He's Jersey Guy and I am Rankman. He's East Coast and I'm from the West. He talks with an accent and I like kale. He's much older than me the way Tom Brady is much older than Jared Goff.
What we have in common, though, is the topic for today's story. A long, long time ago, after ESPN was founded but before Al Gore invented the Internet, Mark Blaudschun and yours truly were NFL beat writers for the Boston Globe and Los Angeles Times.
Blaudschun covered the New England Patriots and I covered the Los Angeles Rams.
More than 30 years later, now TMG Maven teammates, we finally got our cities paired in a Super Bowl. We figured this would be the perfect time to lend some historical (old) context to the franchises playing Sunday in Atlanta.
Things have changed. We covered the Rams and Patriots from the mid-to- late 1980s, which included the ill-fated strike season of 1987. What a nightmare. I dismounted off the Rams beat in 1990 and they moved to St. Louis in 1995. Blau transitioned off the Patriots beat around the same time and moved to the colleges, but he helped out on the Globe's New England coverage through the team's rise to glory under Brady and Coach Bill Belichick.
We thought it would be fun for two old beat writers to make Super Bowl cases for the teams they once covered.
RANKMAN: Five Reasons Why the Rams Will Win
1: Aaron Donald is the best player in football and he plays for the Rams. New England’s offensive line has been brilliant in protecting Tom Brady, especially in the playoffs, but part of that has been misguided defensive game plans devised by the Chargers and Chiefs.
The only way to disrupt Brady is to bring blitz pressure up the middle in an effort to disrupt the pocket before he releases the ball in his usual 2.2 seconds. Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is old enough to remember the “46 defense” devised by Buddy Ryan for the 1985 Chicago Bears. Buddy’s theory was a combination of mastery, macho and mayhem. Buddy believed in man-on-man coverage and all-out assault on the quarterback.
You can NOT play zone defense against Tom Brady so you might as well play risk-reward in the hope of knocking Brady off his rocker. Brady is 41. You may only have to hit him once.
Donald is an unrelenting QB harasser and the perfect complement to inside bull-rusher Ndamukong Suh. The Rams have the personnel up front to get Brady out of rhythm--or at least mess up his hair.
You must bring more rushers than New England can block and then pray.
If you don’t get to Brady he’s to make you look bad, real bad, but not as bad as if you sit back in a soft zone. Ask the Chargers.
Jersey Guy: The numbers look impressive Rankman. And Yes, Aaron Donald is a force to be reckoned with. But the prevailing wisdom was that the Patriots offensive line wouldn't function against the Chargers or Chiefs.
Is there a secret formula for success for the Patriots. Yes, there is. Two words Dante Scarnecchia, the Patriots offensive line coach who Pat QB Tom Brady has labeled the greatest offensive line coach in the history of the NFL.
Scarneccchia is 70, has been with the Patriots for 33 seasons. If Bill Belichick and Brady are in the NFL GOAT territory, so is Scarnecchia who came up with a blocking scheme to stop the Chiefs and Chargers. He has the use of the hottest running back (playoffs) in the NFL in Sony Michael and he also has No.12 at QB.
2: Rams defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman was actually right about Tom Brady. He said “age has definitely taken its toll.” Robey-Coleman’s mistake was saying it out loud. He should have kept his mouth shut and studied the film of New England’s AFC win over Kansas City.
Brady should not have left Arrowhead as the GOAT—he should have left it as the lower-case “goat.” His third interception, late in the game, had actually clinched victory for the Chiefs. Brady got bailed out on his last pick only because a Kansas City player, Dee Ford, had lined up in the neutral zone. How stupid was that? It allowed Brady a chance to emerge a hero and spend his post-game interview not talking about how old he actually looked and how carelessly he had been with the football.
A Jersey Guy: So what are you saying, Rankman? Brady is more lucky than he is good? Or, that's he is not as good at 41 as he was at 24? Please. Brady is Brady when he needs to make the play and he has 5 Super Bowl rings as evidence. And you want to talk about getting bailed out. If it wasn't for an officiating crew (four of them who were from the Southern California area) going blind and mute on one play, the discussion would be about an old timers game with Brady and Drew Brees. Mistakes and luck are part of the game.
3: New England isn’t as good at Super Bowls as you might think. The Patriots are 5-5 in the grand showcase, 5-3, in the Belichick era. These are not the San Francisco 49ers who crushed Denver, 55-10, or the Chicago Bears who crushed New England, 46-10, after the 1985 season.
The Pats could be 8-0 in Belichick-era Super Bowls, yes, but they could also be 0-8.
Consider: in eight Super Bowls this century, New England has outscored its opponents by only four total points, 202-198.
