Super Bowl LIII is here, as the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams clash to close out the season.
Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and company are playing for their sixth Super Bowl ring and are in their third consecutive big game. They’re also playing their fourth Super Bowl in the last five seasons and fifth in the last eight years. Talk about a dynasty.
Here are some interesting stats heading into Super Bowl LIII:
The Running Game
The Patriots, according to Remarkable by Inside Edge, are 27-1 (.964) when rushing for more than 100 yards since the start of the 2016 season. That’s best in the league (the league average is .645). They’re undefeated this year (9-0) when they’ve rushed for more than a 100 yards. Rookie RB Sony Michel has back-to-back 100-plus yard games in the postseason and looks to be a centerpiece of the game plan this weekend. That doesn’t bode well for a Rams D, per NFL.com, that allowed the most yards per carry in the NFL this year (5.1) and were a bottom-10 rush defense for the second-consecutive season.
Pats RB James White averaged 5.1 yards per carry on 3rd and short (second best among qualified RBs) this year while the Rams allowed 6.2 yards per carry when defending on 3rd and short (second worst in league).
The Rams, for full disclosure, have upped their run-D this postseason, allowing just 49.0 yards per game against run-heavy teams like the Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints.
New England is notorious for picking an opponent’s top weapon and shutting him down. Rams RB Todd Gurley may be that target. Per Remarkable, by Inside Edge, Gurley had 17 Red Zone rushing touchdowns this season. That’s tops in the league. The Patriots only allowed six Red Zone rushing TDs all season, second best in the NFL.
The Passing Game
The blue print for slowing Tom Brady, who owns almost every Super Bowl passing record, is well documented. Hit him, rattle him and get him out of his comfort zone. Defenses want him to hear footsteps. According to Inside Edge’s Remarkable, Brady turned the ball over on 6.6 percent of his plays when pressured this year, fifth worst among qualified QBs. The Rams have pressured opposing QBs on 19.0 percent of passing plays – most in the NFL.
That could be a challenge, despite a very talented Los Angeles defensive line which features Aaron Donald who has 39.5 sacks, most among defensive linemen, since the start of the ’16 season. The Patriots, according to Remarkable by Inside Edge, allowed a quarterback hit on just 6.2 percent of dropbacks this season, good for fourth best in the NFL – the league average is 8.8 percent. Beyond that, the Patriots offensive line has kept Brady clean through two playoff games and he’s notorious for getting rid of the ball quickly. So quickly that he has completed 10-plus passes of 10 yards or less in each of the past 51 games per Remarkable. That’s the longest active streak in the league. Patriots RBs have picked up 48 first downs via receptions this year (most in the NFL) and have been targeted 10.3 times per game since the start of last season (league average: 7.2).
Two weeks to prepare provides Belichick and company almost too much time to devise a game plan young quarterbacks may not have seen before. Making the pre-snap reads difficult for Rams QB Jared Goff will be important for a New England victory, as Goff has a passer rating of 104.9 on 3rd and long pass attempts, fifth best in the NFL this year. He has only thrown one interception on 191 attempts when under pressure, according to Inside Edge’s Remarkable. The Patriots D, typically a bend-but-don’t-break mentality, blitzed 28.5 percent of plays in the red zone since the start of last season, tied for the highest amount in the league.
New England opponents have thrown deep balls on 14.7 percent of passing attempts since the start of the 2016 season, which is highest in the NFL, so it’ll be important for the Rams to test them deep early as New England may over-commit to stopping the Rams’ running game. New England has allowed 41 first down receptions, most in the league, on 3rd and short since the start of last season while Goff has gained 32.9% of his total passing yards in 3rd and short. Also worth noting, Los Angeles receivers have 57 receptions of 20-plus yards this season, tied for most in the NFL according to Remarkable, by Inside Edge. However, Goff has thrown deep balls on just 7.7 percent of his 3rd and long pass attempts, which is tied for third lowest in the league.
- Goff fumbled 12 times this season, tied for most among QBs. The Patriots D forced five fumbles in the last four weeks of the 2018 season, tied for 3rd most in the NFL, and they are 17-3 (second best in the league) when forcing at least one fumble since the start of the ’16 season.
- Special teams matter, especially if this turns into a close game. According to Remarkable, by Inside Edge, Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein has 5.2 touchbacks per game, best among 30 qualified kickers. Rams punting teams have also put returners inside the 20 on 49.5% of their punts since ’16, best in the league.
- Every offensive and defensive starter, according to CBS Sports, from the Patriots/Rams last Super Bowl has been retired for at least five years … except Tom Brady. Wow.
- Also, courtesy to CBS Sports, this will be the first time ever that the same two cities (Boston and Los Angeles) made the World Series and the Super Bowl in the same season.