Super Bowl 53: What are the keys to a Patriots victory?
5. Generate a consistent pass rush
While the Patriots had one of the league’s weakest pass-rushes during the regular season, Bill Belichick and de facto defensive coordinator Brian Flores have somehow figured out a way to make more of less… and just in time for the playoffs.
New England had the second-fewest number of sacks during the season, behind only Oakland, with just 30 on the year. For comparison’s sake, every other playoff team ranked at least as high as No. 19. The Rams had a full 11 more sacks than the Patriots during the year. And of course, the team the Patriots beat to get here – the Chiefs – led the entire league with 52.
But the story has changed in the playoffs. Behind inspired play from Trey Flowers, Kyle Van Noy, Adrian Clayborn, Lawrence Guy, and John Simon, the Pats now have 6 sacks alone in January… just one behind the Colts and Chargers atop the postseason leaderboard. Flowers and Van Noy, in particular, have been impressive, with both players tacking on 2 sacks apiece this postseason.
They’ll need to keep it up for at least 60 more minutes if they want to enter the offseason as Super Bowl 53 champions. Rams quarterback Jared Goff has had a tremendous Year 2 in Sean McVay’s offense, but he’s still a completely different quarterback when under pressure.
Goff was a Top Ten NFL QB during the regular season when he had a clean pocket and time to throw. Take away those two things, and he’s worse than mediocre – he’s actually downright bad, as evidenced by the 12 interceptions, 33 sacks, and 9 fumbles he suffered this season, all of which were career highs.
If the Patriots can generate a pass rush like the one they had against the Chargers’ Philip Rivers and against the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes, Goff could be in for a very long night in Atlanta.