|Super Bowl 53: Los Angeles Rams v New England Patriots|
|Date: Sunday, 4 February Time: 23:30 GMT|
|Venue: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia|
|Coverage: Watch live on BBC TV, online and the BBC Sport app plus follow live radio and text commentary.|
Tom Brady can clinch another NFL record at Super Bowl 53 on Sunday – but most of the United States will be rooting for the Los Angeles Rams against the New England Patriots.
In a battle between youth and experience in Atlanta, the Super Bowl’s youngest coach-quarterback combination of all-time takes on the most successful.
The Patriots have won five Super Bowls, with coach Bill Belichick, 66, and quarterback Brady at the helm for each one. Victory on Sunday would mean the Pats tie Pittsburgh Steelers’ record of six titles, and give 41-year-old Brady more Super Bowl rings than any other player.
The Rams are the new kids on the block. Having just turned 33, Sean McVay is the youngest coach to lead a side to the Super Bowl. Quarterback Jared Goff, 24, will play in the big game in just his third year as a pro.
Many are asking if McVay and Goff will be the new Belichick and Brady, but most don’t necessarily care if it’s the start of a new era for the Rams – they just want to see the Patriots dynasty come to an end.
Why do people hate the Patriots?
Brady alone has reached nine Super Bowls – more than every other franchise in NFL history – so maybe it is jealousy that fuels the haters. Some are sick of the Patriots being so good, others just can’t stand the way they go about it.
Steelers fans don’t want them to tie their record, while hardcore Rams fans are still annoyed about the Pats stopping their ‘Greatest Show on Turf’ side winning two Super Bowls in three years – and then building their own dynasty.
Many neutrals were mad at the Pats denying them a repeat of the game of the season – the Rams’ 54-51 win over the Kansas City Chiefs in week 11 – by beating the Chiefs in the AFC Championship game.
A Pittsburgh TV producer probably chose an unwise way to air his grievance – he was sacked last week for describing Brady as a “known cheater” during a news broadcast.
However, they are not all Brady haters outside New England. New Orleans Saints fans are backing the Pats after the ‘no-call’ which cost them a place in Atlanta.
And there is still bad blood in St Louis over the way Rams owner Stan Kroenke took the franchise back to LA in 2016. Four lawsuits have since been filed against the Rams and Kroenke, who also owns Premier League club Arsenal.
Brady feeling blessed – what they said
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady: “When you’ve been in the positions I’ve been in, you just count your blessings every day. I’ve been a part of so many great teams that have had the opportunity to play in this game. It’s hard to believe that this is the ninth time doing this.”
Rams head coach Sean McVay: “To play against the Patriots is a great challenge but they’re one of these teams, they’re consistently showing up. Their big-time players make plays at the most opportune moments and they handle adversity extremely well. That consistent belief and expectation that ‘we’re going to find a way’ is a really powerful thing.”
How to watch the Super Bowl on the BBC
The BBC will bring you comprehensive coverage of Super Bowl 53 across all platforms.
Watch live coverage of the game from 22:45 GMT on Sunday, on BBC One, Connected TV and online, plus the BBC Sport website and mobile app, and follow text updates and analysis online.
You can also follow #BBCNFL on Twitter to join the debate during the match.
Key to the game – stopping the run
In just two years as coach, McVay has transformed the Rams’ offense into one of the most exciting in the NFL. Belichick is more defensively minded, but both camps this week said the key to winning on Sunday is “stopping the run”.
The running game is crucial as it lays the foundation for quarterbacks to attack through the air, and Brady is a master at those short, sharp passes to keep the drive moving.
Belichick has been a master at rebuilding his team, and rookie Sony Michel was one of this season’s new additions. The running back was the Pats’ second pick in the draft and, after enjoying his breakout game in week four, has continued to impress. He has five touchdowns in the post-season, along with the most rushing yards.
Fourth on that list is CJ Anderson, who was released by three clubs in 2018. Just six weeks ago he was loading boxes ready to move house. Now he is in the Super Bowl with the Rams.
The 27-year-old got the call after a knee injury to Todd Gurley and he hit the ground running, averaging 116.5 yards in four games with the Rams.
“I’m just old and fat,” said Anderson, who won Super Bowl 50 with the Denver Broncos. “It’s not flashy, there aren’t a lot of big runs – it’s just moving the chains.”
Those guys aside, who are the ones to watch?
