Welcome to the Super Bowl, Where Patriots-Rams Is the NFL in Microcosm
The character and style of the two contenders in Atlanta, in the opinion of one NFL playoff coach who faced them both this year, embodies the state of play in the NFL in 2018—and Matt Nagy details how New England and L.A. will match up on Sunday. Plus, how the Rams’ run is pumping up the L.A. market, the big issues for the runner-up Saints and Chiefs, major movers during Senior Bowl week, and the latest on coaching moves—and that non-call.
ATLANTA — I was in a small conference room at Olivet Nazarene University in mid-July—at the very beginning of camp, before 30 teams had even reported—and Chicago Bears GM Ryan Pace was telling stories. About a ceiling-to-floor whiteboard that coach Matt Nagy and offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich were marking up nightly, Good Will Hunting style, with new ideas. About how Nagy kept two legal pads for watching college tape, one to take notes on players, the other to steal ideas for plays.
Pace just wanted to illustrate how excited he was about his new coaching staff. And inadvertently, he wound up telling the story of the 2018 season.
This year has been about an explosion of offense in pro football, no doubt. But that’s only a product of blossoming open-mindedness and innovation in NFL, something that leads you right to the two teams still playing. The Patriots and Rams aren’t flawless. They are smart, and flexible, and innovative.
Yesterday, 35,000 people showed at Gillette Stadium to send the Patriots off to Georgia to their ninth Super Bowl in 18 years. The Rams didn’t keep a head count, but given accounts of half-hour wait times to get into their new stadium’s Hollywood Park construction site, they may not have been that far from matching the Foxboro number. And the teams basking in that atmosphere represented more than just those fans.