Reacting and overreacting to everything that happened on Sunday afternoon. Get the full Sunday breakdown from Andy Benoit and Gary Gramling on The Monday Morning NFL Podcast. Subscribe to The MMQB Podcasts now and it will be in your feed first thing Monday morning
Things That Made Me Giddy
Belichick and Flores Too Much for McVay: Oh, those Cover-4 looks against the Rams. It’s how Matt Patricia’s Lions kept the Rams in check despite a lack of defensive talent, then how the Bears and Eagles beat them in December. This feels like a blueprint. The Rams couldn’t find any rhythm on offense, then they dialed up the Cover-0 blitz at precisely the right time in the fourth quarter, leading to the Stephon Gilmore interception. (My podcast partner and Friend of the FreakOut Andy Benoit will have more on Belichick’s mastery later.)
Julian Edelman Kind of Does Whatever He Wants: He has been unstoppable in his three Super Bowls. Holding is the only method the Rams had of stopping him on Sunday.
The Patriots Offensive Line As Kyra Sedgwick as The Closer: Utter domination on the four-minute drive to close out this game.
Dont’a Hightower on the Pass Rush: Shades of what he did in the Super Bowl 51 against Atlanta, wrecking a couple of plays as a pass-rusher.
Brian Flores Pushes the Right Buttons in the Secondary Again: He went with Stephon Gilmore on Brandin Cooks, Jason McCourty on Josh Reynolds, Jonathan Jones and help on Robert Woods. There was rarely separation for a Rams receiver out there.
‘Crazy Train’ Still Rules: The Patriots came out to the right song. It doesn’t matter what you think. Unless you agree with me, in which case it very much matters what you think.
Cory Littleton Was Tremendous: The Rams linebacker made a handful of plays that had to be made—and it was much more than the tipped interception. Without his performance, this one might have gotten out of hand.
Stephon Gilmore Is a Monster: And to think, two years ago we wondered whether or not the Patriots made the right choice, paying him rather than paying their own guy, Malcolm Butler.
Wade Phillips Dialed Up a Great Game: But he has to settle for the Little League write-up treatment: “Wade Phillips coached well in a losing effort.”
Johnny Hekker’s Bloodied Stump of a Right Foot: His nine punts were the most he’s had in a game since the Jeff Fisher Era.
That First Throw by Brady: What a duck. It looked like he got fooled by the coverage, but it also looked like the Rams were showing zone right before the snap. As the defensive huddle broke Nickell Robey-Coleman had gone to take Julian Edelman in the offensive left slot before Edelman motioned out wide with Rex Burkhead going to the backfield. L.A. ended up with Marcus Peters over Edelman and Robey-Coleman aligned over tight end Dwayne Allen in the right slot. Robey-Coleman passed off Allen’s seam route as the Rams played four zone defenders at the sticks, then stepped in front of Chris Hogan on the hitch, his deflection turning into Cory Littleton’s easy interception. Maybe it was nerves for Brady.
Jared Goff’s Off Day: The Rams are a rhythm offense, and Goff never found a rhythm. A couple of times he had a throw that he just didn’t see. It was a bad day to have a bad day against a Patriots defense that had them figured out.
Rams Receivers Did Nothing: There was rarely separation downfield. This was a Tyson in the 80s mismatch in the secondary.
No J.C. Jackson, Huh?: That’s too bad, just because he’s had a wonderful rookie season. You can’t argue with the result though.
Aqib Talib’s Cushion: I know he’s an off-coverage guy, but we was lining up in Statesboro in the first half.
Time to Re-Think Player Safety Violations as Penalties?: I wrote about it a little bit (among other nonsense) this morning, and you saw it in the first quarter when Nickell Robey-Coleman sniffed out a double screen too well, getting flagged for hitting a defenseless receiver. Should a team that was thoroughly outplayed on the down be awarded 15 yards (closer to 20, considering the loss of yardage without the play) and a free first down (on second-and-long) because of a mildly dangerous hit? Or is football better served by Robey-Coleman being fined (or, if a repeat defender, suspended) after the game?
Moments We’ll Tell Our Grandkids About
Gronk’s Final Career Catch?: If so, it set up the game-winning touchdown in a Super Bowl. (And if not, it still set up the game-winning touchdown in the Super Bowl.)
Jason McCourty Saves Christmas: On the blown coverage (Duron Harmon?) that led to a wide-open Brandin Cooks in the end zone toward the end of the third quarter.
Cory Littleton Nominated for an Academy Award for Selling This Fake Blitz: Great call by Wade Phillips, with two linebackers showing late blitz, and Littleton sold this perfectly on a key third-and-5 with the Patriots in Rams territory late in the first quarter. Showing blitz took Shaq Mason off the (presumed) Aaron Donald double team, and Donald feasted on David Andrews.
What We’ll Be Talking About This Week
Sean McVay’s Rough Night: Tenacious D once asked, “Wonderboy, what is the secret of your power?” Bill Belichick knew; this was a trouncing from an X’s and O’s standpoint. Fortunately, McVay has the next 40 years to get it right. The NFC is stacked, but no one is set up better for the future than the Rams.
Is Gronk Gonna Retire? Is Brady Gonna Retire? Is Belichick Gonna Retire? Is Kraft Gonna Retire? Is Sony Michel Gonna Retire? Is Patriot Pat Gonna Retire? Do You Live in Foxboro and, If So, Are You Gonna Retire?...: It will be a fun couple of weeks of coverage from Foxboro.
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