Pats Defense Turns Back the Clock In Latest Super Bowl Victory

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Seventeen years ago, an up and coming New England Patriots team took the field for Super Bowl XXXVI as 14 point underdogs to the St. Louis Rams.  Tom Brady back then was not quite at the level of the Tom Brady we've come to know.  Knowing full well that they would not be able to keep pace with a Rams offense nicknamed "The Greatest Show on Turf", the Patriots turned to their defense.

Photo courtesy of nesn.com
New England battered the Rams offense that day.  They were in Kurt Warner's face all game long.  They laid big hit after big hit, and played with a physicality that the Rams were not accustomed to seeing.  Quite honestly, they played with a physicality that is no longer allowed in today's NFL - thanks to Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts constant whining.

As time passed, and the Patriots realized what they had in Brady, their philosophy shifted.  It became more about lighting up the scoreboard, and putting together a defense that could make just enough stops over the course of 60 minutes.  The Patriots defense no longer played with the same physicality and aggression because hey, they had Tom Brady.  As long as they were able to keep it close, they had confidence he would lead them to victory.

However, this past Sunday, New England turned back the clocks.  In its most dominant defensive effort not only of the season, but of recent memory, the Patriots suffocated a Rams offense that finished in the top 5 in passing and rushing, and was second to only the Kansas City Chiefs in scoring; averaging just under 33 points per game.  None of that seemed to impress New England.  The Patriots held Los Angeles to its lowest point total of the season, and in dominant fashion.

The Pats set the tone on LA's first offensive possession.  On a second and eight, the Rams ran a play action, in which Jared Goff rolled to his right, hoping to find Josh Reynolds in the flat.  Kyle Van Noy was not about to let that happen and placed Reynolds on his back as soon as Goff left the pocket.

New England pressured Goff all game long.  They shut down the run.  The coverage was tight.  It was as complete a performance as I've seen from a Patriots defense in a long time.  The Rams struggled to move the ball.  LA punted on 9 of their 12 drives, had five three and outs and failed to reach the red zone all game.

As a Pats fan, you kept waiting for the other shoe to drop for the defense.  New England punted the ball five times on Sunday, and with each one, I kept asking myself how much longer the defense could hold down this high-powered LA offense.  The answer was for 60 minutes.  On the five Rams possessions that followed each New England punt, three ended in three and outs.  The defense never relented.

They blitzed over and over, as part of a masterpiece of a gameplan from Brian Flores.  I can only hope they will carry some of this aggression over into the next season under Greg Schiano.

A big part of the Patriots defensive effort was their ability to win the field position battle.  The Rams had four possessions in what I would consider critical areas of the field, or areas of the field that could affect momentum of a game.

Three times, the Rams started inside their own 10-yard line; a defensive stop forces a punt from the end zone and leaves your offense with favorable field position.  On those three drives, the Patriots forced two three and outs.  The one drive that didn't end after three plays, lasted nine plays, but the Rams managed only 23 yards.  They punted from their own 30, and a poor punt from Johnny Hekker gave New England the ball at their own 31, and they proceeded to march downfield for the only touchdown of the game.

The other important drive came midway through the second quarter.  After a Patriots punt, a penalty gave Los Angeles the ball at their own 45-yard line.  It felt like they were due to break through.  There was just over six minutes left in the half, and the Rams could have easily grabbed control of this game.  They were set to start with the ball in the second half, and any points before the first half could have swung momentum.  LA went three and out, and actually lost six yards, courtesy of a sack by Kyle Van Noy.

In an NFL season that was highlighted by high-scoring offenses, Super Bowl LIII was a change of pace.  A Patriots defense that was criticized all season long channeled the old days and won this team a Super Bowl.


Follow me on Twitter @mcvay34

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Boston Sports Syndicate: Pats Defense Turns Back the Clock In Latest Super Bowl Victory
Pats Defense Turns Back the Clock In Latest Super Bowl Victory
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