Time for some super asides, stories other than what takes place on the field. In two weeks since the last meaningful game of the NFL season was played, we all probably know more than we really would like to about both the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams. But how do the citizens of St. Louis feel about this? Will the Patriots finally get their respect if they win (again)? And lastly, which Super Bowl LIII contestant is more likely to return should they lose? The cursory prediction needs to be made.
Super Bowl LIII Asides: Storylines Outside the Lines
News Flash: this is a rematch of Super Bowl XXXVI. The Rams called St. Louis home at that time and were in the in the midst of the Greatest Show on Turf era. They moved (back) to L.A. in 2016 after nine straight losing seasons. In fact, the franchise had not had a winning season since 2003. They went 4-12 their first year back but a coaching change led to a spot in the Wild Card round last year and now an appearance in Super Bowl LIII.
Back in Missouri, fans of the local iteration of the Rams must have mixed emotions. The relocation was not a popular decision and fans were vocal. On the one hand, the move happened too recently for time to have healed the wounds. But if you were a lifelong fan, is it so easy to root against a team you, at one point in time, called your own?
The alternative is rooting for the team that used you to begin its’ modern-day dynastic run. For quarterback Tom Brady, who rose to superstardom – and eventually the G.O.A.T. discussion – using your squad as punctuation. For a coach in Bill Belichick that redeemed himself by outsmarting Mike Martz; your mad-scientist of a head coach. This is a tough ask for even the most loyal fan of laundry.
There really is no right or wrong answer. Emotions will remain torn regardless of whether the Rams win or lose. There will probably be some nostalgic folks back in America’s heartland that would be happy to see the team return to glory. However, it is doubtful there will be anyone actively rooting for Los Angeles within St. Louis city limits.
All the Patriots want is for people to give them the respect they deserve. In a play straight out of the Rodney Dangerfieldhandbook, New England has gone so far as to brand merchandise with slogans suggesting they are the underdog of the playoffs. Perhaps since it worked for the Philadelphia Eagles last year it will in this case.
The fact is the Patriots were favorites for a championship coming into the season. The naysayers did pop up when the season began and things seemed to be off for Tom Terrific. At 41 years old, things took a little longer to get going as Brady had a pedestrian year statistically by his lofty standards. But as we know the only thing that matters in New England is winning, which the Patriots have done to this point.
In fairness, the ‘us against the world’ narrative is older than sports. And when you have won as much as these guys have, you almost have to create something to overcome. Greatness is the standard for Belichick, Brady and whatever amalgamation of a team they put around him. They still find – and believe – reasons to feel slighted, and that is a testament to why they are the model of success in the NFL.
The Patriots are, indeed, favored in Super Bowl LIII, as they should be. Accolades and praise have been, rightfully, heaped upon the Rams for what they have done since heading West. But what the Patriots have done since 2001 is supposed to be impossible. They have not won them all. Nor have they all been in succession. But the level of sustained performance the Patriots have had is remarkable.
Better Luck Next Year
One positive about the two-week break before Super Bowl LIII is that it gives players a chance to heal. Nothing is worse than seeing one or even both teams at less than full strength with everything on the line. Luckily the injury reports for both teams are clean. Minus wide receivers Josh Gordon and Cooper Kupp every key player will be active.
But only one team will win and the other faces a long off-season in anticipation of a redemption tour next year. That won’t be easy as both teams will look inarguably different. So which one will be able to take Aaliyah‘s suggestion and dust themselves off and try again? It is never easy and history is actually against a return trip. Still, these teams won’t disappear and one definitely has a distinct advantage.
The Rams last Super Bowl appearance and win – two separate events – have already been discussed. It is worth noting, though, that even they were separated by a year. Should L.A. become another pelt for the Hoodie, they will have added pressure from the ‘didn’t deserve to be there’ crowd. They have improved their results each of the past two years so that is in their favor.
Should New England win, there will probably be alterations to a certain dictionary-like website to include their logo for the word ‘dynasty’. But if they lose there will still be plenty of optimism. Despite Brady’s – ahem – advanced age, he has said he wants to play until he is 45. And re-inventing themselves is what the Patriots do best. After all, this will be their third straight Super Bowl, the fourth in five years, and fifth in the last eight.
This is going to be a great game that will likely be about the running backs despite the overall perceptions of these teams. Both became more reliant on the ground game late in the season and it carried them all the way to Super Bowl LIII. As much of a cool story the Rams and Sean McVay have been, it will not be in this article that the Patriots are doubted.