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2019 Super Bowl: Advanced stats predict a tight battle between the Patriots and Rams

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A look at the stats ahead of Sunday’s meeting between the Patriots and Rams.

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at New England Patriots Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Super Bowl Sunday is here and the New England Patriots will once again play on the NFL’s biggest stage. Their opponent, an Los Angeles Rams team that is as well-rounded as any the Patriots have faced this year — a team with an explosive offense, a powerful defense, and a big-play special teams unit. To further analyze the matchup, let’s take a look at some of the advanced stats heading into the game (courtesy of SB Nation’s Bill Connelly; for his methodology please click here).

Patriots offense vs Rams defense

Normal down and distance in the open field

Patriots offense (l.) vs Rams defense (r.)

New England has hit its offensive groove lately and was especially able to improve its third down success rate in the open field: the number jumped from 37.3% to 39.8% over championship weekend. The Rams defense also is productive in this category, however, as it allows only 34.8% to be converted. The two teams match up similarly when it comes to success rate — defined as gaining 50% of necessary yardage on first down, 70% on second down, and 100% on third and fourth down. It will be a fun battle to see if the Patriots can continue to move the football like they did the last two games.

Backed Up Situations Near the Goal Line

Patriots offense (l.) vs Rams defense (r.)

The battle between the Patriots offense and Rams defense also projects to be a close one inside New England’s 10-yard line: the team’s success rate of 35.5% is not all that different from Los Angeles’ 35.7%. And even though the Patriots had one turnover in this part of the field — a tipped interception in week one — they have taken care of the football very well when starting in unfavorable field position.

Red Zone

Patriots offense (l.) vs Rams defense (r.)

Finishing drives with touchdowns instead of field goals will be a key in the Super Bowl, but the Patriots have been inconsistent in this part of the field all year long. Luckily for them, they have improved drastically in the playoffs and since last week improved their numbers across the board. What also helps is that the Rams are a good matchup from New England’s perspective: while they are good between the 11 and 20 and when it comes to making positive plays on first-and-goal, New England’s offense has the statistical upper hand in the other categories.

Third Downs

Patriots offense (l.) vs Rams defense (r.)

As it did in the divisional and championship round of the playoffs, New England will likely again try to dictate the tempo of the game by playing a ball-control game when on offense. A key to that is keeping drives alive on third down, something that has not always worked perfectly for the team but again improved in the postseason: the Patriots’ success rates on third-and-mediums and third-and-longs improved quite a bit against the Kansas City Chiefs — and New England will need to bring its A-game yet again today. the Rams defense is solid in both areas.

Blitz Situations

Patriots offense (l.) vs Rams defense (r.)

When in obvious passing situations — 1st and 18 or more, 2nd and 14 or more, and 3rd and 3 or more — the Patriots may not produce the most big plays, but they do generally move the football well and more importantly avoid negative plays: Tom Brady has been sacked on just 5.2% of his dropbacks in so-called blitz situations. The Rams, on the other hand, have had a comparatively hard time getting to the quarterback on such downs despite having Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh and company rushing the passer.

Patriots defense vs Rams offense

Normal down and distance in the open field

Patriots defense (l.) vs Rams offense (r.)

As can be seen, the Rams offense is good across the board when moving in the open field. The team gains significant yardage in any given situation, produces big plays, and puts itself in positions to be successful on third downs. The group will certainly be a test for a New England offense that has been inconsistent at times this year — with the AFC title game being a good example for that. And while L.A. lacks the firepower of Kansas City’s offense, the team is certainly not too far behind and capable of taking advantage.

Backed Up Situations Near the Goal Line

Patriots defense (l.) vs Rams offense (r.)

One thing to watch for: the Rams and quarterback Jared Goff in particular have been prone to turning the football over deep in their own territory. Overall, it happened four times so far this season that a play starting inside the 20-yard line resulted in a giveaway. While New England’s defense has not come away with a turnover in this part of the field yet, Sunday would certainly be a good time for that.

Red Zone

Patriots defense (l.) vs Rams offense (r.)

For as good as the Rams offense is in the open field, it is comparatively mediocre in the red area — which should help a Patriots defense that has not been that much better in this part of the field. This will be an interesting battle to watch especially inside the 10-yard line: Los Angeles has success on 41.2% of its plays, New England on 42%. Making drives stall in this part of the field would help the Patriots a great deal come away victoriously.

Third Downs

Patriots defense (l.) vs Rams offense (r.)

As noted above, the Patriots will need to keep drives alive on third downs in order to play their style of game. From a defensive perspective, this includes getting off the field when in a position to do so. However, Los Angeles has been very good at extending series no matter the situation: the team has solid success on thirds and long, medium, and short — the latter two problematic areas for New England all year long.

Blitz Situations

Patriots defense (l.) vs Rams offense (r.)

Even when forced to play from behind the sticks, Los Angeles’ offense has found consistent success this season. New England, meanwhile, has been up and down particularly when it comes to generating pressure. This, however, has to do more with scheme: the team likes to trust its coverage to win matchups down the field in such situations.


All in all, the battle between the Patriots and Rams will be a tight one if the advanced stats are to be believed. New England’s offense appears to have the upper hand in some areas, while Los Angeles should be able to move the football fairly well between the numbers. Ultimately, the game will come down to the usual deciding factors: the turnover battle, converting third downs, and scoring (or avoiding) touchdowns in the red zone instead of field goals.