The New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams are not facing off a lot given that they are playing in different conferences. However, two of their 14 games so far came on the biggest stage in the sport: the two organizations met in Super Bowl 36 after the 2001 season, and most recently in Super Bowl 53 to cap the 2018 campaign. Both those games were won by the Patriots, with the second matchup also the most recent meeting between them.
The game itself was noteworthy for its low score: even though the Over/Under line was set at 55.5 entering the contest, New England eventually won 13-3 behind a defensive performance for the ages.
Since then, however, a lot has changed for both teams. Let’s therefore take a look back at that game to find out how the two clubs look now compared to their 2018 versions.
The following 18 players from the teams’ last meeting on on February 3, 2019 are still with the team:
C David Andrews, DT Adam Butler, LS Joe Cardona, C James Ferentz, CB Stephon Gilmore, DT Lawrence Guy, QB Brian Hoyer, CB J.C. Jackson, CB Jonathan Jones, G Shaq Mason, S Devin McCourty, CB Jason McCourty, RB Sony Michel, LB John Simon, WR Matthew Slater, G Joe Thuney, RB James White, DE Deatrich Wise Jr.
Offense: When the Patriots last played the Rams, Tom Brady was still the quarterback but his departure is not the only change worth noting. Also gone are the entire wide receiver and tight end groups — including game MVP Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski, who had the game’s biggest reception — with offensive tackles Trent Brown and Marcus Cannon no longer with the team as well. The only position with at least some stability is running back: Sony Michel, who had 94 rushing yards and scored the game’s only touchdown, is available after recently returning off injured reserve, as is veteran James White.
Defense: The Patriots’ offseason exodus saw not just the departures of Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy — two players who had a legitimate case for the MVP award as well — but also of Danny Shelton, Patrick Chung and Duron Harmon. As a result, only nine members of the team’s defense remain from two years ago. However, most of them played rather prominent roles versus the Rams back in February 2019: Deatrich Wise Jr. and Lawrence Guy were starters up front, with Stephon Gilmore, who caught an interception in the fourth quarter, as well as Johnathan Jones and the McCourty Twins all standing out in the secondary.
Special teams: Long-time Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski, who made two of three field goal attempts and his lone extra point in Super Bowl 53, was released by the team this offseason and has been replaced by Nick Folk. Another noticeable change is the departure of punter Ryan Allen, who was let go last year in favor of Jake Bailey despite coming off a terrific performance versus that Rams. Core coverage players Nate Ebner and Brandon King are also no longer available.
Coaching staff: While the likes of Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels are still running the show in New England, the rest of the coaching staff did see some major turnover. Gone are assistant coaches Dante Scarnecchia (offensive line), Jerry Schuplinski (assistant quarterbacks), Chad O’Shea (wide receivers), Brandan Daly (defensive line), Brian Flores (defensive player caller/linebackers), Josh Boyer (cornerbacks) and Joe Judge (special teams), with others either joining the team over the last two years or being reassigned for different positions.
The following 20 players from the teams’ last meeting on on February 3, 2019 are still with the team:
C Brian Allen, C Austin Blythe, DE Michael Brockers, DT Aaron Donald, LB Samson Ebukam, TE Gerald Everett, QB Jared Goff, OT Rob Havenstein, P Johnny Hekker, TE Tyler Higbee, CB Troy Hill, S John Johnson, DT Sebastian Joseph-Day, LS Jacob McQuaide, TE Johnny Mundt, G Joseph Noteboom, LB Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, WR Josh Reynolds, CB Darious Williams, WR Robert Woods
Offense: The Rams’ offense retained a large portion of its starter-level talent the last two years, but there was still some turnover. The most prominent departures are running back Todd Gurley, wide receiver Brandin Cooks and left tackle Andrew Whitworth. The offensive line in general has experienced some changes, with only right tackle Rob Havenstein and center Austin Blythe (who played right guard in 2018) still standing. Of course, L.A. also saw the return of Cooper Kupp as Jared Goff’s top wide receiver alongside Robert Woods.
Defense: While the Los Angeles offense is mostly intact since the Super Bowl, the defense has seen some major turnover: only four starters from that game are still with the club, while others such as Ndamukong Suh, Cory Littleton, Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters have left. And yet, the defense is arguably a better one in 2020 thanks to outside additions such as Leonard Floyd and Jalen Ramsey. Add the fact that Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers are still standing up front and you get a stout unit despite its recent personnel changes.
Special teams: Even though punter Johnnny Hekker and long snapper Jacob McQuaide are still holding down the fort, the kicking operation looks different in 2020. Gone is place kicker Greg Zuerlein, who scored the Rams’ only three points in the Super Bowl two years ago, with Matt Gay being brought in to replace him. Return man JoJo Natson also left, ad Nsimba Webster has since taken over his job on kickoffs and punts.
Coaching staff: Sean McVay is still leading the Rams quite successfully, but his staff has experienced plenty of turnover since a disappointing end to the 2018 season. On offense, Kevin O’Connell was brought aboard to serve as coordinator while quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor and senior assistant Jedd Fisch left for Cincinnati and New England, respectively. The defense, meanwhile, saw the retirement of veteran coordinator Wade Phillips and the departure of defensive line coach Bill Johnson. The two have been replaced by Brandon Staley and Eric Henderson, who both arrived from outside the organization.