Patriots

Patriots-Rams: What's changed since these teams last met 2 years ago?

Patriots-Rams: What's changed since these teams last met 2 years ago?

You might remember it as the game when Jeff Fisher, then coach of the Los Angeles Rams, thought Danny Woodhead (who last played for the Patriots in 2012) was still on the team.

You might also remember it as the game when Fisher could not find his challenge flag in a winter parka puffy enough to put Tom Brady to shame.

Regardless of how you remember it, the Patriots defeated the Los Angeles Rams 26-10 in the teams' last meeting, in Week 13 of the 2016 NFL season.

This was the Rams' first season back in Los Angeles, Fisher's final season as Rams' coach, and the nascency of a dramatic two-year turnaround, in which the Rams have gone from cellar dwellers of the NFC West to one win away from the franchise's first championship since Super Bowl XXXIV.

When these two teams last met, the Patriots were in the midst of one of the most storied seasons in the franchise history. Brady, having missed the first four games due to his Deflategate suspension, led the team to a 14-2, MVP regular season, and a legendary comeback Super Bowl win over the Falcons.

The Rams, meanwhile, had two of their most important puzzle pieces in place— quarterback Jared Goff and running back Todd Gurley. However, outside of Gurley and Goff, there is very little resemblance between this year's NFC champions and the team that came into Gilette Stadium on Dec. 4, 2016

The turnaround began immediately. The Rams fired Fisher days after the loss, and John Fassel took over as interim coach to close out the season before the Rams made Sean McVay the youngest head coach in modern NFL history the following offseason.

This gamble has paid off. McVay's coaching style and the Rams roster moves have empowered Goff, the first overall pick in 2016, to become one of the premier passers in the league, climbing nearly 40 points in passer rating between his seven starts in 2016, from 63.6 in 2016, to 100.5 and 101.1 in 2016 and 2017, respectively.

McVay can be seen on game broadcasts talking constantly into Goff's headset right up until the league-mandated,15-second play clock cutoff, coaching the Rams' star QB on the situation in front of him.

Meanwhile, Rams general manager Les Snead has done a masterful job in transforming L.A.'s roster from a unit that put up 4,203 total yards of offense in 2016, to what will likely be 7,000 total yards of offense for 2018 by the time Super Sunday comes to a close.

The Rams, between 2016 and 2018, have gone from a wide receiver group that included such names as Patriots' retread Kenny Britt, and Mike Thomas (not the Saints' Michael Thomas), to Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, and Josh Reynolds, powering an offense that has put up over 4,500 passing yards, close to the 4,700 put up by the legendary 2007 Patriots.

The Rams have gotten faster across the board, and the coaching and game-planning put into place by McVay have unlocked the potential of his talented team.

The Patriots, meanwhile, reached the Super Bowl twice in that same span, winning one and losing the other to the Eagles last season. Putting the off-field drama aside, the Patriots have remained true to the "Bill the GM" strategy of being cost efficient, replacing $62 million Giants left tackle Nate Solder with Trent Brown and dealing Cooks away to the Rams for a first-round pick.

While the Patriots have seemingly overcome this season's passing game woes after taking a flyer on troubled Browns receiver Josh Gordon. They've clicked on offense once again in recent weeks, it is the Patriots' defense that has stood out.

In an era where most NFL teams have seemingly gone away from emphasizing defense, the Patriots struggles last season, which culminated in the Super Bowl loss, were largely due to the defense's inability to get off the field in key situations.

The Patriots replaced Malcolm Butler with Jason McCourty, Stephon Gilmore has become arguably the league's best cornerback in 2018, and defensive end Trey Flowers has set himself up for a major payday this offseason.

Meanwhile the Rams defense has made upgrades across the board, acquiring Aqib Talib, former Dolphins enforcer Ndamukong Suh, and still feature Aaron Donald, who has become "pretty much unblockable," according to Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

Perhaps the best Patriots-Rams storyline going into Super Bowl LIII is that Belichick and Brady will again face the team they beat to start it all in 2001 — then 14-point underdogs to the "Greatest Show on Turf," Kurt Warner-led Rams.

As they say, the rest is history.

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Michael Holley Podcast: Clay Cook of the Zac Brown Band - Why he loves music, and how Super Bowl LI was as a Falcons fan

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Michael Holley Podcast: Clay Cook of the Zac Brown Band - Why he loves music, and how Super Bowl LI was as a Falcons fan

Michael talks to Clay Cook of the Zac Brown Band about music, his Boston connection and what it was like as Falcons fan to watch the Patriots Super Bowl LI comeback

3:00 - Clay explains why he chose to attend Berklee College of Music in Boston and how he and good friend John Mayer began their music careers together.
 

4:30 - Clay talks about which instruments he can play, tells the story about how he fell in love with the guitar and how he decided to turn his musical talents into a career.
 

9:00 - Clay discusses his relationship with John Mayer.

13:00 - Clay talks about being an Atlanta Falcons fan, his experience being at the Patriots’ comeback win in Super Bowl LI and how he respects Boston sports fans.

20:00 - Clay discusses being an Atlanta Hawks ball boy for a small period of time in the late 80s and early 90s and watching some all-time greats like Dominique Wilkins and Doc Rivers. 

23:30 - Clay talks about his approach to singing the national anthem and his past experiences doing so.

28:00 - Clay talks about touring with Zac Brown Band and how the band still isn’t as popular as most people think.

32:00 - Clay finishes up by giving one thing he loves about his industry and one thing he would change.

LISTEN & SUBSCRIBE HERE:

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Julian Edelman puts percentage on chance Rob Gronkowski returns to Patriots

Julian Edelman puts percentage on chance Rob Gronkowski returns to Patriots

Rob Gronkowski says he's done with football, but his pal Julian Edelman isn't 100-percent convinced.

Edelman discussed Gronk's retirement on Barstool Sports' "Pardon My Take" podcast and was asked to give a percentage on the former tight end returning to the Patriots somewhere down the line.

"I’d say, maybe, an 11 percent chance,” Edelman answered.

Sure, that may be a cop-out response considering 11 happens to be Edelman's jersey number, but Patriots fans can at least find solace in the fact he didn't say "zero."

Edelman also says while he hasn't had a conversation with Gronkowski about the injuries taking a toll on the 30-year-old throughout his career, he could tell Gronk was banged up last season.

”When you’re banged up, football’s not always fun," Edelman said. "I can speak for myself on that. When you’re dealing with things — ankle, foot, back … Football is amazing when you feel great. … But it’s not easy, especially when you get older and have accumulated a lot of injury. So, you started seeing that it was tougher [for Gronkowski]. It gets tougher for everyone."

Gronkowski seems adamant he's staying retired, but he's certainly gotten a kick out of trolling those who believe he'll eventually return to the gridiron.

Time will tell whether the future Hall-of-Famer will change his mind. Until then, you can bet Gronk will continue living every moment of retired life to the fullest.

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