive postseason games, the longest streak in playoff history.

HOW THE RAMS WIN: 

ABOVE VIDEO: Sean McVay’s offense and the importance of play action for the Los Angeles Rams.

The Rams must figure out how to pressure Tom Brady. In two playoff games against teams with good pass rushers,  including a K.C. defense that was tied for first in the NFL with 52 QB takedowns, Brady was sacked zero times on 90 pass attempts and was hurried just twice.

The good news is the Rams are better equipped to do so than the Chargers or Chiefs, who didn’t register a sack on Brady and had just two quarterback hurries.

Brady’s quick release allows him to beat edge pressure. His average of 2.59 seconds to throw the ball this season was third-quickest in the NFL. When facing edge pressure this season Brady had seven touchdowns, no interceptions, and a 118.7 passer rating.

The Rams bring pressure up the middle more than a lot of the teams the Patriots face, in fact, LA leads the NFL in interior pressure rate (16.6 pct) and that’s where Brady tends to struggle. Brady threw two touchdowns and two interceptions with a 63.1 passer rating when pressured from an interior pass rusher this season.

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Donald must make Brady uncomfortable.

As important as it is for New England to run the ball, it’s even more important the Rams have success on the ground, their offense relies on it.

The reason is quarterback Jared Goff uses play-action passing more than any other signal caller in the league.

In 2017, Goff had 1,446 passing yards using play action, more than any other quarterback. This year, a third of the Rams passing plays involved play action.

Goff is currently working his way through a cold streak. In games 1-11 this season, Goff completed 67.7 percent of his passes, averaged 9.3 yards per attempt, and threw 26 touchdowns and six interceptions.

In games 12-18, he completed 58.9 percent of his passes, averaged 6.5 yards per pass, and threw seven touchdowns and seven interceptions.

They must get Todd Gurley and CJ Anderson on track or this could be a long game.

PREDICTION

While Sean McVay is young and dynamic, Bill Belichick is simply the best. Give Belichick two weeks to prepare and seven times out of 10, (including his tenure with Giants as defensive coordinator) he’ll beat you.

The Patriots experience and ability to overcome any obstacle makes them difficult to pick against. Remember the comeback vs. Atlanta in Super Bowl LI, and the two drives in the AFC Championship game, New England with Brady and Belichick are never out of a game.

For the Rams to win I believe they must play mistake-free, near-perfect football and with Bill Belechick as the opposing head coach, that’s not likely to happen.

I don’t believe they will be able to disrupt Brady enough and with the two-headed monster in the Patriots backfield, will confuse the Rams defense enough to keep them in check.

History says this will be a close game. The average margin of victory for the Patriots in their five Super Bowls wins under Belichick is 3.8 points. The average margin of defeat for the Patriots in their three Super Bowl losses under Belichick is five points.

For those that think this is just icing on the cake for New England, I’d disagree slightly.

Currently, the Pats are 5-3 in the Brady-Belichick era in the big game. A win moves them to 6-3 which sounds a lot better than 5-4. If the Patriots lose, the haters will start to say things like Brady is tied with the Bills Jim Kelly for the most Super Bowl losses by a starting quarterback in NFL history.

As ridiculous as that is, it’s the reality in today’s keyboard warrior, sports talk radio world.

In the end, Brady and Belichick will not have to worry about such foolishness, they are the better team today and will prevail to move to 6-3 in the Super Bowl during their era.

Patriots 35, Rams 27

MVP: Sonny Michel

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