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Patriots Report Card In Super Bowl LIII Win Over LA

Steve Balestrieri
February 5, 2019 at 7:50 am ET

Patriots Report Card In Super Bowl LIII Win Over LA

Nobody saw that kind of low-scoring game playing out, but Bill Belichick and Brian Flores put together a masterful game plan and totally shut down the Rams offense, which was the #2 scoring unit in the league, holding them to nearly 30 points below their weekly average.

Julian Edelman was the most uncoverable receiver on the field and very much deserved the MVP Award, although the Patriots offense moved the ball well all night long, they couldn’t finish drives. But they found a way to win late and that’s what champions do, And the duck boats are gearing up for a parade on Tuesday morning. Super Bowl win #6 is a testament to how teams win victories and not always the more talented.

So, check out our grades and see how the team fared in this week’s blowout win:

Quarterback: B-

Tom Brady didn’t have the eye-popping numbers 21-35 for 262 yards with 0 TDs and 1 INT in the game as the Rams did a very good job of mixing things up and changing coverages especially after the Patriots would cross mid-field.

While Brady didn’t get hit a lot, the Rams did have pressure and were all around him enough to influence many of his throws. So, while the Patriots could move the ball consistently, they weren’t able to finish drives. Until crunch time.

With the game tied at 3-3 with ten minutes to go, that’s when Brady engineered a perfect drive where he made it look easy. First, he lobbed a perfectly drop in the bucket to Rob Gronkowski for 18 yards to get the offense moving. Next, he hit Edelman right down the middle for 13 yards. This was followed by a 7-yard pass to Rex Burkhead on the right sideline. On 2nd and 3, from the Rams 31, he made his best pass of the night, a beautifully placed touch pass to Gronkowski who beat double coverage. Gronkowski hauled it in as he went to the ground for a 29-yard gain. Sony Michel easily powered it in from the 2-yard line on the next play….Boom. Welcome home Lombardi Trophy #6.

Running Backs: B

The Patriots were patient with the running game and it paid off in the end. They ran for 154 yards on 32 carries as the Rams wore down in the end and the running game gashed them while running the 4-minute offense.

Sony Michel, you remember that “waste of a 1st round pick”? Well, he led all ball carriers with 94 yards on 18 carries including the only touchdown in the game. His biggest play was a 26-yard scamper that got the Patriots out of the deep hole in their own end.

Rex Burkhead chipped in with 7 carries for 43 yards and two catches for 15 more. On the same drive that started at the Patriots 4-yard line, Burkhead also got a 26-yard run where he burst thru the line and then cut back against the grain. Those two runs took the Patriots from deep in their own end into scoring range.

James White was a total non-factor in the game, carrying just two times for four yards and with just one catch for five more. The Rams did a tremendous job of taking him away.  

Wide Receivers: B-

Julian Edelman was absolutely uncoverable, and he rates an A+. The rest of the receivers? Not so much. Edelman roasted Nickell Roby-Coleman, frequently having 3 or more yards of separation. Roby-Coleman was doing a lot of talking early in the week, but didn’t walk the walk. The Rams then tried Aqib Talib on Edelman, but his quickness was too much for Talib off the line. Then Phillips trotted out Marcus Peters who was blown away off the line allowing a big catch down the seam for 25. Nobody could cover him on Sunday night. He finished with 10 catches for 141 yards on 12 targets.

Chris Hogan was targeted six times and had zero catches. Brady’s interception, on the first pass of the game, was well behind him. But he was unable to get any separation. Phillip Dorsett wasn’t targeted. Cordarrelle Patterson had two catches for 14 yards and added a pair of runs for seven.  

Tight Ends: A-

Rob Gronkowski was excellent in the running game blocking for the backs. On the Patriots touchdown, they went to a two-tight end set and he and Dwayne Allen helped the line blow the Rams off the line of scrimmage for a too-easy touchdown that was the difference in the game.

But in the passing game, Gronkowski had six catches for 87 yards on seven targets. Like Brady, he saved his best for last. On the Patriots touchdown drive he had catches for 18 and 29 yards, the latter a really nice catch as he was going to the ground.

Offensive Line: A-

The Patriots offensive line put together another very impressive performance. While the Rams were able to stop the running game early on, they did a good job of protecting Brady, despite the pass rush of Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh getting some pressure. The only sack was more of a coverage sack than anything else. Brady had forever to throw but no one was open and he probably should have thrown it away.

But late in the game, with the Patriots backed up at their four-yard line with four minutes to go, the Rams knew they were going to run the football. And they did. On Sony Michel’s 26-yard run, David Andrews destroyed Suh, pushing him three yards to the left and dumped him on his backside.

