New England’s Path to Super Bowl 53

Story posted January 25, 2019 in Sports, CommRadio by Joseph Muscente

The New England Patriots are back in the Super Bowl yet again. It is their fourth time in the big game in the past five years and Tom Brady is looking to secure his sixth championship. Prior to the season, speculators came to the conclusion that this is the year the Patriots would be dethroned as AFC champs. They made statements such as “Tom Brady is too old” and “They just aren’t talented enough.” Now, 17 weeks later, the Patriots are representing the AFC in the Super Bowl and nobody is surprised.

It wasn’t an easy journey on the road to the Super Bowl. The Patriots opened the season with a win against the Houston Texans, but followed by losing back-to-back games by double digits against the Jaguars and Texans. It seemed as though those who were questioning the Patriots could be right. Bill Belichick and the Patriots answered admirably by winning six straight. During that span, the Patriots were great on offense scoring no less than 25 points in each of the six games.

The Patriots offensive outburst would not be possible without the players they acquired in the offseason. This past summer, they watched players such as Danny Amendola and Dion Lewis depart to new teams while they traded Brandin Cooks to their Super Bowl opponents, the Los Angeles Rams. To make up for the loss of these players, they drafted soon to be star running back Sony Michel and traded for wide receivers Cordarrelle Patterson and later Josh Gordon. Patterson embraced his utility-type role with the Patriots while Josh Gordon provided star power to their wide receiver core, but soon stepped away from football after week 15 to focus on his mental health.

One of the more surprising aspects of the Patriots season is the play of rookie Sony Michel. Michel was drafted with the 31st pick of the first round and would soon lead the Patriots in rush attempts and finish sixth in the AFC in rush yards. Michel was not the only effective running back, however. James White established himself as the clear third down back. He leads the league in targets by a running back and finished third in the regular season for receptions by a running back behind Christian McCaffrey and Saquon Barkley. The one-two combination of Michel and White is a force to be reckoned with.

A glaring storyline from the Patriots season is the ineffectiveness of Rob Gronkowski at times. Gronk looked like himself in the first game of the season catching seven balls on eight targets for 123 yards and a touchdown. After the first week, Gronkowski’s  production hit a steady decline and shortly he would be plagued by yet another injury. Gronkowski played in 13 games and tallied 682 yards. Those 682 yards is the worst total for Gronkowski in any season where he has played at least 10 games since his rookie season. Gronkowski came back to life in the AFC championship game against the Chiefs with six catches for 79 yards, including one clutch catch over Eric Berry in the final minute of regulation.

On the defensive side of the ball, New England struggled in the first half of the season. They allowed 20 or more points to their opponents in seven of their first 10 games. Following their 34-10 loss to the Titans in week 10, the Patriots turned their defense around. New England’s defense held five of their final six opponents to 17 points or under. One of the standout players from the defense is Stephon Gilmore, who leads his team with 20 pass defenses and earned a spot on the All-Pro team. Gilmore also has the teams only interception in the playoffs and he will look to shut down opposing Rams receivers on February 3.

Facing adversity, the Patriots were able to complete an honorable 11-5 regular season while picking up wins over the Chargers and Chiefs in the playoffs to get to the Super Bowl. Tom Brady defied age another year and still remains a top quarterback in the league. It’s no surprise that the Patriots are one of the best teams in football every year and it is because the winning ability of Belichick and Brady is not matchable. The question is will Tom Brady and the Patriots have a different outcome this year and beat the Rams in Super Bowl LII?

 

 

Joseph Muscente is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email jjm6725@psu.edu.