Audibles at the Line
Unfiltered in-game observations by Football Outsiders staff

Super Bowl LIII Audibles

compiled by Vincent Verhei

Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around emails about the games that each of us are watching. We share information about the games that the rest of the group might not be watching, ask questions, and keep everyone else informed about which games they might want to tune into (if they can).

On Monday, we compile a digest of those emails and produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.

While these emails are generally written with Audibles in mind, they do not represent a standard review of all the games each week. That means we aren't going to cover every game, or every important play. We watch the games that we, as fans, are interested in watching, so your favorite team's game might not be covered to your fullest desires or even at all. (If you are a Steelers or Patriots fan, you are probably in luck; if you are a Bills fan, not so much.) We have no intention of adding new authors solely to cover every game on a given Sunday, nor will we watch a different game from the ones that we're personally interested in watching just to ensure that Audibles covers every game.

Aaron Schatz: Hello from Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, or as nobody calls it, "The Merc." This place might be 10-to-1 Patriots fans tonight. When the Patriots came out of the tunnel in pregame there was a distinct, loud cheer. When the Rams came out, there was a very loud booing. In fact, any time they show Rams on the big scoreboards, there are boos. It's basically a Patriots home game here.

Rivers McCown: Does anybody have a strong Rams lean? My homework on this game essentially led to me thinking the Patriots would need to get outcoached, and my confirmation bias eyes haven't seen a lot of pieces that seem to outright favor the Rams.

Bryan Knowles: I think a Rams win would have to come on the backs of a dominant game by the interior pass rush -- Donald and Suh and company. Blow everything open, get Brady pressured and stop Sony Michel from running over everybody. Couple with some new wrinkles on offense -- and while I've begun to have my doubts about Sean McVay's in-game decisions, his play design ability may well be unmatched -- and I could definitely see a Rams victory here.

I'm picking the Pats, though, at least in part because I had Pats over Rams back in our preseason predictions. Never mind that by midseason I was convinced we'd get Saints-Chiefs.

In an unrelated note, thank goodness the Rams are allowed to wear their throwbacks for this one, rather than the mismatched "normal" monstrosity they've tried so hard to hide this year. It makes them, technically, the second team ever to play in the Super Bowl in throwbacks, after the 1994 49ers in Super Bowl XXIX.

This one, uh, hopefully will be a little more competitive than that one.

Tom Gower: Yeah, maybe if Suh and Brockers and Fowler and Ebukam and whoever join Donald in an overwhelming performance, and if McVay schemes up enough man- and zone-beaters that the Patriots aren't prepared for, this can be a good game. Or maybe Brady and company just throw up a stinker and play badly. I mean, Clemson ended up blowing out Alabama, so it's not impossible. Right?

Aaron Schatz: I think a big thing is Goff reversing the decline of the last seven games. And he's reversed it a bit in the two playoff wins. They need to keep him clean, and he needs to play well. But he had strong numbers this year against the Patriots' favored man coverage, especially in that first half before he declined.

Vincent Verhei: I think the Patriots will win, but it's close. With the crowd, will this really be a "home" game for New England? If not, that's a huge difference. Aqib Talib makes this a better Rams defense than what we saw for most of the year. And the biggest edge New England has is their rush offense vs. L.A.'s run defense, but even with that, they'll need to string a lot of good plays and third-down conversions together, then execute in the red zone to score. Of course, that's exactly what they have been doing in the playoffs for years.

I also may be reading too much into my own research here, but I think the first quarter is critical. The Rams' best bet is to play from ahead. This is going to be a big, big first quarter.

Rams win the toss, but elect to defer. Clearly, they're not as concerned with a first-quarter lead as I am.

Andrew Potter: Horrible decision by Brady on that interception. Poorly thrown too, which didn't help, but the decision was worse than the throw.

Bryan Knowles: Defense in 2018 hasn't really been about reducing yardage; it has been about making big splash plays to provide sudden flips. The Patriots were moving the ball well, but Brady makes an ill-advised throw, the ball's tipped, and the Rams come down with it. That's not what we're used to seeing from Brady, especially not in critical moments like this.

Vincent Verhei: On Brady's interception: the ball came out of his hand funny. As Tony Romo pointed out, Brady realized mid-throw he was making a mistake, which affected the delivery and only made it worse.

Aaron Schatz: Pats force three-and-out after the interception. Best play was on second down. Josh Reynolds was the intended receiver on a play-action pass and the Pats just SLAMMED him within a yard of the LOS. Goff had to run out of bounds, throwing the ball away as he did.

I'm surprised but early it looks like Stephon Gilmore is on Brandin Cooks, not Robert Woods as I expected.

Vincent Verhei: Video of Josh Reynolds getting wiped out:

Huge call goes against the Rams there. On second-and-long, Nickell Robey-Coleman tackles Rex Burkhead behind the line -- but he gets called for a helmet-to-helmet to hit, so it's first-and-10 instead of third-and-20ish. (Refs called the wrong number, but I'm pretty sure that's what they were calling.)

Bryan Knowles: OK, that personal foul on Dante Fowler for a hit on a defenseless player?

Wasn't on Fowler. Wasn't on a defenseless player. Terrible call.

Vincent Verhei: What a weird drive. After that penalty, the Patriots blow a couple of timeouts, then run a give-up draw on third-and-8 to play for the long field goal, and then Stephen Gostkowski pulls it left. Neither team playing well so far.

Aaron Schatz: Pats have now burned two of their timeouts and they burned the second one so they could ... call a draw on third down? For 3 yards? Then Gostkowski goes wide left on a 46-yard field goal try. Still scoreless.

Carl Yedor: New England has been hurting the Rams with short passes and runs, and they tried to work in a jet sweep on their first drive as well. That could be a function of trying to take Donald and Suh out of the game.

An uncharacteristic Gostkowski miss keeps this one scoreless.