Defensive Line: A

The Patriots defensive line was absolutely terrific. The Rams potent running attack with Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson never got untracked and had just 62 yards on 18 carries. The Rams motion tries to get linemen moving sideways, but the Patriots attacked and were getting very good penetration. Danny Shelton blew thru a gap and nailed Anderson for a loss.

Trey Flowers also burst thru and had a tackle for a loss. But the front also did a very good job at getting pressure on Jared Goff. Adrian Clayborn and Lawrence Guy had QB hits while Flowers had two.

Linebackers: A

The Patriots linebackers were outstanding. Both Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy were all over the field and they were a very disruptive force all night long. With the team running a 6-1 look, the outside backers were essentially lining up on the line of scrimmage. They did a tremendous job of setting the edge in the running game and took away those shallow crosses and slants the Rams like to run.

Hightower, who in every Super Bowl plays like a man possessed, was everywhere. He had two tackles for a loss, two QB sacks, a pass defensed and three QB hits. Van Noy was also everywhere. He had four tackles, a tackle for a loss, a sack, and three QB hits. Hightower, on the Shelton run stuff absolutely destroyed Tyler Higbee in the interior of the line. Ouch.

Elandon Roberts and John Simon each saw action and as a whole, the linebackers totally took away the Rams RBs in the passing game, which was supposed to be a mismatch. Rams RBs had three catches for 11 yards in the game.

Secondary: A-

The Patriots secondary played a different look mixing in man coverage with Quarters zone coverage and held the Rams to a net 198 yards passing which was far below their average of 281 per game. Stephon Gilmore was outstanding as he has been all season and chipped in with the interception that sealed the deal for the Patriots.

Slot corner Jonathan Jones played some safety in their Quarters looks which showed off his versatility. Jason McCourty had the play of the game where on a busted coverage, Brandin Cooks was wide open in the end zone. McCourty flew over from his side and knocked the ball away.

Pat Chung was having an excellent game, but early in the third quarter broke his arm. In stepped “the Closer” Duron Harmon, who played very well. Harmon blitzed and forced Goff into throwing a floater that was picked off by Gilmore.

Special Teams: A-

Ryan Allen and Matthew Slater were fantastic in this game. Allen dropped three punts deep in the Rams zone where Slater was there to cover it up. They were able to force the Rams to go the length of the field.

Stephen Gostkowski missed his first field goal attempt but made his next two tries, including the one with a minute to go to put the game out of reach. The coverage units were solid and Patterson took the opening kickoff back 38 yards.

Coaching: A

Bill Belichick and Brian Flores gave a master’s class on having a great game plan that the players were able to execute perfectly.  Of all the Patriots Super Bowl wins, this one could arguably be considered their best defensive effort, holding a team that averages almost 33 points a game to just a field goal.

They flummoxed Sean McVay and Jared Goff on the opposite side of the field all game long. The Rams offense never looked like it was getting into anything resembling a rhythm or a comfort level all game long. McVay admitted after the game that Belichick outcoached him. It wasn’t the first time that Belichick has done that.

Josh McDaniels tried mixing things up offensively where the team could move the ball but kept stalling. They did figure it out late in the game and the team put together two impressive drives to finish the game, and win another Super Bowl.

So, who’s ready for a parade?

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as our writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

Patriots-Rams Super Bowl LIII Keys Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
February 1, 2019 at 7:30 am ET

The New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams are in Atlanta for Super Bowl LIII and contrary to popular belief outside of New England, the Patriots don’t reach the Super Bowl every year that Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are together on the field. It just seems that way.

Super Bowl LIII will be broadcast by CBS on Sunday, February 3 at 6:30 PM ET and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Jim Nantz will handle play-by-play duties with Tony Romo as the color analyst. Tracy Wolfson, Evan Washburn, and Jay Feely will work from the sidelines.  The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The SportsHub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Cappello.

The Patriots (13-5) are in the big game for the third straight year, after blowing out the Chargers and winning an overtime thriller against the #1 seed Kansas City Chiefs.

The Rams (15-3) also won in overtime in the NFC Championship Game beating the New Orleans Saints after coming back from being two scores down early in the game.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2019 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out.

Series History:

The Patriots and Rams are meeting for the first time in the postseason since Super Bowl XXXVI, the Pats first Super Bowl win over the “Greatest Show on Turf”. The only two remaining pieces for either team remain Brady and Belichick.

Here is a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge.

First up is the Patriots offense:

Patriots RBs vs Rams Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots rushing offense has been outstanding down the stretch and thru the first two games of the playoffs. New England utilizes a three-headed rushing attack with Sony Michel handling the lion’s share with Rex Burkhead, and James White also adding into the mix as well.

