Sunday 7: Here’s the secret to stopping Rams in Super Bowl LIII


1. The Rams finished the regular season with the second-ranked offense in the league, both in terms of yards and points. They averaged 33 points per game and have averaged 28 points in their two playoff games. The biggest key to keeping them in check is pretty easy to see: stopping them on first down. In the regular season, the Rams averaged 6.8 yards on first down, and a ridiculous 9.1 yards per pass attempt. On first-and-10 specifically, they averaged 5.5 yards per carry, the best in the league. This obviously sets them up for success the rest of the way because they stay out of third-and-long situations, which is why they are the ranked fifth on third-down. The majority of their third-down attempts are easy to convert. “A lot of people don’t realize they average like seven yards on first down,” Duron Harmon said on Dale & Keefe Friday. “If you think about it, if you average seven yards on first down, most of the time you’re not getting to third down. That is how they really move the ball on offense — not getting into third down, always getting ahead of the sticks. We need to stop them on first down, get them into a couple second-and-long’s and really make them drive the ball the whole field to get them into third down and try and make it tough on them.” If the Patriots defense can limit the damage on first down, it should have a pretty good chance of controlling the game and not allowing the Rams offense to score a ton of points.

2. Earlier in the week, Tom Brady posted a picture to his Instagram of the jersey he wore in the AFC title game and he highlighted how it was so clean. This was because of the job the Patriots offensive line did. Brady wasn’t sacked at all and was only hit once. Speaking Saturday, the 41-year-old had a ton of praise for the five guys up front. “I think they’ve performed incredible all year really,” he said. “We really haven’t had many sacks this year and I think they’ve done such a great job protecting and the run game, I think that speaks for itself. That was just an incredible effort last week and we’re going to need it again because this group is obviously exceptional at that position. The d-line is certainly a great strength of theirs. We’ll be challenged. All those guys will be challenged. We’ll need those guys to play a great game.”

3. No one on the Patriots is more excited to go to the Super Bowl than Jason McCourty, who after 10 years in the league won his first playoff game this month and now gets to play in the biggest game of his career. “I was just telling Dev and Du [Duron Harmon], ‘How excited are ya’ll? We’re going to the Super Bowl. We leave on Sunday’ And they’re like, ‘Calm down, man. Take it easy.’ That’s been my role this year,” he said earlier this week. “I bring a different perspective, a different type of energy, a different journey which brings a different outlook on things. I’m embracing it. I can probably be annoying at times but they love me.”

4. This will discussed a lot more next week, but it’s worth wondering if the Rams will break their tendencies on defense and change things up against the Patriots. Nickell Robey-Coleman played in the slot 86 percent of the time, while Aqib Talib lined up on the left 93 percent of the time this season. Julian Edelman likely would have a field day 1-on-1 with Robey-Coleman inside, so we wouldn’t be surprised if the Rams change things up, especially with two weeks to prepare.

5. A big part of the Super Bowl is prop bets, and here are a few that stood out to us, courtesy of BetOnline. Will the Rams/Saints no pass interference call be shown during the game? Yes +200, no -300. Will "Romostradamus" be said during broadcast? Yes +300, no -150. Over/under Tony Romo says “Here we go” — over 2.5 +150, under 2.5 -200. What will be higher on Super Bowl Sunday? Brady touchdown passes even, Donald Trump tweets -140.

6. The Patriots held all three of their practices in Foxboro this week inside the Empower Field House. On Thursday, they likely would have been inside anyway because of the weather, but it wasn’t a surprise to see them indoors all week since the game will also be played inside. The team did its best to simulate a normal week, which means next week in Atlanta is more about just fine-tuning things.

7. It will be a busy week in Atlanta for the Patriots with plenty of media obligations. After landing Sunday night, they won’t have anything until Monday night with Opening Night. The Rams are scheduled to go first from 7-8 p.m. followed by an hour “halftime,” and then the Patriots will go from 9-10 p.m. On Tuesday from 12:40-1:30 p.m., Bill Belichick and 10 players, including Tom Brady, will speak at their hotel. And then on Wednesday and Thursday, all players and assistant coaches will be made available from 4-5:15 p.m. There is no availability Friday and Saturday.