Andrew Potter: What is it with the Patriots and terrible Super Bowl first quarters? Another bizarre sequence of bad decision-making and poor play means the Patriots have been in solid field-goal range twice and have nil points. They've totally dominated the game otherwise.

Bryan Knowles: Frankly, I would have just lined up and gone for it on that fourth-and-3, rather than doing a little dance to draw the Pats offsides. Conservative play calling, which McVay has fallen afoul of in recent weeks. I'm not sure you can afford to let situations like that go by the wayside.

Vincent Verhei: First quarter ends with no score, which I'm pretty sure the Rams would have taken going in. However, the Patriots have already run 22 plays; the Rams have only run nine. There have been a looooooot of big New England playoff wins that were keyed by that kind of ball control.

Bryan Knowles: A scoreless first quarter, just like Pats-Falcons. And Pats-Seahawks. And Pats-Eagles. And Pats-Panthers. In fact, we haven't had a Super Bowl with a scoreless first quarter that DIDN'T involve New England since Super Bowl XXVI. The Pats really ARE bad at first quarters.

Andrew Potter: Brady's first sack of the postseason is all on him. He had forever to do something with the ball. He held, and held, and shuffled, and then tried to tuck and still managed to fumble. This is as poorly as I've seen him play in any quarter this season.

The problem for the Rams at this point is that they haven't done anything at all to take advantage of New England's poor start.

Carl Yedor: This shouldn't come as much of a surprise but Aaron Donald has been a major nuisance in the backfield thus far. He has been penetrating like crazy and forced the throwaway on that third down.

That said, relying on explosive plays from your defense is tough when your offense isn't really doing anything, and New England quickly forces a three-and-out to get the ball back.

Vincent Verhei: Three drives, three punts for the Rams. Only one first down. They've spent so little time on the field it's hard to tell if Goff looks jumpier than usual or if New England is making plays. But it's not good either way.

Derrik Klassen: A little surprised New England hasn't really tried to attack deep yet. I get Tom Brady doesn't have the juice he used to, but this Los Angeles defense is generally susceptible to play-action and big plays. Want to see the Pats open it up and get the scoring going.

Bryan Knowles: I've been really disappointed in the Rams' offense so far. With two weeks to prepare, I would have thought Sean McVay would have installed SOMETHING new, to counter just how good the Patriots have been at recognizing things off tape. So far ... nothing. Maybe they haven't been in the greatest situations, but there have been a lot of give-up runs and things on third downs. Not impressed with him at all so far.

Still early.

Derrik Klassen: New England's offense also has to up the ante on third down. They seem all too comfortable punting/kicking field goals vs. a team that, in theory, could rip off a couple of touchdowns in an instant.

Tom Gower: 3-0 Patriots with 10:29 to go in the second quarter. New England has been inside the Rams 30 three times and just got on the scoreboard. They have been conservative on third-and-long, between that earlier draw play out of a timeout and Brady throwing to Gronk at the line of scrimmage on that one. What happened downfield? How'd they take away Edelman? Maybe Tony Romo will tell us after the commercial.

Los Angeles tried to get the outside zone run game and complementary boot action going the first two drives, but the Patriots by alignment are taking away the double-teams and setting a hard edge, making it difficult for Goff to set up easily in the boot pass game. They brought in C.J. Anderson to run inside on the third possession, and didn't find any running room. I thought for the Rams to win they/Sean McVay would have to win a lot on normal downs, and that hasn't come close to happening so far.

Aaron Schatz: Is Todd Gurley still alive?

Bryan Knowles: I think Malcolm Butler is shadowing Gurley.

Vincent Verhei: Another third-and-long, another failed completion for Brady. He's doing a great Derek Carr impression today.

Jared, Jared, Jared. Two Gurley runs set up a third-and-short, and the Rams go for play-action and the kill-shot. Goff has all kinds of time ... but freezes, panics, and takes a horrible sack despite plenty of time to throw it away. That takes away the fourth-and-2, which I think the Rams would have gone for, and leads to yet another punt.

Bryan Knowles: Terrible sack taken by Goff there -- fourth-and-2 on the New England 47 could have been four-down territory. You can't take a 14-yard sack there!

Carl Yedor: Bad sack Goff took there. I get that he's trying to make a play, but your distance to go is so short that you can go for it on fourth-and-2. You haven't gotten much of anything going all day, and you need your high-powered offense to step up eventually.

Aaron Schatz: Pats go for it on fourth-and-1, and fail. They go empty spread shotgun. I just don't understand not having a run threat; fourth-and-1 seems like the perfect time to go 21 personnel, even if you want to pass it. Trick them into thinking run, and then pass. Or run!

Carl Yedor: Not to mention Brady is absolute money on QB sneaks. Didn't see how the Rams had their defensive linemen positioned but he's basically automatic.

Vincent Verhei: What a bizarre game. I'm now confident that the Patriots defense is doing nothing special, Goff is just crapping the bed. And yet, thanks to the missed kick and the failed fourth-and-1 play, they're only down 3-0, and getting the ball to start the second half.

Total plays: New England 40, Los Angeles 22. One way or another, the Rams need a long drive coming out of halftime. I'd almost take a 10-play field goal drive over a touchdown on a kickoff return here. New England has won too many playoff games by beating worn-down defenses in the fourth quarter.

Bryan Knowles: The Rams' previous low for first downs in a first half was six, in their loss to the Bears. This lack of production is just amazing.

Full credit to the Patriots defense. It looks like they've been running less man-to-man, more zone and more quarters coverage to shut down the Rams' offense, and it's really, really working. I'd say that's not like the Pats -- they're a man-to-man defense first and foremost -- but really, the Pats' philosophy is "we'll do whatever you're least comfortable with," so this makes total sense. Jonathan Jones playing safety -- I think that's a first for this season -- helps them have extra coverage back there, too. It's just a complete and total shutdown of the Rams offense.

