Patriots

Proof that Patriots delivered best defensive performance in Super Bowl history

Proof that Patriots delivered best defensive performance in Super Bowl history

If you thought Tom Brady's incredible success was hard to fathom -- six game-winning drives in the Super Bowl -- try wrapping your head around this: A New England Patriots unit that allowed 30 or more points on six occasions this season just delivered the greatest defensive performance in Super Bowl history.

Recency often breeds hyperbole, but in this case, the evidence is clear.

For starters, the three points the Los Angeles Rams scored in Super Bowl LIII were tied for the fewest in Super Bowl history with the 1971 Miami Dolphins, who lost 24-3 to the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl VI.

But that Dolphins offense wasn't exactly prolific, averaging just 22.5 points per game during the regular season. The 2018 Rams? They boasted the highest-scoring offense in the NFC at 32.9 points per game -- meaning the Patriots held them to 29.9 points below their scoring average.

You'll notice the Seattle Seahawks also held Peyton Manning's Denver Broncos to 29.9 points below their scoring average in Super Bowl XLVIII. But the Broncos' eight points still represented 21.1 percent of their 37.9 points-per-game average. The Rams mustered exactly 9.1 percent of their usual scoring output, the lowest in Super Bowl history, per ESPN.com.

And if you need a bit more convincing, consider these mind-boggling stats:

In fact, that was the first time the Rams had punted on their first eight possessions in any game since 2008.

The story of how Bill Belichick, Brian Flores and the Patriots' defense flummoxed the high-flying Rams is fascinating, as documented by the MMQB.com's Albert Breer on Monday morning:

The idea on defense, through what Flores and Belichick planned, was to force Jared Goff to think on the fly. It’s well-documented that McVay uses to the coach-to-quarterback communication to adjust calls based on what the defense is showing, up to the point where that communication cuts off, with 15 seconds left on the play clock.

The Patriots wanted to negate that creative advantage, so they essentially sent in two calls on every play. One was what they’d show before the snap. The other was what they’d switch into post-snap. And if you want to see how it worked, go back and watch how Goff held the ball, and doubted what he was looking at, over and over and over.

The result of that gamesmanship was the Rams totaling just 260 yards of offense -- a full 161 yards fewer than the 421 yards per game they averaged during the regular season -- and the 2018 Patriots securing a unique position in Super Bowl lore.

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Matt Cassel: Why you shouldn't worry about Patriots' offensive line injuries

Matt Cassel: Why you shouldn't worry about Patriots' offensive line injuries

Any time you have rotating parts on the offensive line -- Korey Cunningham and Marshall Newhouse have had to step in for Isaiah Wynn and Marcus Cannon, and obviously the center position has changed with David Andrews being out -- it's going to be a major question mark.

But I think the wild card in this whole situation is Dante Scarnecchia.

I’ve said this time and time again: Dante Scarnecchia is the best offensive line coach in the NFL. He's been doing it for so long, and his ability to coach these guys and have them ready to play is second to none.

Scar is so detail-oriented. He does a great job in the run game, and he also understands protection schemes and blitz pickup identification.

When I was in New England, we would do 9-on-7, which is a run-oriented drill. He'd do a great job of making sure I identified the appropriate linebacker for the offensive line so they knew who block. He also has a great balance of pushing those guys: pushing to get the best out of them, but also knowing when to pull back.

They’re so detail-oriented in that offensive line room that you feel good as a quarterback -- going into any game or any situation, with whoever’s playing -- that he’ll have those guys prepared to understand their blocking and protection schemes.

In 2005, our starting center, Dan Koppen, went down with a season-ending injury. Russ Hochstein was always our interior "swing guy" -- he played guard and center -- and I remember Russ stepping in and playing beautifully.

Your leader on the offensive line is your center, because the communication really takes place between him and quarterback. And I thought we didn’t miss a beat when Russ came in, because Scar had him prepared at that position.

