Sports

Experience Vs. Inexperience

G.Flanagan/The Phillipian

Look…you have the greatest quarterback and the greatest head coach in their ninth Super Bowl together versus a 24 year old quarterback and 32 year old head coach. Did you expect different results?

Super Bowl LIII was the antithesis of this N.F.L. season, wherein defense and punters were the main act, and exciting offense was nonexistent. With both the Patriots and Rams in the top five in points per game this year, the world anticipated a high scoring, back and forth, and exciting Super Bowl between “the past” and “the future.”

But what happened? The experience of the Patriots and Head Coach Bill Belichick PG’71 got the best of the young Rams Head Coach Sean McVay and Quarterback Jared Goff.

As a diehard Rams fan, I’ve seen every game this year. I watched them score 54 points against the Chiefs, 38 against the Vikings, and 36 against the Seahawks, so I was expecting this game to follow suit. I thought to myself, “Brady isn’t that good anymore,” and “Did you see Gronk try to tackle that guy on the Dolphins?” But it turns out that I was exactly who the Patriots were targeting when they said, “We’re still here!” I was a doubter, and my confidence in the Rams was too high because I failed to respect the two biggest deciding factors in this game: The experience of the Patriots and Bill Belichick.

What Belichick saw: The Rams were primarily a running team this year, using its ground attack to set up play action passes and give quarterback Jared Goff a clean pocket. Because of the threat posed by M.V.P. candidate Todd Gurley, who led the N.F.L. in touchdowns and was third in rushing yards during the regular season, Goff was able to succeed in the play action game. The Rams ran play action on 35% of Goff’s passes, the highest rate in the N.F.L., and led the league in yards and touchdowns on such plays. In every Rams loss this year, however, the team had fewer than 20 rushing attempts and 100 rushing yards, which illustrates that they are severely handicapped when heavily depending on Goff.

Furthermore, Goff is a completely different quarterback under pressure. When passing without pressure, Goff threw for 27 touchdowns and seven interceptions. When under pressure, however, Goff threw for a measly five touchdowns and five interceptions whereas Brady threw for nine touchdowns under pressure. In addition, Goff also had the 32nd lowest completion percentage under pressure among 38 qualifiers. In the team’s lowest-scoring output of the regular season, a 15-6 loss to the Bears, Goff was pressured on 25 of his 48 throws, the highest percentage of pressures all year. All of these stats show one thing: in order to beat the Rams, you have to stop the run and force Goff to beat you. And if you want the Rams to have no chance, you must also put as much pressure on Goff as possible.

What happened in the game: The Patriots forced the potent Rams’ offense into the lowest scoring output of the season, and the lowest points scored in Super Bowl history. They stopped the run, holding the Rams to only 57 rushing yards on 17 attempts. They covered the Rams receivers exceptionally well and confused Goff with their coverages, which allowed for pressure to reach Goff before he could make a good throw. He was pressured on 18 of his 42 throws (42.9%), and under pressure he was 4-14 with one interception, and only 47 yards, which is 5 yards per attempt fewer than his average. He was also sacked 4 times, the second highest total against Goff all year. Goff finished only 19-38 for 229 yards, one interception and no touchdowns, a generously mediocre game for any quarterback.

Experience is Important: Even though Tom Brady was pretty pedestrian for most of the game, his fourth quarter go-ahead touchdown drive to give the Patriots a 7-point lead exemplified how his Super Bowl experience prepared him by not letting the moment get too big for him. With 9:49 left in a 3-3 game, Brady went 4-4 on 67 yard touchdown drive. This drive was capped by a beautifully thrown ball to Rob Gronkowski for a 29-yard strike down to the Rams 2-yard line to set up a Sony Michel rushing touchdown on the next play.

For the Rams on the other hand, McVay and Goff did not appear ready for primetime. Goff played horribly and missed easy throws throughout the game; most notably the potential go-ahead touchdown pass to Brandin Cooks in the back of the end zone late in the third quarter. In the most important moment for the Rams, on the ensuing drive after the Patriots’ go-ahead touchdown, Goff threw an egregious interception from the Patriots 27-yard line with 4:18 left, effectively ending the game and showing the world the moment was too big for him.

The Future: Brady and Belichick may be getting older, but they showed that they’re “still here.” While everyone keeps predicting the end of their dynasty, they proved that good coaching and unmatched experience will keep them in contention for the foreseeable future.

For Rams fans out there, this is no time to panic. They have one of the best young head coaches, who is also texts Belichick after games, a young and talented roster, and now they have some big game experience. Hopefully this was just a stepping stone to a bigger picture: a dynasty like the Patriots. Now it’s time to keep building, take the next step, and win it all.

Feb 8, 2019