Rosters, Shmosters! Patriots Will Roll [OPINION]
One thing I picked up on during the NFC Championship game two weeks ago in New Orleans was the size of the eyeballs of L.A. Rams quarterback Jared Goff.
He was wild-eyed and was clearly mentally overwhelmed and in a complete panic as the Saint's defense molested just about every play in the first three series of that game.
By his third drive, he was throwing balls into the turf after his first read. I was very happy to see this as a Pats fan, of course. Give Coach McVay a lot of credit because he talked this kid down from the roof.
It didn't hurt that the Saints weren't able to drive the nails through the coffin, coming away with field goals instead of touchdowns. The NFL playoffs have entire graveyards of playoff teams who lost momentum when forced to kick field goals. Hence the newest plot in the ground, for the 2018 New Orleans Saints. They could have led 24-0 but instead allowed the Rams to come back, as we all know.
Each player reacts differently to certain scenarios. Sometimes, a game is just "too big." The lights are "too bright." If that NFC Championship venue was intimidating to Goff, the Super Bowl is 10 times the pressure.
The Ram's young head coach, 33-year-old Sean McVay, is showing signs of being the next great, iconic NFL but the sample is small and he has already shown some post-season flaws.
Todd Gurley is certainly not going into the Super Bowl with any momentum, as he was pretty much benched for C.J. Anderson in that Saints-Rams game's biggest moments.
Conversely, the Patriots with Bill Belichick as the head coach and Tom Brady as the quarterback have now entered the sporting world's biggest competition for the ninth time in 18 years. Our great-grandkids may see something like this someday, but rest assured if you are old enough to read this, you won't be around for it.
There is nothing the Patriots haven't seen before that will present itself on Sunday. Whether it be 25-point deficits, helmet trap catches, multiple lead changes, last-second interceptions at the goal line, overtime—not one thing will be new to them.
The younger Patriots who were not here for most of that will have the soothing element of knowing that their two legendary leaders, both on and off the field, have done this many times.
Julian Edelman and Brady seem to enjoy special telepathic powers once the ball is snapped. Each knows where the ball is going and in a split second, but only after the defenders begin to move. How does one combat that?
Tight end Rob Gronkowski seems to be the healthiest he has been since the season opener. Having two different resting periods of two weeks since the playoffs began has been most important to the banged-up Gronk and the 41-year-old Brady.
New England's offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels had time to concoct his brilliant schemes to keep the Rams defense off balance. The longtime and underrated offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia has also had two weeks to look at the pass rush and run stopping schemes of the Rams' very talented defensive line.
Sometimes just the reputation of having a little sump'n sump'n up their sleeve can distract Patriot's opponents, if not intimidate them.
I believe this will be the case.
I do recognize that Gurley is an All-Pro running back and is accompanied by a notorious Patriots killer in fellow back Anderson, but to me, the Achilles' heel is in the mind of the young Goff.
I think Belichick will give him plenty of things which will be confusing to read as he peers across the field over center. Can he keep up with Brady?
In many ways, the Rams offer some of the same challenges that Kansas City did. Rams wide receiver Brandin Cooks has to be contained, much like Tyreek Hill had to. Goff, like KC's Patrick Mahomes, has a superior arm and can get tough passes into small areas. The running game is probably tougher but the passing attack lesser. Belichick has shown an amazing ability to be the chameleon and adjust.
If the Patriot's get a two-score lead, especially in the second half, this game suddenly gets a lot harder for the Rams. If the Rams can pound the ball and not turn it over, they should compete.
But can Goff stay with Brady in a shoot-out?
I say no. I think the most balanced attack the Patriots have offered since Corey Dillon was the running back just gives too many responsibilities to the Rams defense. I expect them to be gassed, hands on their knees, panting by the fourth quarter.
Many Super Bowls are won before they are played. I trust the Patriots to win the game. They have earned it.
New England 35, Rams 24.
MVP Prediction: Tom Brady, although I expect James White to be mentioned. MVP Dark Horse: Philip Dorsett.
Ken Pittman is the host of The Ken Pittman Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @RadioKenPittman. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.