We look at what the LA Rams and New England Patriots need to focus on to come home with the Vince Lombardi Trophy by winning Super Bowl LIII.
The Patriots and Rams go head-to-head in the NFL finale in Atlanta on Sunday and there are plenty of theories and scenarios being talked about on how the game will be settled.
But what are the two key tactics both teams need to carry out in order to be crowned NFL champions Jacob Blangsted-Barnor takes a look..
New England Patriots
Offense - Time of Possession
Starting with the favoured New England Patriots, one of the many things New England has done well this post-season is controlling the ball, during the regular season they ranked second in time of possession with 31:56.
Jump forward to the post-season and they have averaged 41:09 time of possession, seven minutes longer than the LA Rams who sit in second with 34:24.
The first way they have been able to control the ball is by averaging 165 rushing yards per game but what has really set them apart has been their ability to mix in a strong run game with short, high-percentage throws, averaging 71% pass completion. In the Chargers game this was on show with plenty of early throws to James White out the backfield.
Defense - Pressure on Goff
The narrative all week has been that if the Rams want to win, they need to pressure Brady and getting pressure on any QB can be considered a key to victory, however, the effect pressure has had on Goff this season has been even greater on forcing mistakes.
When under pressure Goff’s TD:INT ratio goes from 28:7 to 5:6 and his completion percent drops from 72% to 43.4%. Thankfully for Goff, the Rams offensive line hasn’t allowed much pressure for him to deal with.
New England will hope to change this come Sunday. We saw in the Patriots v Chargers game that Belichick was happy to be aggressive from early on and it worked, often sending six guys with a Cover zero defensive backfield, getting after the QB early so the DBs don’t have to cover for very long.
While the Rams offensive line has performed well, one of the criticisms of Todd Gurley was his poor pass protection, if they decide to send six-plus pass rushers then Gurley will be called upon a lot to help out in protection which aims to take advantage of a weak point in the Rams offense.
Offense - Control the Line of Scrimmage
The Rams have done well in pass protection but where they really excel is run blocking, they grade as the best run blockers in the NFL.
While they only gave Todd Gurley five touches in the NFC title game, the breakout in CJ Anderson is evidence that the offensive line makes it much easier for rushers to make hay.
Take nothing away from Anderson, but you don’t go from a player who has been cut from multiple teams to multiple 100-yard games without a good offensive line. In the last few games, the Rams haven’t been afraid to put in extra offensive linemen or tight ends and go downhill with the football.
This then leans into their play-action game which is where they have most of their passing success. If Todd Gurley is back to 100 percent fitness this week then the Rams can look to spearhead their attack with a two-headed backfield monster in Gurley and Anderson.
If they can keep the game close and control the line of scrimmage then they have a good chance in this game. If they fall behind early and need to chase the game and abandon the run then this will play right into the Patriots’ hands.
Defense – Contain Julian Edelman
Kansas City’s defense fell down in the AFC Championship game for two reasons, they couldn’t control the run and they lost out in man coverage to Julian Edelman.
The Patriots used a number of deep over routes and routes across the middle to take advantage of the fact the Chiefs were trying to play Edelman in man coverage. Edelman has lined up roughly 50% of the time in the slot and 50% of the time out wide.
When in the slot he will be matched up against Nickell Robey-Coleman (who infamously got away with a blatant pass interference to get the Rams to the Super Bowl).
Robey-Coleman has had his best season to date and excels in the slot corner role, while many teams put their slot corner on Gronkowski, Edelman has established himself as the biggest threat.
Though Gronkowski remains a match-up nightmare for most defenders, he has had a lack of production this season and looked clearly unhealthy at times, the focus of the best slot coverage guy should be focused on Edelman where possible.
Aqib Talib should follow Edelman when he is out wide as Marcus Peters has struggled at times and when Talib came back into the line-up following his spell out injured, the defense received an immediate boost.