And yet, they're only down 3-0, and get the ball to start the second half. The play of the game so far is probably the Patriots failing on that fourth-and-1 at the end of the half; yes, the Rams were unable to respond, but a 3-0 lead is nothing. If the Rams can figure something, anything out, this is still for the taking. They've got to figure SOMETHING out.

This has not, uh, been an exciting first half.

Rivers McCown: Feels like the Rams have utterly shut down every non-Edelman player and they're still going to lose because they can't score.

I figured if the Rams couldn't run it would be a major issue for their offense. But I also thought that they'd get blown out if that happened. And so far...

Tom Gower: Commercial ranking:

Vincent Verhei: Agree 100 percent.

Andrew Potter: Halftime show ranking:

  • Every other halftime show.
  • (Huge gap.)
  • Maroon 5.

Bryan Knowles: Sit through Elvis Presto and THEN tell me that, Andrew.

Maroon 5 is the Jason Garrett of rock, though.

Dave Bernreuther: I have no signal and no battery but just wanted to chime in to point out that not only has Jared Goff taken terrible sacks and thrown passes into the ground on makeable third downs, but he also missed on that one deep shot -- to Reynolds, I believe -- where a throw deep and outside would have led him to space. And now his opening pass of the third quarter should have been picked. His stat line is abysmal -- 5-of-13 now I believe -- but it is still better than he has played.

Bryan Knowles: Alright, so Gurley starts the second half with a couple of strong runs. What on Earth have the Rams been doing with him this postseason?

Aaron Schatz: Looks like Patrick Chung broke his arm on the tackle of the second Gurley run.

Bryan Knowles: In a year of offensive records, we've set another one -- the Rams are the first team in Super Bowl history to punt on their first seven possessions.

Vincent Verhei: And now it's eight -- but the eighth one goes for a Super Bowl-record 65 yards. Hekker is having a monster day -- eight punts, 47.3-yard average, five inside the 20, no touchbacks, only allowed 2 yards on returns.

Dave Bernreuther: So Patrick Chung goes out and Harmon comes in ... and on third down, Goff goes after ... Stephon Gilmore, naturally.

Right now Hekker is their best weapon. Which isn't even meant as a sideswipe after that near-70 yard punt. Damn.

Bryan Knowles: I am now rooting for a 7-3 Rams victory, with the only score being a Johnny Hekker touchdown pass. Hekker for MVP.

Andrew Potter: It's incredible that the Rams have played this poorly and are only trailing 3-0. It would be a relief if they were only trailing 9-0. 3-0 is absurd.

Dave Bernreuther: Cheers to that, Bryan.

The only player in this game besides Hekker to do much of anything is Edelman, who you'd think that at some point the Rams might decide to cover or hit within 5 yards. But no, Donald makes his way into the backfield again, and an under-duress Brady still sees Edelman in the middle of the field, sitting between defenders a solid 5 yards away.

Vincent Verhei: Well there's the best Rams drive of the night: Goff stands in the pocket and makes a laser-beam throw for a big third-down conversion, but the Rams are caught so off guard by this success that they have to call timeout. Then Brandin Cooks is wide open in the end zone but Goff's throw is an hour late and Jason McCourty is able to break it up. Then Goff takes another giant sack on third down, but Greg Zuerlein bails him out by hitting the 53-yard field goal, and we're tied at 3-3.

Bryan Knowles: Oh my, what a defensive play by McCourty. Brandin Cooks was standing all alone, wide open in the end zone -- whoever replaced Patrick Chung just got lost there. McCourty runs halfway across the field to break up the play at the last moment. And then a huge sack makes things a tricky, 50-plus-yard field goal (stop taking sacks, Jared!).

We have a tie game!

Aaron Schatz: We finally had a big-time throw by Goff, too, the 18-yarder to Woods on third-and-6 on the play before the play where Cooks was wide open.

Dave Bernreuther: The throw to Cooks was late, which let McCourty get there. But that sack was not on Goff, for once.

I thought it'd be a longer attempt than it was, not that it mattered for Greg the Leg. The Rams are on the board!

I fully expect this to start to open up, but wouldn't it be something if the indoor Super Bowl between two efficient and clever offenses in the year of offense ended up being among the lowest scoring Super Bowls in history.

(For the record, I'm not rooting for that. But it would be something.)

Aaron Schatz: How Cooks got so wide open -- looks like quarters coverage and Devin McCourty jumped ahead to get Robert Woods and nobody went with Cooks until Jason McCourty noticed he was wide open.

Rivers McCown: Austin Blythe has been a turnstile.

Aaron Schatz: Neither team has run a play in the red zone through three quarters.

Vincent Verhei: Still 3-3 at the end of the third, though the Patriots are starting to string some runs together.

Some stats through 45 minutes:

Julian Edelman: nine catches, 128 yards.
L.A. Rams: nine catches, 95 yards.

New England: 53 plays
Los Angeles: 39 plays

Aaron Schatz: Sean McVay just called a run on third-and-22. Egads.

Tom Gower: Eh, third-and-22 is a "we're not converting" situation and, though Goff has been better lately, I don't blame him for giving up.

Aaron Schatz: Third-and-22 is the perfect time to call "throw it deep and hope we get a DPI flag."

Bryan Knowles: It's the Super Bowl! Maybe you get a DPI, or maybe someone falls down. You've got to at least give it a shot.

Aaron Schatz: ACTUAL TOUCHDOWN!

Patriots get Gronk against a linebacker and he physically muscles a 29-yard grab away from Littleton. Then Michel in from 2 yards away and this game is 10-3.

Dave Bernreuther: Yeah, even at this offensive pace, it's the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl. You have to try.

