Many people in America are hoping to see the Patriots dynasty come crashing down at Super Bowl LIII against the Rams, but while there are certainly similarities, there’s plenty of life in the old dogs from New England yet.
Like so much of this Super Bowl match-up it’s a case of youth versus experience, and nowhere is that clearer than in the case of the quarterbacks on show in Atlanta, with Tom Brady having been there, done that, and collected several T-shirts while Jared Goff is just beginning to make a name for himself.
Familiarity breeds contempt, and success breeds jealousy, these two are both true of Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots over the last couple of decades, and for those who are sick of the sight of them the bad news is there’s no end of the ‘evil dynasty’ from Foxborough coming any time soon.
Brady is now the wrong side of 40, but he’s been right up there again in quality terms for most of the season, and in the play-offs he can deliver game-winning drives like few players ever have in history.
Big expectations v chip on the shoulder
Goff was taken with the first pick of the NFL Draft by the Rams, which can be a blessing or a curse depending on what team finishes dead last in the NFL that particular year, and their potential for improvement.
It didn’t look too good for Goff but coach Sean McVay has turned things around magnificently, taking them to the play-offs in his first two seasons and basically producing the top offence in the league both seasons.
Goff’s numbers have been decent but he’s no gunslinger in this offence with the Rams making most of their ground on the back of Todd Gurley, taking pressure off Goff but giving him options to then go deep with a set of speedy receivers.
If that sounds familiar then it’s because it’s not far off the tactics the Patriots often employ, for all Brady’s quick-passing mastery he’s still much better when the team can run the ball. All QBs are better with a running game but if you give Brady that extra dimension to his offence he’s as dangerous as they come.
Brady was famously taken 199th in the NFL Draft, so entered the league as a lowly back-up in New England and only really got his chance thanks to an injury to starter Drew Bledsoe. The way Brady clinically took his chance to go on and win his first Super Bowl, against the Rams, was a sign of things to come – he’s been clinically taking his chances ever since.
Brady’s biggest win against Father Time
Brady’s on about his third ‘last ride’ in the NFL – he was counted out before leading that epic record comeback win against Atlanta in the Super Bowl, before being told he was finished last season when losing the Vince Lombardi Trophy to the Eagles.
This season was not vintage Brady throughout as the Patriots struggled on the road, finishing 3-5 away from Gillette Stadium (where they went 8-0), but again they finished in that friendly spot that gave them a bye week, and they then won a classic at Kansas City.
Keeping Brady safe has been the main focus for the team, he’s not been sacked or even hit too many times this season and his trademark short, sharp passing means he’s out of harm’s way quickly.
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Having the likes of Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski and bail-out options is just what he needs, but the emergence of rookie running back Sony Michel has also helped him no end. There’s no real ego in his or Belichick’s style of play, they take what the opposition give them and if the run game is working Brady will happily run the ball down their throats, unconcerned with padding his throwing stats.
When the time comes though, such as in Kansas City, he marched his team down the field towards the end of the game, and then in overtime to send them to the Super Bowl. The Patriots game plan was sound enough to keep the Chiefs in check, but it’s that Brady magic that once again got them over the line.
How are the Rams similar?
Sean McVay is a mastermind of his own, only his skills come on the offensive side of the ball while Belichick is a defensive guy – but the pair are both innovators in their own field and up to now, McVay is proving to be hugely successful as well.
He’s carried himself well so far in Super Bowl week despite the constant questioning that comes on a daily basis for these the two head coaches – staying calm, sticking to your routines and conducting the week as ‘business as usual’ are keys to success.
The Rams have the look of a team that could well build a dynasty – we’ve said that before about teams of course but they have got a young coach and quarterback combination that could keep them challenging for years.
Like the Patriots, both the coach and front office now need to act wisely when the inevitable turnover of players occurs, but keep their stars together while working to negate salary cap concerns to keep the team up at the top for a sustained period - it's a tough business.
McVay is the key, he already has a great CV after just a couple of seasons as a head coach, but sustaining that excellence will be the hard part. Mike Tomlin, John Harbaugh, Tom Coughlin and Pete Carroll have threatened to build dynasties with the Steelers, Ravens, Giants and Seahawks over the last decade but none have come anywhere near Belichick's numbers.
It won’t be a Patriot-esque era, we’ll never see a team like this again in the NFL, but maybe, just maybe, this could be the start of something big in LA.