A by-the-numbers look at Sunday’s Super Bowl LIII matchup between the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams:
1. This is Tom Brady’s ninth Super Bowl appearance as a player and Bill Belichick’s ninth as a head coach. Belichick also coached in three as an assistant/coordinator, including one as the Patriots’ defensive backs coach in 1996.
2. A win would give the Patriots six Super Bowl championships as a franchise, tying the Pittsburgh Steelers for the most in NFL history. It also would be New England’s 37th playoff victory, breaking a tie with the Steelers for most all time.
3. Brady is seeking his sixth Super Bowl ring, which would push him past former Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman Charles Haley for the most championships ever by a player.
4. The Patriots are the first team since the early-1990s Buffalo Bills to appear in three consecutive Super Bowls.
5. Patriots offensive rankings during the regular season: fourth in points per game (27.3), fifth in total offense (393.4 yards per game), eighth in passing offense (266.1 yards per game), fifth in rushing offense (127.3 yards per game), fifth in Football Outsiders’ DVOA.
6. Rams offensive rankings: second in points per game (32.9), second in total offense (421.1 yards per game), fifth in passing offense (281.7), third in rushing offense (139.4), second in DVOA.
7. Both teams ranked highly in turnover differential, as well, the Rams in fourth at plus-11 and the Patriots in fifth at plus-10.
8. The Patriots already have defeated the teams ranked first (Kansas City Chiefs) and third (Los Angeles Chargers) in offensive DVOA this postseason.
9. Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman’s 105 career postseason receptions ranks second in NFL history behind Jerry Rice’s 151. Edelman also ranks fourth in postseason receiving yards (1,271) and needs just 45 more to move past Cliff Branch and Michael Irvin and into second place on that list.
10. Edelman has been targeted 10 or more times in each of his last 11 playoff games. He had nine catches for 151 yards in the divisional round and seven for 96 in the AFC Championship Game.
11. New England’s offensive line has not surrendered a sack since the playoffs began. It’s allowed just two in the last four games and five in the last eight games.
12. After combining for six of the Patriots’ 14 accepted penalties in a Week 15 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, New England’s O-linemen have been flagged just three times in the last four games.
13. Left guard Joe Thuney has played every offensive snap this season, becoming the first Patriots player to do so since Brady and Ryan Wendell in 2015.
14. Members of the Patriots’ 2016 rookie class — from which Thuney, linebacker Elandon Roberts, cornerback Jonathan Jones and offensive lineman Ted Karras remain — have reached the Super Bowl in all three of their NFL seasons. (Jones missed Super Bowl LII last year with an injury.)
15. Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald led the NFL with 20 1/2 sacks during the regular season, 14 1/2 of which came against left guards. Buckle up, Joe.
16. As noted by ESPN’s Bill Barnwell, the Patriots have allowed just one sack to an interior lineman since Week 2 (Green Bay’s Mike Daniels in Week 6).
17. Rookie Sony Michel has rushed for 100-plus yards six times this season, including in each of the Patriots’ first two playoff games. No Patriots running back ever has rushed for 100 yards in a Super Bowl. Antowain Smith came closest with 92 rushing yards in Super Bowl XXXVI.
18. The Rams’ defense allowed an NFL-worst 5.1 yards per carry during the regular season. It’s been much better in the playoffs, though, holding stars Ezekiel Elliott, Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara to a combined 93 yards on 37 carries over two games.
19. The Patriots have rushed for eight touchdowns this postseason (five by Michel, three by Rex Burkhead). Fullback James Develin has been on the field for all eight.
20. Former Patriots receiver Brandin Cooks has surpassed 1,000 receiving yards in each of his five NFL seasons, including a career-high 1,204 on 80 catches in his first year with the Rams.
21. Ten of Rams cornerback Aqib Talib’s 35 career interceptions have been pick-sixes.
22. Rams punter Johnny “The Weapon” Hekker ranked second in the league in net punting this season (43.0 yards per punt). Only New Orleans’ Thomas Morstead had a better average. Both are favorites of Belichick.
23. Hekker, who completed a 12-yard pass on a fake punt during the NFC Championship Game, has a career passer rating of 102.1.
24. Rams quarterback Jared Goff’s completion percentage and yards per attempt both have dropped dramatically over the last seven games. That downturn began shortly after the loss of wide receiver Cooper Kupp, who suffered a torn ACL in Week 10.
25. First-team All-Pro Stephon Gilmore broke up a career-high 20 passes during the regular season, second-most in the NFL and fourth-most by any Patriots cornerback in the Belichick era.
26. Defensive end Trey Flowers led all Patriots defenders in sacks (7.5) and quarterback hits (20) for the third consecutive season.
27. The 53 players on the Patriots’ current roster have played in a total of 86 Super Bowls. The Rams have played in five: two by Anderson, one by Cooks, one by Talib and one by cornerback Sam Shields.
28. Super Bowl LIII will be played on Sunday, Feb. 3, 17 years to the day after the Patriots and Rams squared off in Super Bowl XXXVI.
29. James White set Patriots franchise records in catches (87), receiving yards (751) and yards after catch (666) by a running back this season. His seven touchdown catches also tied Larry Garron’s team record set way back in 1964.
30. White’s usage in the passing game dipped during the second half of the regular season before exploding again in the divisional round, when he caught 15 passes on 17 targets for 97 yards against the Chargers.