Speaking of which, the Pats just put the pedal to the metal and scored as easily as I expected them to all game. What changed? Where the hell was the for the last two hours?

Tom Gower: Both completions to Gronk that drive featured excellent placement by Brady. I'm probably forgetting a throw or two, but I don't remember thinking that tonight.

Bryan Knowles: Naturally, Gronk comes up with huge plays on the first touchdown drive ... a 69-yard scoring drive.

It was written in the stars.

Carl Yedor: Some raucous cheers went off at the party I'm at for the game. Not because there are a bunch of Patriots fans, but at least two people had Sony Michel scoring the first touchdown on a prop bet. Quick summary of how this game has gone right there.

Vincent Verhei: Goff makes his best pass all night for what should be a game-tying touchdown, but the Patriots knock the ball out of Cooks' hands at the goal line and it's incomplete. Next play, Goff reverts to rookie form, lofts up a rainbow for an easy Stephon Gilmore interception. Still four-plus minutes to go so the Pats can't just run three times and punt, but a couple of first downs here could wrap things up.

Aaron Schatz: Goff gets a really good drive going with a third-and-9 conversion to Reynolds and then a 17-yarder to Robert Woods. Then he goes to Brandin Cooks twice. First, Cooks has the ball in the end zone but gets it knocked out by Duron Harmon. And then the Patriots pressure Goff with a Cover-0 and he throws a rainbow to Cooks. Too short, Gilmore camps under it for the pick. Pats get the ball back with 4:17 left.

Bryan Knowles: Wow, the Rams have their most impressive drive of the game, pick up yards in chunks, and move the ball down the field quickly. Then, the Patriots bring a ton of pressure, and Goff just throws it up for grabs. INT, Gilmore.

Game's not over yet, but you can see "over" from here.

Bryan Knowles: Rex Burkhead just ran the ball into scoring range, and that should be just about that. The Rams are now out of timeouts, and any score ends this one here. What a disappointing performance from Los Angeles.

Aaron Schatz: The Rams' run defense reverted to form at the worst possible time.

Rivers McCown: This is gonna be a game where a lot of people dump on Jared Goff. While he definitely missed some throws, I think we are losing just how conservatively McVay coached today. He didn't really give much of a new look to Belichick until halftime. They have barely threatened downfield at all outside of Goff's late throw to the wide-open Cooks.

Doug Pederson crushed those fourth-down decisions last year and attacked and adjusted on the Pats tendencies. McVay wilted.

Bryan Knowles: Well. Fourth-and-inches. First down wins the game. Field goal PROBABLY wins the game. Getting stuffed might not win the game.

What do you do?

Vincent Verhei: That seemed like a very obvious decision to kick for me, and I hate settling for long field goals. But 41 yards isn't THAT long.

Aaron Schatz: We'll see what the EdjSports numbers say but I'm going to guess that kicking the field goal was the right decision.

And here's the crazy thing. Unless the Rams score on this drive, this will be the biggest Patriots Super Bowl win. They've never won by seven points, let alone ten.

Tom Gower: 41-yard field goal is, what, 85 percent? Even if you miss it, Goff has to go 68 yards in 76 seconds with no timeouts. 10-point lead is basically unbeatable. I'd kick it.

Vincent Verhei: Rams missing a makeable field goal is the perfect way to end this game. Just an utter collapse on their part. Only four offenses failed to score in double digits against New England this year: Sam Darnold's Jets, Derek Anderson's Bills, a Dolphins team led by Ryan Tannehill and Brock Osweiler, and Jared Goff's Rams. Goff officially finishes 19-of-38. He's just the third quarterback this year who didn't complete more than half his passes against New England -- the others were Deshaun Watson and Josh Allen. They picked the worst possible time to play their worst possible game.

Bryan Knowles: The Patriots win. Six titles. Congratulations, yet again, to the title-starved Boston fanbase.

I don't even know what to say at this point. Pretty much any storyline involving the Patriots has been used at this point. It has just been an incredible period of dominance for them; even when they haven't been the best team in the league, they've found ways to win time after time after time.

It's not thrilling, and this is going to go down in the bottom quartile of Super Bowls from an excitement standpoint, but it's just utter and complete dominance year after year. The monsters at the end of the book.

I presume Edelman is about to be named MVP, right?

Tom Gower: Lame game. Least interesting since, oh, maybe Ravens-Giants, though granted it was much more competitive than Seahawks-Broncos or a number of others. As Vince noted, it took the Rams way too long to adjust to Belichick's defensive look. They finally went to more 12 personnel to out-leverage the 5-up defensive look in the second half and started to move the ball a little bit because of it. But ultimately, they didn't do nearly enough, and just how much they relied on their base look and lacked changeups when teams took that away was revealed in this game. Kudos to Bill Belichick and Brian Flores for their work.

I didn't have nearly as good a feel for what and how the Patriots offense was doing against the Rams defense, but Wade Phillips and company did enough to win a game had their offense done its job. Yeah, they had problems covering Edelman. But you'll win a lot of games giving up 13 points in 11 non-kneeldown possessions.

Dave Bernreuther: I'll agree with the above comment about McVay really coming up lame. Goff was certainly terrible. Bad enough, in fact, that I'll still say that a good quarterback game would've been enough to win, all else being equal ... but damn. At least we know Goff isn't that good. He didn't really let us down. McVay, though? Even accounting for the plays that may have been great design but players just got whupped ... he just didn't have any answers.

Congrats to the Patriots, though. I kind of hate saying that, and I'm as sick as anyone of the Tom Brady narrative and the extra luck they often seem to get, but there's a reason they succeed even when they're not dominating or catching every break. They're the best organization, top to bottom, always prepared for everything, always have someone step up even if their stars have an off day, and say what you will about their fans or the media, they're really impressive and worthy of admiration, not jealousy. Do they benefit from a weak joke of a division? And lately, even the conference? Yes. Do they get lucky sometimes? Yes. But they're smarter than everyone else, cover their bases better, and can never, ever be counted out. Even after being blown out by the Lions. (Speaking of which ... damn what a difference in run defense tonight vs that game!) That's six titles in a career. In a salary-capped league full of teams with arguably more talent. That's amazing.

