Super Bowl LIII: New England Patriots Offensive Line vs Los Angeles Rams Defensive Line

Patriots offensive line
Spread the love

The New England Patriots are back in their third Super Bowl in as many years, thanks in large part to their fantastic offensive line. The line was one of the best in the league throughout the season before turning their play up to another level in the postseason. Unfortunately for the New England Patriots offensive line, the Super Bowl brings a whole new challenge. Led by the fantastic Aaron Donald, the Los Angeles Rams defensive line is one of the best in the league. The offensive line has their work cut out for them, but this grouping ultimately has the ability to win the battle in the trenches.

Super Bowl LIII: New England Patriots Offensive Line Can Neutralize Los Angeles Rams Defensive Line

To say Aaron Donald is good at what he does is a drastic understatement. Donald is easily the league’s best defensive tackle, recording a league-leading 20.5 sacks, 59 tackles, and 41 quarterback hits. He’s always in the backfield, as evidenced by his league-leading 25 tackles for loss. Donald’s the best interior pass rusher and run defender in the league, and he does all this in spite of facing constant double teams.

2018 wasn’t a one-year fluke season from Donald. The five-year NFL veteran has earned First-Team All-Pro honors four times in his career, compiling 59.5 sacks, 149 quarterback hits, 263 tackles, and 97 tackles for loss since entering the league. Donald earned a massive six-year, $135 million extension and is already worth every penny. Containing Donald needs to be New England’s top priority on offense.

Of course, Donald isn’t the only big-name player on the Rams defensive line. Former second-overall pick Ndamukong Suh lines up alongside Donald, and the two form perhaps the most intimidating interior pass rush in all of football. While he’s not the player he once was, Suh still finished his season as the 21st-ranked defensive tackle in the league, per Pro Football Focus. He’s more than capable of winning his matchups, as evidenced by his 4.5 sacks, 59 tackles, and 19 quarterback hits.

The Rams best pass rushers come from the inside, and that’s bad news for New England. It’s no secret the best way to beat Tom Brady is to get quick pressure up the middle and not allow him to step up in the pocket. New England lost two Super Bowls because they couldn’t stop interior pressure, but do the Patriots have the pieces to ensure history won’t repeat itself?

New England Patriots Interior Offensive Line

Fortunately, the New England Patriots have arguably the best offensive line in the league. New England’s offensive line enters the Super Bowl with a clean bill of health and the personnel to match up with the Rams star-studded interior. Shaq Mason and David Andrews are among the league’s elite, ranking as the first and seventh-ranked players at their position, respectively. If any duo can take Donald out of a game, it’s these two.

These two are the stars, but the rest of the unit is nothing to scoff at. Joe Thuney took a massive leap in 2018, elevating his play and finishing the year as the eighth-best guard in football. Together, this grouping forms the best interior offensive line in all of football. Suh and Donald wreaked havoc upon the league throughout 2018, but they’ve never faced an interior line as good as this one.

The Tackles

New England’s tackles are the relative weak points on the line, but that says more about how good the interior offensive line is. Marcus Cannon, a former second-team All-Pro, had a solid season in the right tackle position. While he didn’t light the world on fire as he did back in 2016, he still gave Brady all the protection he could possibly need. The eight-year NFL veteran finished his season as Pro Football Focus’ 27th-ranked tackle, and he should be able to handle any edge rushing threat the Rams send his way.

Trent Brown is more hot-and-cold, but he’s riding a strong hot streak. At 6’8”, 380 pounds, Brown’s massive frame started to wear down during long stretches without bye weeks. His worst games in the regular season came against Tennessee after playing ten consecutive games and late in December. Given an extra week to rest before the playoffs, Brown was back looking like his early-season self against some elite competition. Now given another week off before the Super Bowl, Brown should be as rested and healthy as ever. When he’s at his best, he’s arguably the best pass blocker in the league.

Altogether, this line has come together to provide elite protection for the 41-year old quarterback. Tom Brady has thrown 90 passes thus far and has yet to take a sack. While some of that is due to Brady’s natural quick release, there’s no denying the offensive line has taken their play to another level. This hasn’t been a case of favorable matchups, either, as the line has had to face some elite pass rushers in Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram, Dee Ford, Justin Houston, and Chris Jones.

The Rams Defensive Line Weakness

The Los Angeles Rams have an otherworldly talent in Aaron Donald and an above-average starter in Ndamukong Suh. New England will need to do everything in their power to ensure that Donald does not take over this game. Donald typically lines up over an “A” gap (between center and guard), so the Patriots should double-team him every single time. Nobody can completely shut down Donald, but Andrews, Thuney, and Mason are good enough to slow him down and minimize his impact.

This leaves whichever guard isn’t doubling Thuney to take on Suh all by himself. This task, while ultimately a tough one, is one that Thuney and Mason are both capable of handling. Suh is still a good player, but he isn’t the world-wrecking force he once was. Contrarily, both Thuney and Mason are among the best in the league. They’ll need help on occasion, but overall they should be able to handle the one-on-one matchup. If they can’t, one of the tackles will need to help chip Suh. This, in turn, could force New England to rely on their tight ends for edge blocking. While this situation wouldn’t be ideal, it’s still a scenario New England could deal with.

The weakest part of the New England offensive line is on either edge. Fortunately, the Rams biggest defensive weakness is that their edge defenders and linebackers aren’t really that good. Michael Brockers is probably the best edge defender on the Rams, and he finished his 2018 season with just one sack and four quarterback hits. The only other edge defender of note is Dante Fowler, who finished the season with just four sacks. If left to block the outside, Cannon and Brown should win this matchup handily. Even if they’re needed to help with Suh and Donald, Rob Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen are both capable of holding their own in pass protection.

The Rams defensive line is no joke, but it’s probably the worst unit the Patriots have seen in the playoffs. Nobody is as good as Aaron Donald, but the rest of the surrounding talent cannot match up to the surrounding talent of the Chiefs and Chargers. New England didn’t allow a sack in either of the prior matchups, and they should have similar success in Super Bowl LIII.

Main photo:
Embed from Getty Images