31. Patriots rookie J.C. Jackson posted a passer rating against of 42.0 during the regular season, the lowest mark of any NFL cornerback, per Pro Football Focus. Jackson faced a difficult matchup last week against Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce and had his worst game as a pro, allowing a touchdown and committing three penalties.
32. Rams receiver Robert Woods had never tallied more than 65 catches or 800 receiving yards in a season before 2018. He smashed both marks this season in his second year in LA, catching 86 passes for 1,219 yards and six touchdowns.
33. The Patriots had perfect attendance at each of their final nine practices before leaving for Atlanta. That streak was broken when linebacker Dont’a Hightower missed Thursday’s session with an illness.
34. Rams slot corner Nickell Robey-Coleman, who made headlines this week by declaring “age has definitely taken a toll” on Brady, was burned for a 53-yard touchdown pass to tight end Rob Gronkowski in his last game against the Patriots. He’ll likely see a lot of Edelman on Sunday.
35. Robey-Coleman allowed just one catch on seven targets for 7 yards in the NFC title game, though one of those incompletions was the result of his blatant pass interference on Tommylee Lewis in the final minutes that somehow went uncalled.
36. The Patriots and Rams were the only teams to block multiple punts this season. Both blocked two, and Patriots linebacker Albert McClellan also got his hand on another that was credited as a deflection.
37. Phillip Dorsett led all Patriots pass-catchers (minimum 10 targets) with a catch rate of 76.2 percent this season. He caught passes on 18 consecutive targets at one point and has scored a touchdown in each of the last three games.
38. Thanks to second-team All-Pro Cordarrelle Patterson, the Patriots ranked second in the NFL and set a new franchise record with a kick return average of 27.0 yards per runback.
39. Patterson was used as a running back while Michel was sidelined with a knee injury midway through the season. He carried the ball 21 times for 99 yards and a touchdown in two games as New England’s primary rusher and continues to be a rushing threat on jet sweeps and reverses.
40. Goff has lined up under center on 63 percent of the Rams’ offensive snaps this season, according to Sharp Football Stats, the highest mark in the NFL. And the Patriots aren’t far behind: Brady has been under center on 55 percent of New England’s snaps, third-most in the league behind the Rams and San Francisco 49ers.
41. The Rams have lined up in 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end, three receivers) on a whopping 87 percent of their offensive snaps, according to Sharp Football Stats, by far the highest percentage in the NFL. They’ve implemented 12 personnel (one back, two tight ends) more since running back C.J. Anderson arrived in Week 16, however.
42. Anderson, who was cut by two teams earlier this season, rushed for 167, 132 and 123 yards and four touchdowns in his first three games with LA. The portly 27-year-old has formed a potent 1-2 punch with 2017 Offensive Player of the Year Todd Gurley, who’s coming off by far his worst performance of the season (four carries, 10 yards, two drops in the NFC Championship).
43. Despite that stinker, Gurley is one of the NFL’s best dual-threat running backs, ranking fourth in the league in yards from scrimmage (1,831) during the regular season behind Saquon Barkley, Elliott and Christian McCaffrey. The fourth-year pro also led the league in rushing touchdowns (17) and ranked third in rushing yards (1,251) and seventh in receiving yards by a running back (580).
44. Pre-snap motion is a hallmark of Sean McVay’s Rams offense, and the second-year head coach is particularly fond of jet motion. LA uses it more than any team in the league (17 percent) and is averaging 2.7 yards before contact on running plays that feature jet motion, according to Sports Info Solutions. For context, the average NFL run play gains 1.8 yards before contact.
45. Two of the Patriots’ three highest pressure rates this season have come in the playoffs, per ESPN Stats & Info: 45.3 percent against Philip Rivers and the Chargers and 44.4 percent against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. They sacked Rivers twice and got to Mahomes four times.
46. Gronkowski was targeted a season-high 11 times during the AFC title game. He finished with six catches for 79 yards, including a critical third-and-10 conversion in overtime.
47. The Rams were the NFL’s fifth-best team at defending tight ends in terms of DVOA but struggled against some of the league’s better players at the position. Kelce (10 catches, 127 yards, one touchdown), Oakland’s Jared Cook (nine catches, 180 yards) and San Francisco’s George Kittle (14 catches, 247 yards, two touchdowns in two meetings) all went off against LA.
48. The Rams were one of the worst teams in the league this season at defending play action, allowing an NFL-worst 131.2 passer rating on passes after play fakes, per ESPN. Brady’s play action sputtered against the Chiefs (3 of 10, 35 yards, two interceptions) but was lethal against the Chargers (9 of 12, 132 yards).
49. Also per ESPN and Football Outsiders: Quarterbacks who hold the ball for more than 2.8 seconds on average against the Patriots this season are 0-10. Goff’s average time to throw this season is 2.96 seconds.
50. The average margin of victory of the Patriots’ nine Brady/Belichick-era Super Bowls is 3.8 points, with all nine being decided by eight points or fewer. Conversely, the last nine Super Bowls that did not feature the Patriots have been decided by an average of 14 points, including just three one-score games.
51. The Patriots are trying to become the first team since the 1972 Miami Dolphins to win a Super Bowl after losing one the previous year.
52. New England has yet to score a touchdown in the first quarter of a Super Bowl under Belichick. They hadn’t scored a single first-quarter point until Stephen Gostkowski snapped that drought with an early field goal last year against the Philadelphia Eagles.
53. The Patriots scored a combined 78 points in the divisional round and AFC Championship Game, their second-highest total in the Belichick era. They scored 80 in those two games during the 2014 playoffs.
Thumbnail photo via Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports Images
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