Anyway ... 13-3. Lowest scoring Super Bowl in history. Fitting end to the year of the offense. And just what we all saw coming, right?

Aaron Schatz: It turns out that the fourth-down decision for the Pats at the end of the game barely mattered. EdjSports had the difference in Game-Winning Chance as 0.2 percent, although they have going for it as the better option than the field goal. But it's basically a rounding error. The Pats were far enough ahead at that point, and the chance of the Rams coming back to score a touchdown so small, that the difference between a 7-point lead and a 10-point lead was negligible.

That's from the analyst in me. The Patriots fan in me needs to process things a little bit before I sum up my feelings about another championship.

Some more thoughts.

It's hard to know how much of the defensive game plan belonged to Bill Belichick and how much to Brian Flores, but Dolphins fans have to be feeling pretty good about their new head coach after this one. The Patriots' game plan was phenomenal. They essentially used a five-man front all game, with Kyle Van Noy and Dont'a Hightower blitzing the quarterback often along with three defensive linemen. They used a lot of stunts and games to get free pass-rushers. On the back end, they switched to playing a lot of quarters coverage instead of the man coverage that Goff did so well against during the regular season. So they're giving Goff a ton of pressure, and then when he tries to throw the ball, he doesn't see what he was expecting. But even still, he had a couple of throws that were awful. He should have seen Cooks open in the end zone much sooner, which wouldn't have given Jason McCourty time to break that pass up. And the throw to Cooks that ended up an interception just didn't have enough arm strength.

I'm also not going to claim responsibility for this insight, but I've seen a couple of people mention on Twitter that the way to counter the Patriots' pass rush should have been to go to more 12 personnel. That's what the Rams did near the end of the game when they were finally moving the ball. That being said, there were a couple of big connections to Josh Reynolds, and if they're in 12 personnel, there's no Reynolds on the field, so you gain protection but lose an important weapon. Anyway, I think what we had was a combination of a great defensive game plan and performance with offensive conservatism and some bad quarterback play.

On the other side, you've got to give it to Wade Phillips too -- keeping the Patriots to 13 points is impressive. The Patriots ran against a lot of stacked boxes, but they were still succeeding with those runs, so I was a bit surprised how much the Patriots went to the spread in the second quarter. They also didn't do what I recommended in the preview, which was passes out of the 21 personnel set.

I'll fully admit that I didn't think the Patriots were going to do this again. By DVOA, this was the weakest Brady/Belichick team since 2005. And yet here we are again. They pulled it off. Once they beat Kansas City, well, they really weren't that far below the other teams, especially in weighted DVOA. And as I talked about on a lot of radio interviews over the last couple of weeks, the Patriots just seem to treat September differently than other teams.

I've written something about how great it feels to be a Patriots fan after every Patriots Super Bowl win, going back to 2003 in the first year of Football Outsiders. I don't know, this one feels a little different. Back in 2003 and 2004, it was so exciting just to have the team I rooted for enjoying so much success. In 2014, they hadn't won in a decade, and you had the frustration over Deflategate, and then the insane ending. In 2016, you had yet more frustration over Deflategate and the greatest comeback ever. Those wins felt so good. Tonight, they won a surprising defensive battle that just wasn't that exciting a game. And the feeling is more just quiet satisfaction. Hey, we won another title. Maybe it's because I honestly wasn't anywhere near as scared about them losing tonight, even when it was 3-3. It didn't feel like Seattle or Philadelphia or Atlanta or the Giants, because it just felt like Goff didn't have it tonight. The Rams weren't going to win.

Robert Weintraub: Let's just say I'd feel better about Flores coming in than I do about Zac Taylor for my Bengals right about now...

Comments

233 comments, Last at 13 Feb 2019, 12:08pm

68 Re: Super Bowl LIII Audibles

Goff scored 36 on his Wonderlic test and Brady was 33. When you get under 20, only 2 QB's were somewhat successful-Terry Bradshaw(scored 16) and played good enough to help his team win 8 Rings, and Jim kelly (scored 15) and played good enough to help his team win 4 Rings. My guy (Marino) scored 16 and played good enough to help us win 1 Ring.

107 Re: Super Bowl LIII Audibles

Well my interpretation matches the data exactly. And I think it's a huge stretch to say Bradshaw played well enough to win 8 rings in any conventional sense. Aside from the 4 title runs, the Steelers under Bradshaw went 2-5 in the playoffs in his other years. I don't see how anybody could spin that as "good enough to win 4 titles".

132 Re: Super Bowl LIII Audibles

Chase Stuart did a study on P-F-R a while back to determine the Approx. Value that a QB provided for his team in the PO's. Terry Bradshaw was right up at the top of the list along with Montana, Elway, Warner, and a few others for providing the most Value. I wish someone would get that study up-to-date to include all of the current guys. But it was done back in '06 or '08.

135 Re: Super Bowl LIII Audibles

As for Bradshaw and what he contributed to those 4 S.B. wins-go back and watch especially the last 3 wins and I bet you will change your opinion. He was so clutch in the 4th quarter of those 3 games. Noll would "pass out the clock" instead of "running out the clock" after Bradshaw had either brought them from behind or led his O to a late TD to seal the deal.

88 Re: Super Bowl LIII Audibles

That's all well and good but keep in mind a QB's goal for the Reg. Season-play good enough to help his team qualify for the PO's. We have percentages for each QB telling us how they did in that respect. The PO's are a whole different thing to those same QB's. Remember what Marino said:"I'd trade every Record we broke to be Super Bowl Champ". That sums it up pretty good IMO.