Todd Gurley (Rams): The running back was last season’s Offensive Player of the Year and is now back from the injury that forced him to miss the end of the regular season. Anderson’s arrival has eased the burden on Gurley and he comes in fresh having not done much work over the past month.
Aaron Donald (Rams): Set to be named Defensive Player of the Year for the second year running, Donald led the NFL with 20.5 sacks, and Belichick described him as “pretty much unblockable”. The defensive tackle is so quick and agile he not only gets after the quarterback but tackles the running back too.
Rob Gronkowski (Patriots): The tight end is hard to miss at 6ft 6in and has safe hands so is a reliable target for Brady. ‘Gronk’, 29, has helped the Pats win two Super Bowls and said he “doesn’t know” if this will be his final game. He’s already appeared in a film and there’s been speculation he will focus on his acting career.
Julian Edelman (Patriots): Also a two-time Super Bowl winner, the wide receiver is smaller in stature than ‘Gronk’ but just as reliable. The long-serving pair are Brady’s go-to men, as he showed again during the Pats’ game-winning drive against the Chiefs.
Super Bowl 53 stats and facts
- This is a record-extending 11th Super Bowl for the Patriots, who are only the third team to play in three consecutive Super Bowls – after Miami Dolphins (1971-73) and Buffalo Bills (1990-93).
- The Rams have four players with Super Bowl experience, compared to 38 for the Pats.
- Belichick won his first Super Bowl a day after McVay’s first birthday – as defensive coordinator of the New York Giants at Super Bowl 21.
- It will be the largest age gaps between opposing coaches and starting QBs in Super Bowl history.
- Sunday’s game comes 17 years to the day since the Pats beat the Rams at Super Bowl 36.
- Only two franchises have won the Super Bowl within five seasons of relocating – 1999 St Louis Rams (five seasons after leaving LA) and 1983 LA Raiders (two seasons after leaving Oakland).
The famous half-time show
For some, the half-time show is as important as the football, and more than 100 million people watched Justin Timberlake’s performance in 2018.
Maroon 5 are this year’s headliners – alongside rappers Travis Scott and Big Boi – but there were calls for them to pull out because of the NFL’s stance over players choosing to kneel for the US national anthem.
It was rumoured that stars such as Rihanna and Cardi B turned down the chance to perform, but last week Maroon 5 made a $500,000 donation, in conjunction with the NFL and Interscope Records, to the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.
$1.6bn stadium – $2 hot dogs
The NFL likes to take the big game to a big, shiny new stadium, and they don’t come much bigger and shinier than the 75,000-capacity Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
The Rams’ new home, due to be opened for the 2020 season, will host Super Bowl 56, but the Atlanta showpiece will take some beating.
Built at an estimated cost of $1.6bn (£1.2bn), it features the world’s biggest 360-degree halo video board, a 10-story video column, a 16-storey ‘window to the city’, a retractable roof that slides shut like a camera and a four-storey statue of a falcon. Well, it is the home of the Atlanta Falcons.
But the best bit? The stadium’s much-publicised refreshment prices will be the same as for Falcons games – that means $5 craft beers, $2 refillable soft drinks and $2 hot dogs.
Two-time Super Bowl winner Osi Umenyiora
For the Patriots to reach eight consecutive AFC Championship games, I can’t explain how difficult it is. In a league where there’s so much parity, these guys keep doing it year in, year out. When you have the power running game to go with Tom Brady it opens up the passing attack, and that can be impossible to stop.
Former Texans & Giants defensive back Jason Bell
The Patriots have got better through the season. They’re now playing their best football and you expect Belichick to put a plan together. But CJ Anderson’s got fresh legs and Sean McVay is a great play caller. Todd Gurley comes in and it’s a beautiful change-up because they’re different types of runners.
How about the ‘clairvoyant’ commentator…
Since retiring in 2017, former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has impressed as a commentator, and his calls during the Patriots’ win over the Chiefs were so accurate they were almost clairvoyant.
So when he predicted the score for Super Bowl 53, people sat up and took notice. Romo, who will make his Super Bowl debut as an announcer for CBS, went for 28-24 – but wouldn’t say the winner. However, he did add that “the team that has the ball at the end has 24 and doesn’t score”.
That would mean a potential ‘hail mary’ attempt to win the game with the very last throw… now that would be worth staying up for.
The building on which the mural of Kaepernick was painted in Atlanta was demolished on Super Bowl weekend.