Are you ready for Super Bowl Sunday yet?
Ha, well, the joke’s on you, because it’s still 10 days away.
The Patriots will hold a couple of final practices in Foxboro on Friday and Saturday before leaving for Atlanta on Sunday. Media night will take place Monday, then the Patriots will hold more media availability Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The Patriots likely will practice next week on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday before holding a final walk-through/picture day on the Mercedes-Benz Stadium game field Saturday. Then it’s actually time for the Patriots to take on the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII.
Isn’t it kind of strange that the Falcons play in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, while their biggest rivals, the New Orleans Saints, play in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome?
That shouldn’t be allowed.
Let’s get into this week’s mailbag.
Who is the #1 unsung hero the Patriots will need to beat the Rams?
I’ll go with defensive tackle Lawrence Guy.
The Patriots will need to be able to stop the run while going against Rams running backs Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson. Guy has been an unsung hero all the year as a run defender. He was one of Pro Football Focus’ highest graded players in run defense this season, and he’s done a fine job all year of making tackles at or near the line of scrimmage. He can both hold his ground against a double team and come off a block to make a tackle.
Because run defense isn’t exactly the sexiest topic, Guy’s play has flown under the radar much of this season. But the Patriots will need him at his best in Super Bowl LIII.
How interesting has it been covering the Patriots during this run of excellence?
It’s been fascinating, and I’ve only been doing it for six seasons. While I wish I was around in the early 2000s, like some of my colleagues, I feel extremely fortunate to cover such a historic team in general.
As a beat reporter, I feel like sometimes I have to lose the forest for the trees, however. So much of our job is focusing on the intricacies of the team that I rarely find myself writing about the scope of the Patriots’ success.
There’s no team I’d rather cover, though. This is the modern version of the 1990s Chicago Bulls, 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers, 1960s Boston Celtics or 1950s New York Yankees.
I truly believe Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback of all time, and head coach Bill Belichick is the greatest ever at his craft. Speaking of, you couldn’t do much better than Robert Kraft as an owner.
Perhaps the most difficult part of covering a team so great is critiquing it. They’re really good, but continuously saying that isn’t very interesting and gets you labeled as a homer. But any criticism of the team is magnified because fans take it personally. Some media members relish in the reaction of those fans, which is why they lean so heavily toward the few negatives.
So, you try to play it down the middle, which usually gets you yelled at by both sides of the aisle. That’s, I guess, how you know you’re doing your job.
After 29 carries last Sunday, Sony Michel left the game and didn’t return. What do you think was the reason for that, and is there concern for his ability to carry the load in the Super Bowl? #maildoug
Michel’s final play was with 3:35 left in the fourth quarter.
The Patriots had to drive down the field quickly on their next offensive series, which meant throwing the ball. You want running backs James White or Rex Burkhead on the field to do that.
I’m not sure why Michel didn’t get a carry in overtime, but it might have been to continue to keep the Kansas City Chiefs on their toes. Michel only was on the field for five passing plays all game and didn’t receive a target.
Burkhead had a 13:17 run-pass ratio, while White’s was 6:27.
As you said, Michel had 29 carries. I don’t think there’s any concern that he can carry the load, since that’s exactly what he did against the Chiefs. When you have three quality running backs, you don’t need one getting 40 carries.
Pats O-Line has been awesome in the playoffs, but do you think they can handle Donald/Suh & co.?
The Patriots’ offensive line is actually a pretty good matchup against Rams defensive tackles Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh, because they can match their quickness.
Donald and Suh certainly will win some plays against New England’s offensive line. But the Patriots’ offensive line currently is playing so well that Patriots fans should still have confidence in their ability to create holes in the run game and protect quarterback Tom Brady.
It would be advisable for the Patriots to attempt to run on the Rams, who have an undersized defensive front.
I feel pretty confident in guessing the following five players:
OL James Ferentz
CB Duke Dawson
TE Stephen Anderson
DE Keionta Davis
S Obi Melifonwu
Then the final two spots come down to defensive ends Ufomba Kamalu, Deatrich Wise and Derek Rivers and defensive tackle Danny Shelton.
