ATLANTA — After all the paralysis by analysis, Super Bowl LIII comes down to this for me:
I can’t bet against Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.
And I don’t trust Jared Goff.
Yes, no one saw Nick Foles and Doug Pederson and the Eagles making history a year ago.
No “Rocky” movie this time.
I just can’t see Brady and Belichick trudging off the field for a second straight year without the Lombardi Trophy in their clutches.
And in case you haven’t noticed, the Patriots have been peaking at the right time, and Brady is looking like Nolan Ryan at the perfect time, and Rob Gronkowski was looking like Rob Gronkowski in the the big moments in the AFC Championship game, and Julian Edelman will be playing in Super Bowl LIII after missing Super Bowl LII with a torn ACL.
Just because these Rams have never been here before doesn’t mean they aren’t a worthy opponent and this won’t be a thriller. Because it will be. But these Rams haven’t been here before.
Sean McVay will try to get Todd Gurley involved as early as possible so the Rams coach can determine how much he will have to lean on C.J. Anderson. The two weeks off should help Gurley, but is his knee close to 100 percent or isn’t it? Gurley is more quarterback-friendly out of the backfield. The idea for McVay is to shorten the game in some way, shape or form and ease the pressure on Goff while keeping Brady on the sidelines. And if you are one-dimensional against Belichick, you have no chance.
“The Rams have to run the football to win this football game, and I think they will,” Rams Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson told The Post.
Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, then with the Broncos, outwitted Brady in the 2015 AFC Championship game, and I expect him to frequently rush three or four and play coverage, and force Brady to throw the ball down the field. Brady will be sacked for the first time in the playoffs, but still, as dangerous as he is, Dante Fowler is not Von Miller.
“You have to hit Tom Brady,” Dickerson said. “When they lost to the Giants [in Super Bowl XLII], I kept saying, ‘The Giants are gonna win this football game because they’re gonna hit Tom Brady.’ You can’t let Tom sit back there and just sit in a rocking chair. He’ll pick you apart.
“I think they can get to him.”
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“Just like Belichick’s a great defensive mind,” Dickerson said, “I think we have the same guy [in Phillips].”
Belichick will target Aaron Donald with double teams, because keeping interior pressure off Brady has always been imperative. The obsession with keeping Donald from wrecking the game will open up opportunities for the likes of Fowler and Ndamukong Suh and Michael Brockers, but Brady will mitigate the danger from the Rams predators by getting the ball out of his hand quickly.
An emerging Sony Michel, pass-catching James White and heady Rex Burkhead form a three-headed monster for the Pats that will also temper the rush on Brady and move the chains enough against a defense that limited Ezekiel Elliott and Alvin Kamara in the playoffs, which will keep Goff off the field for longer stretches than he would like and add to his anxiety.
The Rams also have play-making corners in Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters.
“I don’t think [Brady] minds throwing at good corners,” said Titans cornerback Logan Ryan, who won two Super Bowls with Brady. “I think unpredictable corners might give him more trouble, and you don’t get more unpredictable than Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters, they play the ball really well. Brady studies so hard he knows what everyone’s gonna do. Sometimes you don’t know what those guys are gonna do.”
And most of the time you don’t know what Brady and those guys are gonna do.
“They can adapt to any way you want to play,” Boomer Esiason said. “If you want to run it for 250 yards, they’ll run it for 250 yards. If you want to throw for 450 yards, he’ll throw for 450 yards.”
It won’t be a shootout. I learned this from my old friend Danny Sheridan, the famed handicapper: “When offensively powerful teams meet, bet the Under, as offensive juggernauts tend to play conservatively, feeling they can score whenever they want.”
The Rams have more talent.
The Patriots have more team.
The Patriots have more experience. Which doesn’t guarantee anything. But it doesn’t hurt.
Brady has Belichick and Belichick has Brady.
And the Rams don’t.
All these years after Spygate, it will be Crygate for the Rams.