That said, the best example I can think of is Stephen Neal. This is a guy who never played high school football, college football or anything like that. He was an All-American wrestler in college.

But we picked him up, and Coach Scarnecchia and the rest of the staff developed Steve into dominant force for us at guard for years to come. I think a lot of his development as a player had to do with the coaching and expertise that took place within that room.

You’ve got to have trust in your guys up front. And a lot of that comes from you having a tremendous amount of faith in the coaching staff to prepare those guys every week. 

Every coaching staff has a feel for it. But based on my experience, the Patriots' coaching staff was the best I’ve been around during my NFL career.

If certain pass rushers that were giving us problems on the edge -- we called them "game-wreckers" -- Scar and the coaching staff would always come up with a great scheme to help, whether it was chipping the edge with the running backs or showing tight end presence so the pass-rusher couldn’t get clean run at the quarterback coming off the ball.

So, when we played the Colts and guys like Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, who were one of the most dominant pass-rushing tandems in the league, we’d always have a plan. We wouldn’t let those guys ruin the game. 

I think that’s the genius part of what the Patriots do: They go above and beyond in identifying the issue and doing whatever they can to make sure it doesn’t wreck the offensive plan. 

That's what I expect Scarnecchia and the coaching staff will continue to do, regardless of who's out there.

Editor's note: Matt Cassel had a 14-year NFL career that four seasons with the New England Patriots (2005-2008). He's joining the NBC Sports Boston team for this season. You can find him on game days as part of our Pregame Live and Postgame Live coverage, as well as every week on Tom E. Curran’s Patriots Talk podcast and NBCSportsBoston.com.

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Patriots QB Tom Brady listed on Week 3 injury report with calf issue

Patriots QB Tom Brady listed on Week 3 injury report with calf issue

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has made his first appearance on the team's injury report this season.

The Patriots and New York Jets have released their first injury reports ahead of Sunday's Week 3 matchup at Gillette Stadium, and the most notable name listed is Brady, who was limited in Wednesday's practice with a calf injury.

Brady has enjoyed a fantastic start to the season, throwing for 605 yards with five touchdowns and zero interceptions through the first two games. His inclusion on this injury report shouldn't sound any alarms, but it's certainly a situation worth monitoring throughout the week. Patriots right tackle Marcus Cannon also was limited Wednesday. He suffered a shoulder injury in New England's Week 1 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers and didn't play in Sunday's victory versus the Miami Dolphins.

The Jets roster has been ravaged by injuries of late, and their latest report reflects that. New York had 11 players who either didn't participate or were limited in Wednesday's practice. Starting quarterback Sam Darnold was among the Jets players who didn't practice. He is recovering from mono and won't play Sunday.

Here are the Wednesday injury reports for both teams.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (2-0)

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
Shilique Calhoun, LB Not Injury Related
James Develin, FB, Neck

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
Caleb Benenoch, OL, Calf
Tom Brady, QB, Calf
Marcus Cannon, OT, Shoulder
Matt LaCosse, TE, Ankle

FULL PARTICIPATION
Brandon Bolden, RB, Hamstring

NEW YORK JETS (0-2)

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
Josh Belamy, WR, Shoulder
Trenton Cannon RB, Ankle
Sam Darnold, QB, Illness
Jordan Jenkins, LB, Calf
C.J. Mosley, LB, Groin
Demaryius Thomas, WR, Hamstring/Knee
Quinnen Williams, DL, Ankle

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
Kelvin Beachum, OL, Ankle
Steve McLendon, DL, Hip
Rontez Miles, S, Hip
Brian Winters, OL, Shoulder

FULL PARTICIPATION
Braxton Berrios, WR, Hamstring
John Franklin-Myers, LB/DL, Foot
Harvey Langi, LB, Knee
Alex Lewis, OL, Shoulder
Frankie Luvu, LB, Hand
Marcus Maye, S, Calf

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