It is finally here. Yes, that’s right. After weeks of hard-nosed, high-flying football, the season is now down to two teams competing for the sports’ ultimate prize, the Lombardi Trophy.
The Los Angeles Rams and the New England Patriots will duke it out in the Super Bowl on February 3rd in Atlanta. Both teams dazzled us this season with some phenomenal offense, albeit some shaky defense at times. This game will see legendary quarterback Tom Brady go up against a younger, less proven QB in Jared Goff. With Brady going for his sixth Super Bowl and Goff his first, this game will be sure to have some interesting storylines.
Before diving into this matchup, let’s take a look at the Super Bowl histories of both franchises and what a Super Bowl could potentially mean for their legacies. After all, the Rams have been a part of the NFL since 1937, while the Patriots were a member of the American Football League in 1960, eventually merging with the NFL in 1970. There is a ton of history to unpack here, so let’s not waste any more time.
Los Angeles Rams
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The Los Angeles Rams were first introduced to the world in 1936. At the time, the team was based out of Cleveland, but eventually moved to L.A. in 1946.
After years of competing in the NFL, the team finally made its first Super Bowl in 1980. This was the 14th edition of the Super Bowl, and the Rams were facing a tough test in the three-time champion Pittsburgh Steelers. Led by QB Vince Ferragamo, Los Angeles were 10.5 point underdogs.
The Rams actually put up a pretty good fight as they had the lead at halftime and were also up 19-17 after the third quarter. Although it all fell apart in the fourth quarter when Steelers legend Terry Bradshaw mounted a comeback, winning his team the game, 31-19. Bradshaw also won Super Bowl MVP honors for his performance.
Now fast forward 20 years later, and the Los Angeles Rams have moved to St-Louis. The team made it all the way to Super Bowl 34 against the Tennessee Titans, thanks to the play of quarterback Kurt Warner. In that game, the team went up 16-0 on the Titans, but Tennessee wouldn’t quit, eventually tying up the game. With two minutes left, Warner threw a 73-yard touchdown pass and won the team the game, giving them their first and only Super Bowl.
Just a few years later, the Rams would cross paths with Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. We’ll save this one for the next section when we get into the Patriots.
In 2015, the team moved from St-Louis back to Los Angeles and that’s where we are today.
New England Patriots
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The history of the New England Patriots is a lot richer when it comes to Super Bowl appearances, although they weren’t always winning them like they seemingly do now.
In 1986, the New England Patriots faced one of the best defensive teams of all time, the Mike Ditka led Chicago Bears. The Patriots really had no chance in this game and it showed as they got blown out 46-10. Considering the legacy of that Bears team, the loss isn’t really that much of a blemish on the franchise.
A decade later, the Patriots found themselves back in the Super Bowl in 1997, as they took on legendary quarterback Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers. Once again, the Patriots were underdogs and it showed, as they got clobbered 35-21.
Just five year later, a man named Tom Brady would change the fortunes of the franchise forever. Circling back to the 2002 Super Bowl, the Patriots were playing Kurt Warner and the St-Louis Rams. The Rams were the favorites but Brady and company pulled off a thrilling upset, winning the game off a last-second field goal by Adam Vinatieri. The final score was 20-17.
Over the next two decades, the Patriots would dominate the league. Brady won two more Super Bowls in 2004 and 2005, and then went on to play in the 2008 and 2011 Super Bowls where they lost both times to the New York Giants.
Brady and the Patriots made it back to the Super Bowl in 2015, where they defeated the Seattle Seahawks 28-24. After an off year in 2016, the Patriots have now made it to three straight Super Bowls. Of course, they mounted that incredible 28-3 comeback against the Atlanta Falcons in 2017. They also lost 41-33 against the Eagles in the big game last season.
Overall, the team has been to 10 Super Bowls and have won five. If the Patriots win next Sunday, they will have a winning record in the big game and will tie the Pittsburgh Steelers for the most Super Bowl wins.
Super Bowl LIII
Now getting back to the game at hand, both of these teams were the second seed in their respective conferences. The Patriots finished the year with a record of 11-5, while the Rams were tied with the Saints for the best record in the league, at 13-3.
As mentioned earlier, both of these teams have high-flying offenses, thanks in part to their quarterbacks, as well as their running backs Sony Michel (New England) and Todd Gurley (Los Angeles).
When it comes to specific stats on offense, the Rams had the second best points per game average in the league, scoring around 32.9. They had the second-best yards per game average with 421.1 and had the fifth and third best pass and rushing offenses. They absolutely chewed through teams this year and they were incredibly fun to watch. This was especially true when they defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 54-51 earlier in the regular season. All stats courtesy of nfl.com.
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Brady and company were no slouches themselves. Averaging 27.2 points per match, the Patriots had the fourth best offense in the league and averaged 393.4 yards a game, which had them ranked fifth in that category. Meanwhile, they had the eighth best passing offense and fifth best rushing game. The running back was carried by James White and Sony Michel. Michel has been particularly impressive in the playoffs and had a monster game against the Chiefs in the AFC Championship game. All stats courtesy of nfl.com.
Moving on to defense now, both teams could stand to improve in certain categories. Starting with the Rams, they gave up 24 points per game, good enough for 20th in the league. Their rushing defense struggled all season, giving up over 120 yards a match, something that Michel and White will be salivating over. The Rams were mid-pack as far as pass defense is concerned, ranking 14th with 236.2 yards allowed per game. One bright spot for the defense though is their pass rush which is led by Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh. All stats courtesy of nfl.com.
With 20.3 points allowed per game, the Patriots ranked seventh in the league. This seems pretty good but considering they gave up 359 yards per game, 246 of those coming from the pass, the Patriots will have to tighten up defensively if they want to suppress Goff who is known to sling the ball around. As far as the rushing defense is concerned, the Patriots were ranked 11th in the league, giving up 112.7 yards per match. All stats courtesy of nfl.com.
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These teams never played each other in the regular season which makes this matchup so interesting. No one really knows how they’ll stack up against each other, which could lead to a pretty classic Super Bowl. Both teams also played in some very exciting overtime Championship games last Sunday, so we know the game will at least be entertaining.
No matter who wins, this game will certainly be legacy-building for the victor.
With all of this in mind, who do you have winning the Super Bowl?