104 Re: Super Bowl LIII Audibles

Like I said, you have much greater faith in the utlity of small samples carved from much, much, larger samples. i think that approach is poor.

By the way, The Ponderous One, perhaps the worst decision making qb I've ever seen, scored a 35 on the Wondrlic. Saying that test has extremely limited utility, for evaluating an NFL qb's ability to mentally function well on the field, is akin to saying that Andy Reid enjoys a good meal.

It's ok for us to disagree. We don't need to beat it to death.

101 Re: Super Bowl LIII Audibles

I don't quite know what the issue is with Goff. Has he reached his limit? Terry Bradshaw was basically called a dope for a long time, and yet I'd say (at least) the later Steeler titles relied heavily on his passing ability.

It feels like he's on a tight leash with McVay. He needs to learn the system well enough to be able to audible more effectively.

And of course he needs to scan the field better so he more quickly notices when Brandin Cooks is wide open in the end zone.

Clearly he's no Nick Foles.

106 Re: Super Bowl LIII Audibles

I hate to harp on this, but there's a reason McVay is talking to the guy for as long as possible every play. Some guys can't read a defense. Usually they don't last for very long in the NFL (NCAA is filled with quarterbacks who only read half the field). One would think he'll get better with experience, but if not, McVay is going to either figure out a way to work around it, or get a new QB.

115 Re: Super Bowl LIII Audibles

Billick did the same with Randall Cunningham in Cunningham's MVP season in 1998, with Cunningham having two HOF receivers, two HOF o-linemen, and 3 other good ones, and a rb with multiple pro bowl selections. Everybody talks about Gary Anderson's missed kick, but Cunningham's performance was the biggest non defensive reason the Vikings lost that Conference Championship.

Goff is a lot like Cunningham, absent the athleticism.

128 Re: Super Bowl LIII Audibles

Goff's only 24, so it would still be no big surprise for him to make very large improvements. McVay can't hide him against good, prepared defenses any longer, however. He's going to have get better before his next contract, but at least the Rams have two more years on his rookie deal.

61 Re: Super Bowl LIII Audibles

It wasn't really a defensive struggle. Patriots offense vs. Rams defense was a defensive struggle. *That* was interesting to watch. Rams offense vs. Patriots defense wasn't. That was just watching an inexperienced quarterback with the jitters against a coach who knows how to make you second-guess yourself. (Which in hindsight, might've been why Nick Foles did so well last year, as pretty much no one has ever said he lacked confidence).

105 Re: Super Bowl LIII Audibles

Coming into the game I thought it very likely Belichick would eat Goff for lunch. Very few young QBs face Belichick in a big game without being exposed. Goff's splits suggested he wouldn't be able to improvise, and that suggested that Belichick could find a weakness in his game and then just exploit it for 60 minutes.

138 Re: Super Bowl LIII Audibles

Agreed, this is all revisionist history. Even my friend shrugged off this performance as a referendum on Goff and the Rams offensive no show, giving BB essentially no credit. Strange considering their regular season.

139 Re: Super Bowl LIII Audibles

It isn't revisionist when you say it before the game. I do credit the Patriots, but the fact is that Goff has very poor recognition skills at this point in his career, that Mcvay had successfully concealed for a while, but it became more apparent with time. Yesterday didn't happen out of the blue.

148 Re: Super Bowl LIII Audibles

I didn't specifically predict 3 points. I did specifically predict, while hoping to be wrong, a boring Patriots victory because Goff would be easily confused. Where I credit Belichik is that the Patriots did not allow Goff, unlike some teams,. a lot of easy one read open receivers, but if you were watching them, yesterday was not a real surprise.

144 Re: Super Bowl LIII Audibles

Another way to think about it is that really, the only top-tier unit on the Rams was their offensive line. Goff, especially by the end of the year, was basically a mid-level QB, both Cooks and Woods are good, but not great WRs, they basically don't have a receiving tight end, and Gurley isn't a tackle-breaking RB at all (and neither is Anderson).

The OL (and rushing totals, but see previous regarding Gurley) is really the only place where the Rams were elite, so the story was basically the same thing over and over. Patriots defensive line screws up the protection, and Goff throws the ball too quickly under pressure. Yawn. Games like this happen when a team's strength is one-sided - just like the opposite can happen when a team's defense has a clear weakness.

149 Re: Super Bowl LIII Audibles

I really thought the Rams offensive line was overrated most of the year. I know it sounds strange, but I really think it was McVay who was underrated. His personnel just isn't nearly as good as even the advanced stats suggest.

151 Re: Super Bowl LIII Audibles

I think the Rams need to really think hard about what Goff's value is going forward. It sounds painful, but if hes going to command max dollars(and his agent can point to his numbers to make a compelling case), I think you need wonder seriously if he can ever rise to be something more than just an arm extension of Sean McVay.

182 Re: Super Bowl LIII Audibles

There's a difference between the offensive line (the players) and the offensive line (the unit). The players on the Rams offensive line weren't like, top of the top or anything, so in that sense, they're overrated.

But the 5 starters on the Rams offensive line played all 16 games together. Any time you have a good offensive line that plays an entire year together with no injuries they're going to end up near the top of the league in stats, and they're going to be one of the best *units* in the NFL over the full year.

And this is actually the *second year* they've done that (ignoring the meaningless week 17 game). Unless McVay's genius is keeping his offensive line healthy, I'm betting that his stock undergoes a serious correction in the next few years.

