The 2018 season is in the bag and once again, we crown the New England Patriots the champions after a masterful 13-3 victory over the LA Rams.
There’s been much conjecture about whether it was a good game or not. Purely from an entertainment point of view to the non-hardcore fan, no of course it wasn’t a good game. As I said above, it was masterful – but on a defensive scheme point of view by both Belichick and Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. The US ratings of 100.7m and share of views was the lowest it has been in a decade. Defensive games can be entertaining with big hits, turnovers and outlandish plays – this game didn’t have it. So no, not entertaining for the casual fan – which will be a worry for the NFL as it seeks to broaden the appeal of the game both in the US (100m is only roughly a third of the population) and abroad.
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For the hardcore fan, it was enthralling. Belichick and his defensive staff stifled the Rams offense which was the second highest scorers in the league through 2018. Sean McVay at times looked like a dear in the headlights as he struggled to find a way through the Pats defence. When he finally did in the 4th quarter a combination of poor execution by his quarterback and some brilliant play by the Pats cornerbacks and safeties prevented the Rams from scoring.
For the Pats, domination of the league goes on and they claimed their third Super Bowl in five years, an astonishing feat in a competition designed specifically to make such dominance all but impossible. Brady claims his sixth ring and could conceivably have two busts in Canton, one for three Super Bowl wins in the early 2000s and another for the most recent of three rings.
Can Brady carry on? With that offensive line in tact, probably. A lot of credit needs to go to veteran O-Line coach Dante Scarnecchia who’s unit was able to reduce Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald and his fellow star defensive lineman into side notes for the game. Brady was sacked once and rarely pressured.
For the Rams, they need to get over this loss quickly. Through the season there were a lot of positives but now there’s a few questions that need to be answered. Is Todd Gurley fit? Who do they sign to contracts – Suh, Fowler, CJ Anderson and Talib could all leave in the off-season. How do they help Goff get better – Zac Taylor the QB coach is now head coach with the Bengals. What positions do they address in the draft – it’s a deep pass rush class but if all of those players leave then there’s other areas that will need addressing.
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The most important thing is for McVay to learn from the match & get over it. I think he will and I fully believe that he and GM Les Snead can continue to build this franchise into one that will be a competitor in the NFC for a few years yet.