Super Bowl LIII: New England Patriots-Los Angeles Rams
On Sunday, February 3, Super Bowl LIII will get underway as the New England Patriots will square off against the Los Angeles Rams in Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. This will be the third straight Super Bowl appearance for the Patriots and their ninth in the era of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. For the Rams, it will be just their fourth appearance in the NFL’s biggest game.
There will be a lot of talk surrounding the potential retirement of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, which is ironic. Brady first established his reputation in Super Bowl XXXVI when he led a young, inexperienced Patriots team to their first NFL title against a heavily favored veteran Rams team. Now the shoe is on the other foot, and the Rams would love to get a little payback for the defeat from 17 years ago.
Patriots Make Third Straight Super Bowl Appearance
The New England Patriots are the holders of a number of NFL records, especially when it comes to the Super Bowl. They have made the most appearances (10) and are second in most titles (5). They have also been to eighth straight conference title games, and have won their division 10 years in a row. Now they return to the Super Bowl for the third time in a row, the first NFL to accomplish that feat.
New England finished the regular season at 11-5, but they would have a tough road to the championship, facing the two teams with the best records in the AFC. First they dispatched the San Diego Chargers, 41-28, who were 12-4 during the regular season, before defeating the 12-4 Kansas City Chiefs in overtime, 37-31.
This was a contest that New England dominated for three quarters, leading 17-7, but a wild fourth would lead to a tie score. Three times the Chiefs rallied to tie the score, but they would never see the ball in overtime. Tom Brady took the kickoff in the extra frame, and moved his team down the field in 13 plays, where they would score to advance to the Super Bowl.
Tom Brady will garner much of the conversation, but it has been the play of rookie running back Sony Michel that has been the story of the Patriots playoff run. Michel has rushed for 242 yards and five touchdowns. He is averaging 26.5 carries per game and has a 4.6 yards per carry average. Rex Burkhead has rushed for three touchdowns.
Brady has not been spectacular in the post-season, but he has looked solid. The veteran has thrown for 691 yards while completing 64 of 90 pass attempts. He will be looking for his fifth Super Bowl MVP trophy, a record.
Rams Reach Super Bowl on Controversial Call
They say it doesn’t matter how you get there, as long as you get there. That is how the Los Angeles Rams have to be viewing their first Super Bowl appearance since 2002, after a controversial no-call in the NFC Championship game gave them new life. New Orleans would have to settle for a field goal, which would give the Rams time on the clock to tie the score with a field goal of their own.
In overtime, the New Orleans Saints would get the ball first, but John Johnson intercepted a Drew Brees pass, giving his offense the ball. Greg Zuerlein would nail a 57 yard field goal to give the Rams the victory, 26-23.
Los Angeles finished the regular season tied with the Saints for the best record in the NFC at 12-4. They then defeated the Dallas Cowboys, 30-20, before the three point victory over the Saints.
The big story of the Super Bowl will be the health of MVP candidate Todd Gurley. Gurley had a monster regular season, leading the NFL with 17 touchdowns while rushing for over 1200 yards in just 14 games. However, he sat out the final two games of the regular season and has been limited to just 20 carries in the playoffs.
That has opened the door for veteran C.J. Anderson, who has 167 yards rushing and two touchdowns through the first two playoff games. While Anderson has proven to be an adequate replacement, Gurley is truly the heart of soul of the offense. He will have to have a 20-plus carry game for the Rams to win.
That is because QB Jared Goff has not been impressive in the post-season. Goff has completed just 58.8 percent of his passes for only 483 yards and one score. the yardage and touchdowns is an average day for Brady, so Goff is going to have to step up his game.
The Patriots opened as 1.5 point favorites, but the line has increased to 2.5. Everyone seems to be gaining greater confidence in a New England victory and with good reason. They have the veteran team, a Hall of Fame quarterback putting up big numbers, and a brilliant coaching staff. Case closed.
However, the Rams were that team 17 years ago. The Patriots had reached the Super Bowl because of a controversial call of their own – the famous “Tuck Rule” game that denied the Raiders the ball, and allowed Brady to lead the Patriots to victory and a Super Bowl title.
Could this be karma? Could the Rams turn the tables and become the Super Bowl champs, defeating the team that everyone thinks should easily win this game? You bet they can. Look for the Los Angeles Rams to win, 35-31.
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