185 Re: Super Bowl LIII Audibles

Pretty much agree. I think people confuse a healthy o-line with some talent which functions well as a unit in a good scheme, with a healthy offensive line featuring 4 or 5 maulers, one of whom is a Larry Allen type, who, when he trots up to the line of scrimmage, pulls on an imaginary freight train air horn, screams "WHOOP!! WHOOP!!" points at his opponent across the line of scrimmage, shouts "BALL'S COMIN' RIGHT AT YA', LUNCHMEAT!!, then puts the opponent on his back 5 yards downfield, 5 seconds later. The latter kind of oline (which are exceedingly difficult to build in this CBA environment) is almost impossible to counter scheme against, given teammates with any competency at all at qb and on defense. Yeah, you can do some things to slow it up, but you aren't going to produce nearly complete nonfunctionality like the Pats did against the Rams.

200 Re: Super Bowl LIII Audibles

"The latter kind of oline (which are exceedingly difficult to build in this CBA environment) is almost impossible to counter scheme against, given teammates with any competency at all at qb and on defense."

Well... kindof. No matter what, you've still got a numbers game advantage on defense, and the Patriots *did* do that - it was 6-on-5 the whole game, and you can be a great offensive lineman but if there are too many guys to block, there's not much you can do. I think the main reason that other teams didn't do that against the Rams was that they were afraid of Goff. My guess would be that Belichick's game plan was start in a 6-1-4 alignment, and make Goff force us out of it, and he absolutely 100% never did.

The other thing, though, is that McVay's bizarre "no or completely boring pre-snap action" plan played right into the hands of the defense. As far as I can tell, McVay's plan was to try to confuse the Patriots defense with *player alignment*. Which is bat$#!+ insane. Half the reason the game looked so boring on the Rams side is that McVay did *nothing* interesting. At all.

202 Re: Super Bowl LIII Audibles

It'll be very interesting to see what McVay does next year, because i think he'll really need to give more of the reins to Goff, for better or worse, which means it'll be interesting to see if Goff can make some strides. My best guess is that he'll improve significantly.He certainly has the throwing ability, but he really needs to some of the work that Peyton Manning did to become more effective under duress, in the 2nd half of his career.

204 Re: Super Bowl LIII Audibles

"Peyton Manning did to become more effective under duress, in the 2nd half of his career." - How many other qbs can you name who successfully did this. Since Brady was good at this well before the rest of his other talents developed, I might put the number at effectively 0.

Goff has poor mechanics when he can't set his feet, he's late with his throws, and I'm not convinced he can see the field well at all. He's an accurate thrower when the read is there and he's definitely got the ability to hit all levels of the route tree.

But if he is truly remedial at the rest, then I suspect there is a hard ceiling to what the Rams can accomplish on offense. The talent around him is pretty good and any slippage at receiver or running back may have even bigger ripple effects. I'm not sure he can compensate for an average o line either, so there's a ticking time bomb going on there as well.

Wrap it all up and hes got a ways to go. I do like him as a thrower a lot. I think Matt Ryan level qb is attainable but I'm on the pessimistic side of him being better than that.

206 Re: Super Bowl LIII Audibles

"He certainly has the throwing ability"

That's... really not what I've seen and what I've seen from others doing film analysis on Goff. He really doesn't have the strongest arm, so he's always going to be dependent on having a clean pocket. I mean, we're not talking about noodle arm or anything, but it's going to restrict what he can do as a quarterback.

Add in the fact that the Rams have had ludicrous injury luck at the O-line position and I would be really down on Goff next year. Especially if some of the reason for his struggles in the Super Bowl are due to the fact that he still needs McVay's help at the line.

208 Re: Super Bowl LIII Audibles

I didn't mean to imply a laser rocket arm, but the basic ability to throw the route tree is there. I just hate being a pessimist about any of these young guys. The game's more interesting with more guys that play well. Even a guy who rubbed me the wrong way, and played for a divisional rival, Cutler, was somebody I kind of hoped would be good when he was traded to Chicago. Later, when it became apparent that he really was kind of disinterested, is when I joined the anti-smokin' movement.

225 Re: Super Bowl LIII Audibles

Hey, I'm all for more awesome QBs as well, but what exactly has Goff done well at this point to make you excited about him in the future? I'm not saying the guy's a terrible QB or anything, but I don't see *anything* that would suggest he's going to turn into a regular top-10 QB when things go a little less picture-perfect in terms of his protection in the future. It's like we're watching a slightly improved Joe Flacco (or a less mobile Eli, maybe). Again, not a *bad* QB, but sadly one who you end up holding onto and succeeding in *spite* of, instead of *because* of.

226 Re: Super Bowl LIII Audibles

He had some absolutely sublime games this year. His games against the Vikings and Chiefs were spectacular. He also had gutty wins against the Seahawks and was on the positive end of some thorough blowouts. Even his first game against New Orleans - he was terrific.

I also thought he gutted out a win against New Orleans in their playoff win. Not ever playoff win is going to be pretty, but when given a chance to pull it out, he did what he needed to. I know the penalty overshadows all, but there was some good stuff from the Rams in that game too.

The NE meltdown showed Goff at his absolute worst. A guy who is slow at reading defenses, poor mechanically when he can set his feet and awful within a muddied pocket.

Somewhere between his sublime play earlier and his colossal meltdown is a good player. They just need to hope he can take the next step. Let's not pretend he's been Rex Grossman this whole time. And Joe Flacco has never had a season anywhere near as good as Goff's was this year. And even Goff's prior year was better than anything Joe Flacco has done.

227 Re: Super Bowl LIII Audibles

"He had some absolutely sublime games this year. His games against the Vikings and Chiefs were spectacular. He also had gutty wins against the Seahawks and was on the positive end of some thorough blowouts. Even his first game against New Orleans - he was terrific."

I didn't mean that he didn't play well, he just didn't stand out. The Chiefs game is a good example - the game had a ton of points scored but I saw maybe like, 3 plays the whole game where a "good" NFL QB might have trouble. Usually he's just dropping back with a perfectly clean pocket and delivering the ball to a guy who came open. Again, that's not meant as a knock on the guy, it's just that I don't think games like that say anything about the quarterback. When the pocket's clean for over 2 seconds, everyone *should* look like great.

