Super Bowl Preview: Rams, Patriots Rematch


Graphic by Mark Schaefer

In a Jan. 21 survey of 25 staff members and 100 students, 54 percent of those asked who they believed would win the Super Bowl predicted that the Los Angeles Rams would defeat the New England Patriots.

Anna Stewart, News Managing Editor

Tom Brady vs. Jared Goff.  Bill Belichick vs. Sean McVay. The 2019 Super Bowl is a matchup between established greatness and expected greatness; the New England Patriots (11-5), an aging team who year after year secure their place in NFL history and the Los Angeles Rams (13-3), a young team predicted to experience much success in coming years.

The Patriots will be returning to the Super Bowl for the ninth time since Belichick took over as head coach in 2000 and Brady became the starting quarterback in 2001. This will be their third appearance in three straight years, having beaten the Atlanta Falcons in the 2017 Super Bowl and then losing to the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2018 Super Bowl.

The Rams, meanwhile, are back in the Super Bowl for the first time since 2002, when they were still the St. Louis Rams, and lost to the Patriots 20-17 on a last second field goal by Adam Vinatieri, giving Brady his first ring.  

Since that 2002 matchup, the Patriots have gone on to become recognized as one of the greatest dynasties in NFL history because of their record of success.  They have won 220 regular-season games, 32 more than any other team in the league. They have won the AFC East 16 times, including an active streak of 10 in a row. Tom Brady has more playoff wins than any other quarterback has played in (27).  And of course, Brady and the Patriots have won five Super Bowl rings, two in the last five years.

So on Feb. 3 in Atlanta, the Patriots will try for ring number six against the team that helped begin their run in the first place. But unlike the Patriots, the Rams have no single player or coach left on the team from that first time around.

Instead, they have Sean McVay, the youngest head coach to ever lead a team to the Super Bowl at 33 years old; they have Jared Goff, the youngest quarterback to win an NFC Championship at 24 years old; they have Todd Gurley, the reigning Offensive Player of the Year with the third most rushing yards this year (1,251); they have talented receivers in Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods and they have a dangerous defensive line with stars like Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh.  

The Rams are not to be messed with. McVay is known for his condensed formations, lining receivers up close to one another where their routes easily crisscross, creating traffic for man-to-man defenders and poor leverage for zone defenders. And maybe more importantly, these tightly aligned receivers are better positioned to block on run plays, allowing Gurley and fellow running back C.J. Anderson to shine.  

If the Patriots hope to have any chance at beating the Rams, they must disrupt the spacing and timing of McVay’s playcall while on defense and give Brady as much time as possible to throw the ball while on offense.

The Rams had a much better regular season than the Patriots, who suffered devastating losses to the Titans, Dolphins and Steelers this year, making many believe it was the end of the dynasty.  L.A. was the last team to remain undefeated, losing their first game week nine against the New Orleans Saints, whom they would soon meet again in the NFC Championship and beat by a field goal in overtime after a controversial missed pass interference call.   

The Patriots reached the Super Bowl after a back and forth overtime thriller (and stresser) against the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship. Brady beat another young, talented quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, silencing those who claimed he was too old and had lost his touch.

The outcome may be uncertain, but one thing is for sure: two talented teams will take the field on Sunday and only one can come out as Super Bowl champions.