What you really need to know going into Super Bowl LIII
WHO: Los Angeles Rams vs New EnglandPatriots
WHAT: Super Bowl LIII
WHERE: Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia
WHEN: Sunday, February 3
Then comes the HOW...
When the Rams and Pats pour out of the tunnels onto the artificial turf in Atlanta Sunday, 17 years to the day since they first met in SB XXXVI, history will be made. Regardless who ends up lifting the Lombardi, records will be set, dynasties will be created (or extended) and conversations over who is (or could be) the greatest of all-time will ensue. Here is a glimpse of the biggest things you need to know as you sit down in front of a sombrero-sized 7-layer dip.
Rams head coach Sean McVay turned 33-years-old just days after winning the NFC Championship, making him the youngest coach in NFL history to lead his team to a Super Bowl appearance. While history dictates the NFL as a "copycat league," McVay and the Rams have flipped that preconceived notion on its head over the past two seasons. After taking control of the franchise as a 31-year-old with an offensive background, McVay turned a 4-12 Rams team into back-to-back NFC West champions while demonstrating he is one of the most brilliant minds in the game.
Could they really do it again?
In their 19th year together, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady look to complete a task never accomplished in modern NFL history: win six Super Bowls together. Looking to avenge last year's loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, the duo have now reached the season's final game four of the last five years and for the ninth time overall in their partnership. In pro football history, only Vince Lombardi-Bart Starr (7) and Paul Brown-Otto Graham (7) have combined for more league championships, but neither have done so since the 1970 merger.
Age is nothing but a number
While saying McVay is only 33 may turn some eyes, without proper reference, it doesn't truly do the trick. For example, his counterpart Belichick is 66-years-old. Yup, twice his age. Belichick, widely viewed as one of the best coaches in NFL-- nay, sports-- history did not reach his first Super Bowl as a head coach until age 49.
The quarterback situation provides similar opportunities to be mind blown. Brady, 41, is not only eight years older than McVay, but 17 years older than Rams QB Jared Goff. Like Goff, the five-time champion Brady was 24 when playing in his first Super Bowl (in which he defeated the St. Louis Rams and future Hall of Famer Kurt Warner, who was nearly a decade his elder). Could history flip itself?
Running (?) backs
Despite missing the final two games of the regular season, Rams running back Todd Gurley finished the year leading the League in touchdowns (21), but went virtually unnoticed in the NFC Championship. Coming off a 115 yard, touchdown rushing performance in the Divisional Round, Gurley was limited to a career-low five touches (4 rush, 1 rec) against the Saints. In his place, veteran C.J. Anderson-- who was signed in December when Gurley was out with a knee injury-- has taken the majority of touches for LA. Since joining the team, Anderson has registered at least 16 carries a game and only once (vs the Saints) did he manage less than 100 yards. McVay noted he would put an emphasis on getting Gurley more attempts in the Super Bowl, but it will be worth keeping an eye on who is getting the bulk of the workload.
On the other side, the Patriots have a dynamic running back tandem of their own. Veteran James White and rookie Sony Michel combine for a lethal one-two punch split between the air and ground games. Despite being listed as an RB, White is primarily a target in the passing game, tying a playoff record with 15 catches in the AFC Divisional Round against the Chargers without running the ball a single time. Michel, on the other hand, has carved his own path by gashing defenses in the rushing attack. Having carried the ball 53 times in the postseason, the rookie out of Georgia has tallied 242 yards and five TDs. He's only been targeted once in the pass game. So for those keeping track at home: if White is in the game, expect a pass. If it's Michel, expect a run.
Pressure, pressing down on me
During the regular season, the Patriots gave up just 21 sacks, good for the third fewest in the League. So far during the playoffs, Brady has yet to be brought down. However, they have not faced a pass rusher quite like the AP Defensive Player of the Year, Aaron Donald. Donald, who led the league with 20.5 sacks in the regular season, stuffed the stat sheet once again on his way to a second-consecutive DPOY award. Despite not yet having a playoff sack to his name, Donald's pressure is constantly being felt; in the Championship vs the Saints, he registered three QB hits on Drew Brees. That said, he is not the only one that can make a QB sweat. The Rams totaled 41 sacks during the regular season and have gotten into the backfield three times during the playoffs. If LA can put Brady on his back, there's a good chance the Lombardi could be coming to the City of Champions.
So now that you're equipped with the biggest storylines, some tidbits to drop throughout the game and certain personnel that will allow you to predict plays a la Tony Romo, it's time to kick back with a bowl full of snacks and watch history unfold right before your eyes.