"Somewhere between his sublime play earlier and his colossal meltdown is a good player. They just need to hope he can take the next step. "

I'd fall more towards the "mediocre" player at this point. *Please* keep in mind, a mediocre NFL QB is still a strong asset, but can be a long term liability: see Joe Flacco, Eli Manning, Matt Schaub, Alex Smith (Smith isn't a fair comparison here because his early struggles meant that in terms of cost, he was really reasonably priced for the 49ers/Chiefs, so he wasn't anywhere near as much of a liability). I *completely* agree that they really need to hope he can take the next step, and it's got to be next year. Otherwise they're faced with the worst decision a team can make - one that lots of teams have gotten burned by (Jacksonville, most recently).

"And Joe Flacco has never had a season anywhere near as good as Goff's was this year."

I did say "slightly improved" Joe Flacco, but saying that Flacco's never had a season "anywhere near as good" as Goff is just not correct: Flacco's 2014 (~1000 DYAR, 15.5% DVOA, 3800 yards, 27/12 TD/INT) is really close to Goff's 2017/2018 numbers, especially considering the easier passing environment. Yes, Goff had 2 of those years, but again, that's also 2 years with perfect offensive line continuity. Most quarterbacks are lucky to get 1 season like that, much less 2.

228 Re: Super Bowl LIII Audibles

Let me pose this question to you(or anyone): Who is the better quarterback, Goff or Prescott long term?

In my opinion, Dak is the kind of player who can pull out a game with a combination of scrambling and ability to throw on the run, provided his defense enables him to hang around long enough. But Dak(at least in my opinion) will not operate a high functioning, consistent passing game. I would be pretty stunned to see a Dak helmed offense produce what the Rams did this year.

This gets to the interesting contrast between the two. Dak, in ideal conditions, isn't going to wow you the way Goff will. But Dak will look better than Goff would in poor circumstances. Dak is the player with the lower ceiling and hire floor. So who is the better prospect?

To me, I'd rather have Goff - the upside is an elite qb and for all his failures in the superbowl, I'd rather have those traits than the plucky underdog who can gut out a tough win but is also prone to terrible losses against bad teams.

229 Re: Super Bowl LIII Audibles

"Let me pose this question to you(or anyone): Who is the better quarterback, Goff or Prescott long term?"

The problem is that this is a false dichotomy - I'd probably pick Goff as well, but I'd pick a bunch of other players before *either* of them, too. Mahomes, Wilson, and with injury caveats Luck, Wentz, and Watson. I'd probably pick Mayfield long term too, although I could *easily* see myself wrong on that one.

I should also point out that the one promising thing that Goff has is his age, which of course could've been Alex Smith's problem as well - Goff has three years of NFL experience and he's about a half-year older than Baker Mayfield. So it's *entirely* possible I'm being way too critical of him simply because I'm not used to 24 year old 3rd year QBs.

230 Re: Super Bowl LIII Audibles

Oh, I know. Like I said elsewhere in the the thread,nearly the only thing I've seen him do consistently well is throw accurately to a first read open receiver from a clean pocket, and as you said, everybody looks good in that circumstance. Here's hoping it gets better.......

140 Re: Super Bowl LIII Audibles

You do realize that Rex Grossman through week 5 in 2006 was on pace to throw for 30+ TDs and nearly 4000 yards, right? And the Bears were averaging 31.2 points per game over the same span? Great offenses can sometimes be hollow: dig into them a bit and there's nothing there.

That's basically what happened here - the Rams offensive success was pretty much entirely related to their offensive line. As Aaron noted in the preview, the Rams set a record for ALY this year, they used play-action (slow-developing plays) more than any other team in the league, and Goff ended up holding the ball for the 4th longest time of any team in the league. That offensive line played fantastic over the year, but the fundamentals behind them (the QB, RB, and WRs) weren't strong.

I'm not saying that the Patriots defense was *bad* or anything. It just wasn't an 11-on-11 battle like it was with the Patriots offense and Rams defense. There you saw great plays everywhere - offensive line, defensive line, defensive backs, wide receivers, tight ends, quarterbacks. With the Patriots defense vs Rams offense it was just "we know how to beat your offensive line, can you do anything if we do that?" to which the answer repeatedly was "no."

143 Re: Super Bowl LIII Audibles

The rams offensive personnel aren't good? Ok, even if you assume Gurley wasn't healthy - CJ Anderson is probably the best second string running back in the nfl and the wide receivers on the rams are pretty good even sans Cooper Kupp.

Again 3 points!

155 Re: Super Bowl LIII Audibles

Not bad? Wow, you're really overreaching here. The only defense that came close to what the Pats did to the Rams in this game was the Bears and they had the top defense by DVOA, by 10 percentage points. Goff and their O-line have weaknesses, but stating that's the only reason for holding them to 3 points is an oversimplification. The Pats manufactured a pass rush, hid their linebackers weaknesses and coverage and took advantage of their one personnel advantage on defense: the cornerbacks. As theslothook says: 3 points.

Anybody that wants an alternative assessment of the Pats defensive game from Pat's and Will Allen's should check out Andy Benoit's podcast and article at SI.

156 Re: Super Bowl LIII Audibles

I never said a negative thing about the Patriots defense, and specifically said they deserve credit. Noting in the week prior to the game that the Patriots defense would likely confuse Goff is a compliment to the Patriots defense. Lots of teams tried and failed at that task, which is why the Rams offense ranked so high statistically.I will stand by my assessment that the Rams do not have great offensive personnel. In 18 years we will not be talking about this game like we do the first Super Bowl match up between these teams, when a Patriots defense performed well against an offense with multiple Hall of Famers, including at qb, and pro bowlers at other positions.