The Rams defense uses the Wade Phillips 3-4 where they bring an extra linebacker up on the line in run support. The Rams during the regular season allowed 5.1 yards per rush but have been much better in the playoffs. In the Saints game, Aaron Donald was shooting the gaps and blowing plays up before they had a chance to develop.

The Patriots run a different system and should line up right over Donald and will look to take him on rather than trying to reach block him like New Orleans did where Donald’s quickness off the line made that a losing proposition.

Look for the Patriots to attack the perimeter in the running game and they’ll use motion with Julian Edelman and Cordarrelle Patterson to run some of those Jet Sweeps. The aggressiveness of their front, especially Donald and Ndamukong Suh is where they’ll try to exploit by running at them on the perimeter.

The Patriots interior players David Andrews, Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason will be the ones to watch against the Rams interior run stuffers. They like to move Suh around and created mismatches so this will be a key area to watch.

Patriots WRs vs Rams Secondary – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots passing game has ratcheted up their game down the stretch with Tom Brady and Julian Edelman both having big games in the first two playoff matchups. The key obviously is in pass protection, the Rams boast Donald, Suh, and a very good pass rush which can disrupt anyone’s passing attack.

Wade Phillips will try to take away the middle of the field and may try to double up Julian Edelman. If that happens, watch Brady put him in motion. The Rams defense struggled in the passing game against “12 personnel” groupings (2 WR, 2TE, 1RB) and look for the Patriots to utilize White or Burkhead quite a bit in the passing game.

How LA decides to cover Rob Gronkowski will be fascinating to watch. Will it be in single coverage like KC did with a safety? Or will they chip and roll more coverage on him? Gronkowski looks as healthy as he has all season and had a big game inKC. Brady will try to get the ball out quickly and negate Donald and the pass rush. How well they are able to do that will determine how successful they are at passing the ball.

The Rams played a lot of zone coverage, then switching to man coverage inside the red zone. However, since Aqib Talib’s return, they’re playing more man coverage, and that should continue this week.

Next up the Los Angeles offense:

Rams RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Los Angeles

The Rams have been one of the best teams at running the football this season averaging 139.4 yards per game (3rd in the NFL) and have two excellent running backs in Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson. Some tendencies to watch for. When Gurley is in the game, they run nearly 70 percent of the time to the edge and when Anderson is in, that number is nearly 50 percent right up the middle.

The Rams offensive line is much like the Patriots, they are tough, very well-coached and rarely make mistakes. LA runs primarily out of “11 personnel” (3WR, 1TE, 1 RB). They like to condense the formations, (something Bill Belichick mentioned this week) and run a ton of misdirection. Like New England, they like to put a guy in motion to get three men on one side and like to run behind that strength.

Jared Goff lined up for 40 percent of his snaps under center, among the most in the league. Play action passing is a stable of their offense. I’m looking for the historian in Belichick to dust off a look that he used successfully in Super Bowl XXXIX against the Eagles, the Bears 46 Defense.

Bringing up eight men in the box and placing a linebacker outside close to the line of scrimmage is a way of limiting the running game of Gurley. They’ll place a big man over the center and use their interior men to attack the gaps. The key is setting the edge, especially when Gurley is in the game. In two playoff games, they’ve allowed just 60 yards rushing.

Rams WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge Los Angeles

The Rams passing game was lighting up the league in the first half of the season. The loss of Cooper Kupp to IR has been a big blow, however, they are still very, very talented. They have a plethora of targets for Jared Goff in Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks, Gurley, Josh Reynolds, and Tyler Higbee.

The key is for the Patriots is to disguise their look until the final second. Goff doesn’t read the defense as well or as quick as Brady. Rams coach Sean McVay will have his team rush to the line and see how the Patriots line up and he’ll call out into Goff’s helmet the read until the microphones are cut off at the 15-second mark of the play clock. It will be then up to Belichick and Brian Flores to change things up and show something different. Can they confuse Goff enough or slow down his processing time enough to make a difference? That’s the key here.

Look for the Patriots to put Stephon Gilmore on Robert Woods, and possibly their speediest corner Jonathon Jones or Jason McCourty on Cooks with safety help. Rookie J.C. Jackson will see more of Reynolds.

Look for more of that “Amoeba Front” look to disguise where the pass rush is coming from to try to get pressure on Goff. They’ll rotate their coverages and safeties to give Goff a different look in an attempt to slow down his processing time to allow the pass rush to get home.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge Los Angeles

The Patriots special teams have been much better down the stretch but for once, they’re facing a team with a slightly better cast. Stephen Gostkowski and Ryan Allen remain extremely solid. Julian Edelman and Cordarrelle Patterson will look to make a difference in the return game.

