The narrative is a boring one, but New England won that Super Bowl because they’re the New England Patriots and there’s nothing the Rams could have done about it.
There are three things that the Patriots do that you have to stop: they run power up the middle, they put Edelman in motion and they try to isolate Rob Gronkowski.
Prior to the fourth quarter, the three-headed monster of Burkhead, White and Michel had been quiet. The Rams did their job there, to a large degree.
Rob Gronkowski was a non-factor for three quarters, but nobody in the world could have stopped Julian Edelman last night and that’s what you have to deal with.
In spite of that, New England’s third-down conversion percentage was 25%, Tom Brady took a sack for the first time in the postseason and they had three points totalled for most of the game.
There honestly wasn’t anything else the Rams could have done to prevent the Patriots further. The touchdown was decent coverage on Gronk that allowed Michel to dive in. It was a dime, and the adjustment was beautiful, but that was the first drive in which the behemoth tight end became a factor.
In reality, that one play won New England their sixth Super Bowl.
On the flipside, the Patriots don’t hide anything on the back end. You know what you get with them on 80% of plays and that’s a Cover 2-man scheme.
For those unfamiliar with the tactical elements of the sport, that scheme means you mark-up man-for-man on the field, with two deep-lying defenders reacting to plays underneath them and limiting anything overtop.
When they were challenged man-for-man, the Rams had no answer.
But their reliance on Cover 2-man was usually limited to third down on Sunday. Their zone looks on first and second down forced Goff to hold the ball that bit longer, and didn’t allow pick plays and screens to develop for cheat gains. Bill forced Goff to be a Super Bowl-winning quarterback and he wasn’t up to the task.
Most of their big plays come out of personnel groupings that don’t immediately suggest a pass play is coming. They use play-action a lot to get an edge on a defence, but when Gurley and Anderson were swallowed up early by Trey Flowers and co, they were forced to abandon all balance.
And when New England know you’re throwing the ball, they dial up pressure with some nifty linebacker stunts to get to the quarterback.
This is what happened time and time again.
So, what could Sean McVay have done differently? In truth – not a lot.
Brandin Cooks was double-teamed out of the game in the same fashion that Tyreek Hill was last week. It was only later in the day when Patrick Chung got injured that they had any success at all.
Robert Woods was probably their star on offence, but that was strictly between the 20s.
In total, LA held Brady to just over 250 yards passing, with no touchdowns and an all-round checkdown-based offence.
But that wasn’t enough.
They got the exact coverages they wanted.
But that wasn’t enough.
If you sat down and tried to figure out exactly what happened last night, you’d go mad.
In a game where logical plans are everything, we end up reverting to clichés and cornerstones. But only because the story of the Super Bowl couldn’t be told without them.
The Patriots organisation upskills players like no other. They have a quarterback who still plays at an elite level and a head coach who shows his hands and dares people to beat him.
They generally don’t.
The Los Angeles Rams could not have done any more to win that Super Bowl and that’s because of the New England Patriots.
It’s a sickening truth, we’re all just going to have to accept.