I think it’s important to stop Gurley in this game, so I’ll go with Rivers and Kamalu. I think it would be helpful to have Shelton active, and Wise can take over Rivers’ pass-rushing snaps.
Let’s go rapid fire.
Why everyone blaim Peyton for clock mismanagement, when Reid did it twice? At the end they didn’t even try to control clock, and in the 1stH he called TO with 1:11 left – Pats were killing the clock and he saved them time and help them change their goal for that drive – result TD
It only makes headlines if Andy Reid controls the clock correctly.
What’s your Mount Rushmore of Patriot players?
The Mount Rushmore of the Patriots in general is Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, Robert Kraft and I’ll throw in John Hannah for the old-timers.
Only players? Brady, Hannah, Rob Gronkowski and Adam Vinatieri.
I’m not confident in that, but that’s what I’m sticking with. It’s too hard to pick just four people in either category and much too difficult to single out one player out of Ty Law, Richard Seymour, Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel, Julian Edelman, Troy Brown, Devin McCourty, Matt Light, Willie McGinest, Vince Wilfork and Dont’a Hightower.
Who is the MVP of this playoff run?
The offensive line.
If I have to pick just one, it would probably be linebacker Kyle Van Noy. Quarterback Tom Brady and wide receiver Julian Edelman are up there too, but they’ve both contributed to turnovers.
Do you like avocados? Tom Brady likes avocados so I think everyone should
I like guacamole. Avocado is just fine on its own.
Who has greater super powers….Tom Brady or Superman?
Superman. Brady is more of a Batman-type superhero.
Where do you rank last game on your most thrilling patriots game and what is your top five?
I’ll only include games I covered, so I’d go:
1. Super Bowl LI
2. Super Bowl XLIX
3. 2018 AFC Championship Game vs. Chiefs
4. 2014 Divisional Round Game vs. Ravens
5. Super Bowl LII
I might have forgotten an obvious one in there.
I realized this week that next year’s Super Bowl will be Super Bowl LIV. And that’s pretty cool because it’s my daughter’s name. I’m going to buy so much merch.
I feel chocolate covered Stuf being not made is the biggest miss in Nabisco history.
You’re a genius. I’d probably prefer those to actual Oreos.
Which Von Erich, David, Kevin or Kerry?
Kerry. It’s unbelievable that he successfully wrestled without people knowing he only had one foot.
Need you to put yourself in Rose’s shoes for this one:
WOULD YOU RATHER watch Jack slip away into the cold, icy water OR marry her fiancé Cal Hockley?
First of all, James Cameron should have made that wooden plank smaller, because Jack totally could have fit on the one in the movie.
Second, I guess I’d rather marry Cal. Watching your romantic partner freeze to death because you’re too selfish to make some room on a floating wooden plank must really weigh on your mind after a while.
What happens to guys like Jeremy Hill that are injured for the season. Do they travel with the team and try to maintain a bond with the other players?
The only player on injured reserve who has traveled with the team is rookie linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley. Hill has been around the locker room this season, however.
Hey Doug, why was the AFC trophy presentation done inside the locker room? Is that the protocol if the winner is the away team?
Yes. I think it would just be uncomfortable to do it in an empty stadium.
Better career? Tom Brady, or Joe Montana and Steve Young combined? #MailDoug
Ha. I’ll go Montana and Young for now, but if Brady wins another Super Bowl, that would tip the scales in the other direction.
hey doug how’re you today?
how’re you tomorrow?
Today, pretty good.
Tomorrow? Maybe even better. Who knows what tomorrow will hold.
Outside of New England, is there uproar over OT rules if KC wins toss and marches for TD?
Doubt it. The uproar over overtime rules was one of the dumbest uproars I’ve seen in a while.
Are you sick of going to the super bowl yet? Would it be more fun to cover a dysfunctional (crappy) team like the Jets?
I would have covered the Super Bowl regardless. A beat reporter from a fellow team asked me the other day how I do these long playoff runs every year. I don’t know anything different. It would feel odd to have the season end in December or January.
How many buds do you give the Superbowl LIII matchup?
One hundred buds.
By the way, “Doug’s Buds” officially is returning at this year’s Super Bowl.
We have great snacks to review and quality guests to interview.
Maybe you’ll find out next week…
Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images