What Aaron Donald means to Los Angeles, Tom Brady means to New England.
Yes, the Patriots now rely more on their power-running game than they do their vertical passing game. And yes, Sony Michel might be the key to the Patriots’ chances of winning another ring… after all, if he can amass the kind of yards and touchdowns he did in the last two rounds of the playoffs, it means New England can play the football equivalent of keep-away with the Rams’ offense.
Still though, Tom Brady’s impact on this game cannot be minimized or marginalized. The 41-year-old future Hall of Famer is still Top-10 in the NFL in terms of time of release with his throws. Now more than ever, he needs to be able to deliver the ball fast and accurate to his receivers, tight ends, and pass-catching running backs.
The Patriots’ offensive line has played remarkably all season long. They’ve been even better in the playoffs, boasting a clean sheet in back-to-back victories over the Chargers and the Chiefs wherein they didn’t allow Brady to be sacked. If they can keep that streak going for 60 more minutes on Sunday, the Patriots probably win the football game.
Realistically though, it’s going to be almost-impossible to keep Donald, Suh, Michael Brockers, and Dante Fowler off of Brady all evening. Even if they maintain their extremely high level of play from the past month, the fact remains that they’ve never faced competition this strong all year.
Brady can help take some of that onus off his line by playing a fast – but smart – game of football today. Particularly in the later stages of his career as his skill set has arguably shown even the smallest signs of decline, it’s been crucial for Brady to get the ball out mere seconds after it’s snapped to him.
Hopefully, New England’s offensive line holds up their end of the bargain and keeps the Rams’ talented defensive front at bay. But if they don’t, or if even one of them allows a defender to penetrate the gap and challenge Brady in the pocket, it will be up to Tom Terrific to evade his attacker, locate a receiver, and zip the ball out with one of his patented laser missiles before he takes a hit, a sack, or opens himself up to a potential fumble or interception.