By Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub
Tired of reading about matchups yet? Too bad. We’re about to give you the three most important ones of Super Bowl LIII.
1. Rams defensive line vs. Patriots offensive line. The experts have been harping on this one all week, but they’re only half right. Yesterday, for example, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce appeared on the Felger & Mazz show and said that the Rams defensive line was the key to the game because they had to get to Tom Brady. At least Kelce was half-right.
Getting to Brady is obvious … but it’s also unlikely. The Patriots will have a plan to get the ball out quickly because that’s what they do. Nobody gets to Brady. At least not until they have a lead and can force the Patriots into longer passing situations.
Which brings us to this: the Rams and the ability (or inability) to stop the run.
Look, maybe you hate Ndamukong Suh – and that’s understandable. He’s been a dirty player. And he’s been an underachieving bum. But Suh has been playing well in the postseason and his ceiling is still through the roof. Any chance the Rams have in this game starts with them bottling up the Patriots running game. If the Pats run the ball, the Rams are toast.
One question: is the Patriots offensive line really as good as we think it is?
2. Brian Flores vs. Sean McVay. Coaching is obviously a huge factor in any big game – and everything in this game starts with the head coaches – old genius Bill Belichick vs. new genius Sean McVay. But the more detailed matchup between McVay and Pats defensive play-caller Sean McVay is far more important because it speaks to the Patriots approach on the defensive side of the ball.
Fact: the Rams have been more effective this year against man-to-man coverage and the Patriots play more man-to-man than any team in football. Man-to-man is the strength of cornerback Stephon Gilmore. So are the Pats going to ask arguably their best defensive player this year (Gilmore) to play zone and do something that doesn’t exactly put him in a position to succeed? It’s really a fascinating question. The Rams don’t have a clear No. 1 receiver and everything on paper suggests the Patriots should play zone.
It’s just not what they like to do.
Also, how much – and when – will the Patriots blitz Goff? The guess here is that the Patriots try to confuse the Rams with stunts and the now-infamous “amoeba” front – but that they only end up rushing four.
One more thing: the Rams’ offensive line has more talent than the Patriots defensive line. If the Rams lose this matchup, they’re in trouble. It’s a matchup they should win.
3. Rams linebackers and safeties vs. Patriots tight ends and running backs. Translation: can the Rams keep James White and Rob Gronkowski under control? And yes, we said Gronk, who might very well be playing in the last game of his career.
Look, every defense has to give up something. The Rams have a good defensive line and invested heavily at corner, where they have Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters, but they have struggled in pass coverage against both RBs and TEs. When you have the kind offense the Rams have, that is a small sacrifice to make.
Unless you play a team like the Patriots.
As we all know, Tom Brady is good enough to beat the by dumping the ball off to White and Gronk. And in the case of Gronk – he’s a potential factor down the field, too. Is he the same player he was? No. But this is about one game, and in the case of Gronk, it’s his last one.