Know the Opponent: Los Angeles Rams

For the third consecutive year, the New England Patriots are in the Super Bowl. This time, taking on the Los Angeles Rams. The experience of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady versus the up and coming Sean McVay and Jared Goff. This will surely be a fun chess match to watch for all football fans.

Rams 2018 Season

The Los Angeles Rams finished the regular season at 13-3 which was good enough for the second seed in the NFC. A team that saw it’s season end last year at the hand of the Atlanta Falcons in the Wild Card, now they’re pushing for the franchise’s first Super Bowl since 1999.

They took care of business in the Divisional Round against the Cowboys with a 30-22 win and beat the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship game 26-23 in overtime. Yes, that game is currently under protest in the big easy thanks to a very blatant pass interference that wasn’t called.

Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times

Even though the Saints blew a 13 point lead and had the ball to start the overtime period, this play is what many believe cost the game. And it probably did. But, what has happened has happened and the LA Rams are in Atlanta trying to force the Patriots to have the most Super Bowl losses in NFL history.

The Offense

The Rams ranked second in the NFL in total yards per game averaging 421 yards per game, right behind Kansas City. They also ranked third in rushing (139 yds/g) and fifth in passing (281 yds/g). And in terms of scoring? Just a mediocre 33 points per game, nothing too big. Only second in the league.

Todd Gurley was third in the league this season with 1,251 yards and averages just about five yards per rush. Although, Gurley was really nowhere to be found this postseason. Some say it’s an injury, others say that spotlight may be too big. If Gurley is able to play he’ll be going against the 11th ranked rush defense that has allowed over 100 yards per game on the ground.

But if Todd Gurley isn’t up for the challenge, CJ Anderson is. He only ran for 299 yards this regular season, but has shined the brightest in the postseason. He’s outrushed Gurley by 42 yards this postseason and may be a factor in the passing game come Sunday. Even if Gurley is ready to play, CJ Anderson will still be a factor in this game for the Patriots as he is one of the few rams with Super Bowl experience.

Dec 16, 2018; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff (16) gestures in the first quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

In terms of the passing game, one of the future stars in this league Jared Goff is going to have to step up. It was clear in the early going of the NFC Championship game that he wasn’t quite ready for the moment. Though, he did come into his own a bit as the game progressed, Goff finished with 297 passing yards with a TD and pick. Understandably, Super Bowl rookies don’t usually start off great but Goff will have to be perfect to defeat New England.

His favorite targets this season were Robert Woods (86 rec) and old friend Brandin Cooks (80 rec). Combining for 11 touchdowns this season, they were quite the duo. However; a big loss for this Rams squad is Cooper Kupp. Kupp had six touchdowns on the year until he tore his ACL against the Seahawks in week 10. But, his absence didn’t stop this team from putting up points. The following week, they put up 54 points against the Kansas City Chiefs.

This team will put up points, but the big question is will they put up enough? They’ll have to be front runners against this New England team because as long as Tom Brady is there, no lead is safe.

The Defense

Offense wins games, defense wins championships. The 23rd ranked rush defense in the league kept Ezekiel Elliot and Alvin Kamara at bay all day. The Rams defense gave up an average of 5.1 yards per rush, which was worst in the league. Yet, they’ve stepped up in the postseason against two dominant running backs. So what defense will show up? The stout defense we’ve seen the past two weeks? Or the defense we’ve seen in the regular season that couldn’t stop a nose bleed?

In terms of their pass defense. Slightly better at 14th in the league. With the likes of Aqib Talib in the secondary, one of your receivers will be 100% covered every play. And with 18 interceptions on the year, they’re tied for third in the league in that category. Ironically enough, they’re tied with the Patriots. But where LA’s defense may win the game is up front. With Ndamukong Suh and Aaron Donald on the front four, they’ll be tasked with getting to Brady and stopping the Patriots rush attack. Donald lead the NFL with 20.5 sacks and nearly 30 tackles for loss. Yes, the Patriots offensive line has stepped it up this postseason, but they have not seen a monster like this all year.

The Rams Will Win If…

They can stop the Patriots early. Even though the Patriots have scored in the first quarter only once (last year) in their Super Bowls, something tells me that’ll change again this season. The Patriots had the will and the ability to drive down the field at ease and score on their first possession against the Chargers and the Chiefs. And the best way to keep a high powered offense at bay is to keep them off the field. The Patriots will look to have long sustaining drives that end in seven points. But if you stop the Patriots early, they’ll start using their hurry up offense and make this a shootout which favors the Rams.

– Brian Berard (@RockyBerard)

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