Super Bowl Déjà vu

The year was 2001 the Rams were still in St. Louis, Sean McVay was playing high school football, and Tom Brady only had one ring. Since then the Rams have moved to Los Angeles, McVay began coaching the young explosive Rams, and Brady has added five more rings to his collection. The late sixth-round draft pick, along with a legendary coach that is Bill Belichick have been the benefactors to many Super Bowl wins but, none may be greater than the first. The 2018-2019 regular season finished with 11 wins, the same number of wins the 2001-2002 Patriots boasted heading into the playoffs.

In the AFC Championship, the Patriots clinched a close win over the first ranked in the AFC, the Pittsburgh Steelers. This year the Patriots took on the Chiefs also first ranked in the AFC, and again pulled off a major upset. This would set them up for a chance to play their past adversary, the Rams. Going into the 2019 Super Bowl the Patriots are seen again as the underdogs to most analysts, this was also the case for the 2001 Patriots. Skip Bayless, a well respected sports analyst said about the 2001 Patriots going into this game “No amount of voodoo can help the Patriots”. This was the overall feeling of the 2001 Super Bowl, that the Patriots will get steam rolled by the Rams. Of course this was not the outcome as the Patriots pulled off a close and controversial win against the “greatest show on turf”, the 2001 Rams.

The 2018-2019 Rams have had a very similar seasons to that of 2001-2002. The Rams shared equally explosive offenses both seasons, having both had quarterbacks who threw close to 5,000 yards along with reliable running backs who lead the teams in touchdowns. The 2001 Rams defense came up with just under 100 quarterback tackles at 98, the 2018 Rams defense held a close second with 94 quarterback hits. Both very impressive numbers by both teams defensive fronts. Just as impressive both teams managed around 20 interceptions on the season with the 2001 Rams managing an impressive 21 interceptions. The 2018 Rams trailed slightly with an imposing 18 interceptions from the dominant defense. This year the Rams defense has been lead by the league leader in sacks and in tackles for loss, Aaron Donald.

According to Michael Renner’s article at www.profootballfocus.com, the Rams have had the 10th most dominant offensive line out of all 32 NFL teams, this offensive line could have been a game changer in the recent Super Bowl. Todd Gurley is the kind of running back who can make any defense play at any point in the game. In the red zone, Gurley gets it done consistently, currently leading the league in rushing touchdowns with a massive 17 touchdowns. The 2001 Rams shared an equally explosive and shifty running back who would end up leading the league in touchdowns and rushing yards per game. That year Marshall Faulk, who would go onto win the offensive player of the year, was just as important to the Rams as Todd Gurley was throughout the 2018 season. The Rams also maintain a solid backup running performance with C.J Anderson, in the NFC championship game against the New Orleans Saints Anderson lead the team in rushing yards with 44 yards off of 16 carries.

Not only did the running backs contribute for the Rams, the receiving core could come up clutch at any moment. Lead by Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods this receiving core can speed past most cornerbacks and maintain ball control while being hit by the hardest hitting safeties. The ability to maintain a strong receiving core was an achievement that the 2001 Rams also achieved. The 2001 receiver core was lead by a strong red zone threat with six touchdowns on the season and, Az-Zahir Hakim a consistent target with a 73.6 catch percentage. Torry Holt could be considered the most dominant receiver on the team, leading the 2001 Rams team in receiving yards 1363 receptions 81, and touchdowns 7. The Rams season would not turn out the way they wanted though, losing in the Super Bowl to the Patriots by 10 points.

Going into this game the Patriots had very few reason to be confident about the outcome. Not only would they have to face the already expected to win Rams, but would have to face allegations that they had recorded the Rams walkthrough the day before the Super Bowl and used it to prepare for the game. After the incident was reported the NFL enacted a series of investigations to decide if this was true or not. With all this going on the underdog Patriots only had one thing in mind, their first ever Super Bowl win.

The 2001 team had a somewhat less impressive season than that of 2018. In the regular season the 2018 Patriots were ranked fourth in offensive points scored, fifth in rushing yards and finished with 51 tackles for loss. The 2001 Patriots were ranked sixth in offensive points scored, 13th in rushing yards and ended off with 77 tackles for loss. When comparing the defenses it would be easy to say the 2001 Patriots had a better defense, being lead by two legends Ty Law and Willie McGinest. While the 2018 Patriots could be seen as having a better offense of the two led by, 41 year old Tom Brady and a strong receiving core.

The 2018 Patriots have also had a very consistent rushing threat in Sony Michel and James White, two running backs who can get the job done in any situation. Instead of having two reliable choices at running back the 2001 Patriots put most of the pressure on Antowain Smith a 6-2 powerhouse averaging a very acceptable 72.3 yards per game. When looking at the Patriots 2001 offensive roster no player seriously stood out, this does not mean they couldn’t score as they showed when achieving their first franchise Super Bowl win.

As Tom Brady has lead his team over recent years, nearly every stat has improved greatly since 2001. Going from just under 3000 passing yards to close to 4,355 in 2018. Tom Brady has not only improved but become more comfortable with being this underdog, as he showed when he lead the Patriots to the largest comeback in Super Bowl history after being down by 25 in the 2017 Super Bowl to the Atlanta Falcons. The Patriots have proven over and over that they can get it done as they did in this recent Super Bowl with a respectable win over the Rams.

Super Bowl Liii was a well executed game by the Patriots offence. The explosive and risk taking coach we knew in Sean McVay was passive throughout the Super Bowl punting the ball in most 4th down situations. The Patriots defense stepped up holding the Rams to only 300 yards throughout the entire game. The Rams secondary fell victim to Edelman’s outstanding performance with 10 catches for 141 yards. James White joined a group of few by being one of the only rookies to score a touchdown in the Super Bowl. Tom Brady stepped up as he usually does and lead his team to another Super Bowl ring. This Super Bowl was known as boring to many, but to Patriots fans it was another great win for the franchise.

 

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