The Rams have an outstanding STs unit and it begins with punter Johnny Hekker. He is always lavished praise by Belichick and not only is he an outstanding punter but the Rams have shown that they aren’t afraid of throwing it on 4th down with him. Greg Zuerlein is very good at kicking. JoJo Natson and Blake Countess handled return duties.

Next up, who wins and why…

Keys to the Game and Prediction

This game should be another classic must-watch down to the wire matchup. What would a Patriots Super Bowl be without an edge of your seat finish? Keys to the game from a Patriots perspective are:

Start Fast and Put the Rams in Catchup Mode: The Patriots have been very good at starting fast this postseason. That must continue. The Rams offense wants to make this a track meet and that’s a game they’re much better suited to winning.

3rd Down/Red Zone Key: The Patriots have to win the 3rd down battle, on offense they must give Brady the third and manageable distances, the 3rd and 4 or less. On defense it has to be the opposite, forcing Goff into obvious passing situations where they can mix and match their coverages and bring pressure. Field goals instead of touchdowns will be a way to win or lose the game.

Win the Turnover Battle: The Patriots and Rams should both be able to move the ball this Sunday  It may come down to getting a key turnover, especially in the opponent’s end of the field. Can the Patriots generate a turnover or two, something they were unable to do a year ago?

The feeling here is experience is a great asset. Brady, Edelman, Gronkowski and James White have been here and won, before. That will be the difference in another great Super Bowl. It will go right down to the wire, but cue the duckboats, Marty, the Lombardi is coming back to New England. Patriots 31-27

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

Brady, Patriots Turn Back the Clock to 2001 in Win Over LA

Steve Balestrieri
December 5, 2016 at 6:56 am ET

 The Patriots were honoring the 2001 team that won the Super Bowl 15 years ago this weekend. That team shocked the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI for one of the bigger upsets in NFL history. The 2016 version of the Pats and Tom Brady evoked a truly 2001esque performance on Sunday against the Rams to throttle their visitors 26-10 that was far more one-sided than the scoreboard indicated.

The Patriots were balanced on offense and early in the game ran the ball extremely well using a nice combination of LeGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis. In the second half, they went to the short passing game with Brady hitting a number of different receivers. The defense mixed up their coverages and blitzes and got two interceptions and sacks from four different players. Stephen Gostkowski kicked four field goals and channeled a Vinatieri-like performance.

Their workmanlike butt kicking of the hapless Rams also culminated in the 201st win of Brady’s remarkable career. It was fitting that the team used Sunday as the day to celebrate the 2001 team. Because in the final drive against the Rams in SB XXXVI, it was John Madden who would foretell what was to come when he said, “What Tom Brady just did on that final drive, gave me goosebumps.” Now, 15 years later Brady stands at the pinnacle of NFL quarterbacks.

Heavy Lifting Starts Now: Look no one is suggesting that the past three games have been against any teams that are remotely considered top flight NFL teams. But with the team having to reinvent itself on the fly due to trades and injuries, this has been a time of searching for pieces to fit their system. And it seems they’ve found them. Their next two weeks against the Ravens and Broncos will go a long way in determining how the team’s seeding will go playoff wise.

SF, the Jets, and Rams gave the team the chance to find the right combinations that they’ve been searching for defensively and it seems they’ve settled on their players now and it gives them the chance to work more on their execution. This arguably lesser competition sets the table for tougher opponents down the stretch and into January.

With Shea McClellin, Kyle Van Noy, and Elandon Roberts filling in for the departed Jamie Collins at linebacker opposite Dont’a Hightower, the Patriots have their rotation now and how each will be utilized. McClellin and Van Noy each had a sack and the latter came up with a leaping interception of Jared Goff on Sunday.

Eric Rowe is now the 2nd corner opposite of Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan will be the slot corner where, Justin Coleman and rookies Cyrus Jones and Jonathan Jones failed to make an impression despite some chances.

Matt Patricia dialed up a bunch of different looks for rookie QB Jared Goff and although they blitzed a bit more, they mixed things up with linebackers coming from both the edge and the A-gaps, corner blitzes from Logan Ryan and from the safeties. The result was Goff, was off-balance and was sailing his throws all day.

The Rams were held to just 25 yards of offense in the first half, the least amount of any team in the NFL this year. They had less than 100 yards of total offense until a garbage-time drive in the final minute of the game pushed them to 160. But with just 126 yards passing, and Todd Gurley and the running game rendered completely ineffective, this was a dominant effort by the defense. This was a building block type of game, that they unit can use to tighten things up and get better.

