First Look: Brady, experienced Patriots bring diverse rushing attack to Super Bowl LIII

Seventeen years after second-year quarterback Tom Brady and second-year Patriots head coach Bill Belichick won their first Super Bowl in the path to becoming one of the most decorated duos in the game’s history against the Rams back in 2001, the two clubs will meet in Atlanta for Super Bowl LIII.

The Rams will take on the Patriots following the team’s first five-loss season since 2009, but the No. 2 seed in the AFC has proven it should not be counted out come playoff time. Brady, Belichick, and the veteran-heavy Patriots are in search of a third world title in five seasons against head coach Sean McVay and his Rams, in pursuit of the club’s first since 1999.

Here’s an early look at the New England Patriots (11-5):

Offense

  • Points Per Game: 4th (23.3)
  • Yards Per Game: 5th (393.4)
  • Rushing Yards Per Game: 5th (127.3)
  • Passing Yards Per Game: 8th (266.1)

Key Contributors

  • RB James White: 16 G, 87 Rec, 751 Yds, 12 Total TDs
  • RB Sony Michel: 13 G, 209 Att, 931 Yds, 7 TDs
  • WR Julian Edelman: 12 G, 74 Rec, 850 Yds, 6 TDs

The New England offense ranks in the top five in in points per game, yards per game, and rushing yards per game in 2018 and is powered by an array of playmakers in running backs Sony Michel, James White, and Rex Burkhead. The offense has put up back-to-back performances of at least 498 yards on offense in the Divisional round and Conference Championship game. Burkhead took two carries into the end zone against the Chiefs, including the game winner in overtime.

Brady has targeted his trusty trio of White, wide receiver Julian Edelman, and tight end Rob Gronkowski more than any other offensive option in 2018. Edelman has been on the receiving end of six touchdown passes from Brady, while Gronkowski played in 13 games, but matched a career-low in touchdown receptions (3). Despite Brady reaching double digits (11) in interceptions for the first time since the 2013 season, the Patriots finished 2018 with the No. 5 turnover differential in league at +10.

Defense

  • Points Allowed Per Game: 7th (20.3)
  • Yards Allowed Per Game: 21st (359.1)
  • Rushing Yards Allowed Per Game: 11th (112.7)

Key Contributors

  • DE Trey Flowers: 15 G, 7.5 Sk, 4 FF 57 Tkl, 9 TFL, 20 QBH, 1 FF, 2 PD
  • S Duron Harmon: 16 G, 4 INT, 38 Tkl, 4 PDs, 1 QBH
  • OLB Kyle Van Noy: 16 G, 92 Tkl, 1 FF, 3.5 Sk, 1INT, 2 PDs, 10 QBH, 5 TFL

New England’s defense allowed 359.1 yards per game in 2018, but had success keeping the ball out of the paint, letting up just 20.3 points per game. The defensive front is led by fourth-year defensive end Trey Flowers, who has posted at least one sack in each of his last three, and in six of his last eight games.

Ten different Patriots came up with at least one interception this season — contributing to the defense’s 18 picks in 2018. That matches the Rams’ total and is good for No. 3 in the league. Veteran safety Duron Harmon leads the way with four interceptions.

The Los Angeles Rams hosted watch parties at various locations for the NFC Championship Game. Check out the photos from the watch party at Big Wangs.

Quarterback

  • QB Tom Brady: 16 G 4,355 Yds, 29 TDs, 65.8 % Cmp, 11 Int

Brady started in all 16 games and completed 65.8 percent of his passes in his 19th NFL season. The 2018 season marked Brady’s first year with at least five losses since the 2009 season and his first season without leading the league in a passising metric since 2014.

The five-time Super Bowl champ and four-time MVP of the game has thrown at least 28 touchdowns in each (healthy) season dating back to his first of three league MVP seasons in 2007.

The future Hall of Famer is 29-10 in 39-career postseason appearances and has thrown 73 touchdowns and 33 interceptions in the elimination games. Brady won his ninth AFC Championship, going 30-of-46 with 348 yards passing, one touchdown, and two interceptions against the Chiefs.

Road to Atlanta

  • DIVISIONAL ROUND: W 41-28 vs. Los Angeles Chargers
  • AFC CHAMPIONSHIP: W 37-31 at Kansas City Chiefs

Brady and the Patriots earned the No. 2 seed in the AFC and started their postseason campaign against the Los Angeles Chargers in the Divisional round. The Patriots’ No. 4 scoring offense in 2018 didn’t slow down against the Chargers at Gillette Stadium, totalling 498 yards of offense in the game.

Brady completed 77.27 percent of his passes in the Divisional round, which matched a season-high. The 41-year-old quarterback threw just one touchdown to New England’s four rushing scores on the afternoon and running back Sony Michel took 24 carries for 129 yards and three touchdowns.

On Sunday, the Patriots beat the Chiefs in overtime in the AFC Championship game in Kansas City — capping a championship weekend sweep by the road teams and setting a date with the Rams in the club’s fourth Super Bowl appearance in five seasons.

The Patriots controlled the game early with an impressive defensive first half, sending the league’s No. 1 scoring offense into the break down 14-0. The two teams traded blows for the remainder of the game and combined for six scoring plays in the game’s final quarter, including a touchdown-a-piece for running backs Rex Burkhead and Sony Michel.

Brady hit four-of-nine passes after winning the coin toss, marching the Patriots down the field and into the end zone by way of a two-yard Burkhead run.

Head Coach

The Patriots are led by 19th-year head coach Bill Belichick. Belichick is 225-79 (.740) at the helm in New England. The future Hall of Fame head coach has taken the Patriots to the playoffs 16 times and is 5-3 in the Super Bowl.

The NFL record, five-time Super Bowl champ is also a three-time AP Coach of the Year. Belichick also won the Super Bowl twice as a defensive coordinator with the Giants in 1987 and 1981.

Belichick won his first Super Bowl (XXXVI) as a head coach against the Rams.

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