That’s an average Super Bowl score of 25.25 to 24.75.
Had Seattle Coach Pete Carroll given the ball to Marshawn Lynch at the goal line, Brady would be 4-4 in the big game, not 5-3. And if Matt Ryan and Philadelphia had won the OT coin flip two years ago, Brady might own the most Super Bowl losses in history.
The number of New England Super Bowl teams has struck fear into an opponent stands at zero. The Rams should not and will not be intimated on Sunday because they have a better top-to-bottom roster of players. Gronk is a shell of the tight end monster he used to be and is more effective now as a blocker.
How can the Rams lose?
Jersey Guy: How can the Rams lose? Let's start by looking at their uniforms (which are great) and being tagged the LA Rams. LA? You know what that means. Losers Again.
No Los Angeles team has won a Super Bowl or a World Series in this CENTURY. LA teams not only haven't won in football or baseball, they don't know how to win. Even USC, which was once great under Pete Carroll has an asterisk from the NCAA named Reggie Bush.
Looking back at the Patriots past Super Bowl failures before B and B has no value. Let's take the last 20 years. Teams from Boston have won 11 Super Bowls, World Series titles, NBA championships and Stanley Cups. The Patriots are in their third consecutive Super Bowl. Championship parades are part of the culture in New England.
If they had a championship parade in Los Angeles, everyone would be stuck in traffic on the 405.
4: Run, Run, Run. The Rams have gotten to the Super Bowl LIII without effective use of their MVP, running back Todd Gurley. Think about that. While Gurley has been nursing a mysterious injury for the last month or so, veteran CJ Anderson has stepped in to provide a second booster-rocket to the Rams rushing attack. No one really knows what’s going on with Gurley, but let’s assume the extra week off before Super Bowl gets him back to somewhere near 100% of his capacity.
If that’s the case, the Rams are in good shape. The game plan should be to pound Gurley and Anderson into the New England front until the Patriots collapse.
The best way to beat Tom Brady, apart from knocking him out of the game, is to not let him have the ball.
The Rams, with a healthy Gurley, can dictate the flow of the game and limit the number of times Brady can dink-and-dunk to Julian Edelman and the rest of the Hobbit Receiving Corps.
A Jersey Guy: Two words. Bill Belichick. Belichick as has been stated before is in the Goat Category of coaches. And he loves figuring out ways to stop what the other team does best. If Gurley is the Rams biggest threat, Gurley is going to have another long evening. And you got it right, the best way to beat to Tom Brady is to not let him have the ball. Check out the opening game drives of the Patriots' wins against the Chargers and Chiefs.
The Rams need to win the coin toss and receive and they DEFINITELY need to win the coin toss in an overtime game.
5: The game will be rigged because the NFL wants the Rams to win. That’s what I’ve been reading for more than a week. It has been suggested by some that New Orleans got hosed in the NFC title game because four of the game officials were based in Southern California. Never mind that one of them was born in Pennsylvania. Everyone knows nobody moves to Santa Barbara or Newport Beach because those are nice places to live. They moved there to conspire for the “local” NFL franchise against the New Orleans Saints even though that “local” franchise was most recently located in St. Louis for 20 years. At least one of the four crooked refs who failed to call pass interference on the Rams at the end of the NFC title game was suspected of wearing a Deacon Jones jersey underneath his official NFL-issued shirt.
In fact, the SoCal referee boys secretly call themselves “The Fearsome Foursome.”
The NFL also wants the Rams to win to help promote the new L.A. Stadium set to open in 2020.
If you need more proof, check this out: the lead referee for Super Bowl LIII is John Parry. Since 2007, the Rams are 7-0 in games that Parry has worked. The Grassy Knoll is a picnic spot compared to the conspiracy unfolding before us.
Also: one of the other officials assigned to Sunday’s game MAY have once taken his family to Disneyland, located in Anaheim, where the Rams played from 1980 to 1994.
If the Rams win a close game, expect a 4 a.m. Tweet storm from a certain-someone New England booster who once got Tom Brady to wear a MAGA hat at his locker (before Gisele told him to take it off ) and recently congratulated the Pats for their AFC title crown while failing to mention the Rams also won that day.
A Jersey Guy: Yeah, you got me on that one. The NFL wants the Rams to win. They thought they had them in the Deflategate'' mess, but with Barney Fife running the investigation, they came up empty, but still suspended Brady for a month. That was like Mongo in Blazing Saddles. All that did was turn the season into a crusade for New England.
And NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has had to smile and and hand Belichick, Brady and Pats owner Robert Kraft the Vince Lombardi Trophy 5 times in the past 19 years.
Can't wait for the phony smile and handshake on Sunday night and Patriot Parade No. 6 next Tuesday.