Brady Continues Excellence: Tom Brady got his milestone win and as he is prone to do, deflected all the credit to his teammates and coaches. And while QB stats when it comes wins is pretty much worthless, the fact that he’s done it so often and with such a varied cast around him for the past 17 years speaks volumes about himself.

On Sunday, Brady carried over the workman-like approach against the Rams completing 33 of 46 passes for 269 yards and a nice touchdown pass to Chris Hogan. The back-shoulder throw at the pylon in the end zone was perfectly thrown and put the Patriots up 14-0. It felt like it was 40-0 with the way the defense was shutting down the LA offense.

The offense settled for four field goals after that, but there was no reason to risk any chance of a turnover after that. The game was well in hand and they were cruising. They just took the points and kept rolling.

Blount is having a career year: LeGarrette Blount or LG as he’s called in the locker room is having an outstanding 2016. It’s hard to believe that he was a question mark during the preseason this summer. Blount did a lot of the heavy lifting in the first half where he gained 70 yards and set the tone for the day on the Patriots first drive.

Facing a 4th and 1 from the Rams 43-yard line, Blount took a handoff and was attempting to run over the right tackle. Finding the way blocked, he kicked it outside and then broke down the right sideline and raced to the end zone for a highlight reel touchdown. He finished with 18 carries for 88 yards and a touchdown.

On the year, he’s carried 230 times for 957 yards and an NFL-leading 13 touchdowns. With just 58 yards in the final four games, he’ll break his career high of 1007 yards he set in his rookie season with Tampa Bay. He’s already shattered his best of seven TDs scored in 2013 with the Patriots. With two more rushing touchdowns, Blount would break the Patriots record of 14 set by Curtis Martin in 1995 and equaled in 1996.

Edelman, Mitchell Pick up the Slack: With Rob Gronkowski out, the question became who was going to pick up the offense and elevate their game. With fellow tight end Martellus Bennett having a quiet day with just a pair of catches, that in itself wasn’t surprising as the big man is battling injury issues of his own with shoulder and ankle woes. Brady turned to another old reliable weapon and a new one.

Julian Edelman had a fantastic day hauling in 8 catches for 101 yards. He looks like his normal self for perhaps the first time this season and was positively dominant down low. He made the tough catches in contested areas and took some terrific blows in this game. Rookie wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell continues to impress as well.

He too caught eight passes for 82 yards and is becoming a favorite target of Brady. The fact that Brady trusts him, frequently on third down speaks volumes on how far he’s progressed this year. In the past three weeks, he’s made tremendous progress. His production eases the sting of the Gronkowski loss a bit.

One final observation, does anyone believe that Bill Belichick was over-hyping Rams punter Johnny Hekker now? He was by far the best player on the field for LA on Sunday.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots – Rams Keys, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
December 2, 2016 at 6:00 am ET

The New England Patriots return home to Gillette Stadium for a game against the Los Angeles Rams. The kickoff is scheduled for 1:00 p.m.

This week’s game will be televised by Fox Sports and can be seen locally on Fox 25 Channel 25 in Boston. Kevin Burkhardt will handle play-by-play duties with John Lynch as the color analyst. Pam Oliver will work the sidelines. The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The SportsHub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Cappello.

The Patriots (9-2) improved to 6-0 on the road this season with a 22-17 win over the New York Jets. Tom Brady led the game-winning drive with just over five minutes to go and tossed the winning touchdown pass to Malcolm Mitchell. The rookie WR had two touchdowns on the day. Brady passed the 60,000-yard plateau in his career and the comeback win was his 50th with career win #200 tying Peyton Manning for the all-time lead for quarterbacks.

The Rams (4-7) lost a blowout contest in New Orleans 49-21 to the Saints. The Rams defense which had allowed only 50 points in the previous four games allowed nearly that to Drew Brees and the Saints.  The good news was however that rookie QB Jared Goff in just his second NFL start tossed three touchdowns.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2016 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out.

Series History:
The Patriots and Rams are meeting for the just the 13th time as they are pretty unfamiliar with one another. The two teams did meet in Super Bowl XXXVI with the Pats upsetting the heavily favored Rams 20-17. Although the Patriots hold an overall 7-5 edge in the 12 contests dating back to 1974, they are just 2-3 at home.

The Pats have won the last four meetings with the last a 45-7 win in London back in 2012. Tom Brady threw for four touchdowns, two to Rob Gronkowski and two to WR Brandon Lloyd.

Here is a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge.

First up is the Patriots offense: