Los Angeles Rams: Three key matchups vs. New England

Credits: David J. Phillip - Associated Press

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Fans of the Los Angeles Rams still have a sick feeling in their stomach from when the New England Patriots waltzed to a victory over the Rams in the Super Bowl back in the 2018 season. Sean McVay was outcoached by Bill Belichick in that game and Jared Goff was unable to do anything against New England’s stifling defense.

McVay had no answers for Belichick’s defensive scheme, with the Patriots playing man coverage and blitzing six guys nearly every play. While Goff was under duress all game, Tom Brady made just enough plays to give New England their sixth Super Bowl since 2001.

Despite Brady no longer residing in Foxborough, McVay, and company have an opportunity to prove that they’ve learned from their previous blunders in the Super Bowl this week. The Rams will host the Patriots on Thursday night to get Week 14 underway.

Just this past weekend, Los Angeles took care of business by trouncing the Arizona Cardinals, reclaiming their lead in the NFC West with the Seattle Seahawks surprisingly falling to the New York Giants. As for New England, Cam Newton is beginning to hit his stride again as Belichick’s squad has won four out of their last five games.

Seeing that the NFC West could come down to the final week of the season, every game is crucial for Los Angeles moving forward. In a rematch of Super Bowl 53, let’s take a look at a few matchups that could decide the outcome of the pivotal game on Thursday.

Rams’ front seven vs. Cam Newton

For the second consecutive week, the Rams will be squaring off against a quarterback that excels with his legs. However, as dangerous as Kyler Murray is with his legs, Newton brings another dimension to the running game with his sheer size.

Regardless of whether it’s on the Carolina Panthers or the Patriots, Newton has had an abundance of success running the ball. This year, under offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, Newton has carried the ball 106 times for 435 yards and 11 touchdowns, which are the most rushing touchdowns in his career since his rookie season in 2011.

Similar to their meeting with the Cardinals, it will be extremely important for the front seven of the Rams to work as a cohesive unit in containing Newton. While he isn’t as elusive as he once was, Newton is still more than capable of taking control of a game with his rushing ability.

Plus, with the weapons — or lack thereof — that surround Newton in the passing game, it’s apparent that the Patriots’ gameplan is to play elite defense and control the clock with their rushing attack. Provided that, with the Rams having an extensively talented secondary to handle the lifeless passing offense of New England, it will be up to the front seven to contain the former NFL MVP.

Cooper Kupp vs. J.C. Jackson

When these two teams met on the national stage in Super Bowl 53 — as Belichick pointed out this week — Cooper Kupp wasn’t available for the Rams. Kupp suffered a torn ACL in Week 10 of the 2018 season, keeping him sidelined for the Rams’ run to the Super Bowl.

Some fans and media pundits alike have shared the sentiment that if Kupp would have played, the outcome of the Super Bowl would have been vastly different. However, the past is the past and the Rams will luckily have Kupp in uniform on Thursday night.

While most people are focused on the matchup between Robert Woods and Stephon Gilmore, in all likeliness, the battle between Kupp and J.C. Jackson could be must-see television. Jackson, who is dealing with multiple injuries, has been arguably the best defensive back for the Patriots this season.

Throughout the first 13 weeks of the season, Jackson has notched 12 pass breakups, seven interceptions, and three fumble recoveries. He’s also limited opposing quarterbacks to a 56.7 percent completion percentage and a 60.3 passer rating when targeted this season. If Jackson can play this week, it’s shaping up to be a remarkable clash between him and Kupp.

Sean McVay vs. Bill Belichick

Once again, when these teams duked it out in the Super Bowl, all eyes were on McVay — the young, offensive-minded genius — against the defensive mastermind in Belichick, who seems to always have the answers to stopping nearly every offense.

It was Belichick who prevailed in the Super Bowl, with the help of Brian Flores — who was the defensive coordinator of the Patriots at the time. Flores is now building a defensive juggernaut as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins, who just so happen to be a team that gave the Rams’ offense fits earlier this season.

During the Super Bowl, Belichick was always a step ahead of McVay, dialing up a defensive gameplan that stymied the high-octane offense of Los Angeles. Even to this day, McVay remembers the heartbreaking loss in the Super Bowl as a ‘humbling night’ for him.

Nevertheless, nearly two years since that fateful game, McVay has an opportunity to show he’s made the necessary adjustments to his offense. While Belichick believes McVay has broadened his offense as well, it remains to be seen if that comes to fruition on Thursday night.

 

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