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Los Angeles Rams versus New England Patriots: Matchups to watch revisited

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The Super Bowl turned out to be purely a defensive battle between two teams struggling offensively. The Rams and Patriots both won some of Sosa’s matchups to watch.

Super Bowl LIII - New England Patriots v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots battled it out in an extremely low scoring game that ended 13-3. Super Bowl 53 turned out to be a chess match between two brilliant head coaches that both sputtered offensively, though both thrived defensively.

Let’s revisit the matchups to watch:

DT Aaron Donald vs QB Tom Brady

Aaron Donald is the unstoppable force that has now won back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year awards, which came as a surprise to literally nobody. Donald is the best player on the field at all times, so he’ll need to up his game to the highest level today. Unfortunately for AD, the Patriots and Tom Brady like to play within a quick passing offense that generally doesn’t allow defensive lineman a lot of time to get to the QB, but at some point they’ll need to drop back more traditionally and wait for longer routes to develop. That’s when Aaron Donald (and his boys on the defensive line) need to absolutely wreak havoc.

The best player on the field (Aaron Donald, not Tom Brady) actually had a relatively quiet game by his standards. It wasn’t Donald who impacted the game a ton on the defensive line, but it was his linemates Ndamukong Suh, Michael Brockers, and Dante Fowler Jr who wreaked havoc. Now, part of the reason that happened is because of the attention Donald garners, but the remainder of the defensive line really hit another level of play in the Super Bowl.

ILB’s Cory Littleton/Mark Barron vs RB James White

Cory Littleton and Mark Barron are the two players who’ll draw the dangerous weapon coming out of the backfield, whether that’s James White or even FB James Develin. White is one of the best route running/receiving backs in football, so they’ll have their work cut out for them. Luckily for Littleton and Barron, White is a different kind of receiving back than Alvin Kamara who gave them trouble in the NFC Championship game. Both the inside linebackers have also played at an improved level since the playoffs started.

The duo of Cory Littleton and Mark Barron were fantastic in the biggest game of the year. Both guys were instrumental in helping stuff the run, but not only that, they were arguably even better in coverage. Littleton notched himself a deflected interception in the first quarter and Barron nearly got one for himself later in the game. Both guys had multiple other plays in coverage. Lastly, James White was essentially a complete non-factor in the game as he had a total of nine yards.

CB Nickell Robey-Coleman vs WR Julian Edelman

Nickell Robey-Coleman is one of the Rams’ most dependent defenders, so it’s a good thing he’ll cover the Patriots’ most dangerous weapon in Julian Edelman. Much has been talked about NRC in the past two weeks, but none of it was centered around how good of a player he is. Edelman is one of the most productive receivers in NFL playoff history as his crisp routes, toughness, and hands are unmatched. NRC is going to need to play a hell of a game with some potential help coming from other defenders to ensure they can get off the field on third downs and not allow the Patriots to extend drives.

I expected Nickell Robey-Coleman to follow Julian Edelman all over the field, but that wasn’t exactly the case. Edelman had snaps versus every Rams cornerback, but not only that, even FS Lamarcus Joyner and the inside linebacker duo got him in coverage. Edelman was unstoppable to the tune of 10 receptions for 141 yards. He also won the Super Bowl 53 MVP award.

WR Josh Reynolds vs CB Jason McCourty

The Patriots used Jason McCourty on the slot receiver against the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship game, so I’d expect the same this time around. Luckily for Josh Reynolds, he’ll have a chance to make a massive impact in this game. The Patriots played a ton of aggressive man coverage last week, so Reynolds needs to be physical in his own right. Not only Reynolds, but if any of the Rams’ weapons can gain some separation on their opposition, the play could amount to a large gain just because of how the Patriots play defensively.

Josh Reynolds had a quiet game as he only pulled in three receptions for 28 yards, though it could and probably should have been much more productive. There were at least three instances (drag route, deep in, hook) where QB Jared Goff completely missed a wide open Reynolds, which is very unfortunate. One of the misses turned out to be the Stephon Gilmore interception that more-or-less sealed the game.

TE Gerald Everett vs CB J.C. Jackson/SS Patrick Chung

Again, another one of the weapons for the Rams that I see as key today is underutilized TE Gerald Everett. That’s not to say that WR’s Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods aren’t important today (they absolutely are), but it does mean the Patriots will do what they can to avoid having the Rams’ best weapons beat them, putting the onus on others. In the AFC Championship game, the Patriots actually used their second cornerback in J.C. Jackson on TE Travis Kelce, so I’d also expect to see some of that today. Everett will also likely see some snaps against SS Patrick Chung. Everett’s explosiveness and elite yards-after-catch ability need to be put on display tonight.

This was one of the places the Rams really lost the game in my opinion. Gerald Everett had a grand total of one target and came away without even one reception. The Rams really dropped the ball here as Everett can be a dangerous weapon and they didn’t even bother to take advantage of the matchup.

Rams’ OL/QB Jared Goff vs Patriots’ DL

Yes, the Rams’ offensive line is filled with studs who all season long have played at an elite level (sans maybe one or two games). Their propensity to develop clean pockets for QB Jared Goff and massive running lanes for RB’s Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson cannot be overstated. They’re as important as anyone on the field tonight. The Patriots’ defensive line doesn’t have any real elite talents, but DE Trey Flowers is certainly one to watch for. Flowers can kick all over the DL and will play inside at times, so communication will be key in pointing out where he is.

Yeah, you can chalk this up as the biggest “L” of the game. The Rams’ offensive line was horrific. They allowed Goff to get sacked four times, though he was nearly pressured/hit on every dropback. Not only that, but the running game was non-existent and only averaged three yards-per-carry. The Patriots’ Dont’a Hightower was possessed and unblockable.