The New England Patriots defense has certainly come a long way this year: after an inconsistent start into the season, the unit grew into one of the NFL’s better units — one that stood its ground going against two high-powered offenses in the divisional and championship playoff rounds: the Patriots slowed down both the Los Angeles Chargers and the Kansas City Chiefs en route to Super Bowl 53.
After successfully defending the NFL’s scoring offenses number seven (Chargers) and one (Chiefs) in back-to-back weeks, the unit will now face its next task: going against a Los Angeles Rams offense that ranked third in the league in the regular season with a scoring average of 30.5 points per game. Needless to say that the group will need another sound performance this week, in order to help the Patriots lift their sixth Lombardi Trophy.
“This is probably the best offense we’re going to face this season,” said cornerback Jason McCourty today about the task of facing off against another high-powered offensive machine. “Last week going against Kansas City, it’s another tough offense and when you turn on the film [on the Rams] you’re like ‘we’ve got to do this all over again.’ We know we’ve got our work cut out for us.”
Defensive tackle Lawrence Guy shared a similar mindset about Los Angeles’ offense. “They have big explosive backs, they have a great offensive line, and they got a quarterback that can manage it all,” he said during the Patriots’ media session on Tuesday. “You can’t take one play off, you’ve got to continue the play and if we have a bad play we’ve got to go to the next play to make sure we continue to play consistent football.”
One of the reasons why L.A. is such a productive team on the offensive side of the football is quarterback Jared Goff, who is coming off the best season of his career. “You watch his film you’re going to be like ‘woah,’” said Elandon Roberts. “He’s throwing in the pocket, he’s throwing outside of the pocket, he’s throwing coming out of the play-action. And then they have the running game to complement that.”
“This offense is high-power,” continued the Patriots’ linebacker. McCourty added that Goff might very well be the toughest quarterback that New England will face this season. “He’s killing it this year,” said the veteran cornerback. “He’s got two 1,200-yard receivers, a really good running back, and he’s handled that offense and put them in a position to score a ton of points each and every game.”
So what can the Patriots do in order to slow Goff and by extension the Rams’ high-powered passing attack down? According to Guy, the answer is a simple one: don’t allow the third-year passer to extend plays and create consistent pressure to get him off his game. “You have to go out there and keep him in the pocket and try to maintain constant pressure on the quarterback,” said Guy before adding the logical consequence of this plan.
“You maintain pressure on the quarterback, good outcomes come,” he said. So far this postseason, New England was able to put significant pressure on both Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers and the Chiefs’ likely league MVP Patrick Mahomes. And if the team’s defense can do it again on Sunday, it should create similar results.