Both the Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots enter Super Bowl LIII with strong secondaries. However, the Rams’ cornerbacks possess the speed and skill to rival the Patriots receiving corps. Cornerbacks Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib and Nickell-Robey Coleman lead the charge.
Talib played a feature role with the Denver Broncos in their win over the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50. Peters became one of the NFL’s biggest playmakers over the last few seasons, and Robey-Coleman has thrived as the Rams’ nickel back during his career. Together, these three match up well with the Patriots.
Who will the Rams defend?
The Los Angeles cornerbacks will have their hands full downfield with veteran Super Bowl champion quarterback Tom Brady. The key here will be man coverage. Talib, Peters and Robey-Coleman should be able to stay with New England’s receivers Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan and tight end Rob Gronkowski. However, the Rams also like to play some zone, which is more of a strength for Peters. Brady is so accurate that he’ll easily pick most zones apart.
Edelman was one of the biggest targets for Brady against the Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game. We might see Robey-Coleman cover Edelman in man defense. Both are aggressive, so that would be a fun matchup. Peters would likely stick to Hogan, who came alive in the last game. Talib would run with Gronk, especially given that he is the best corner on the Rams defense. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips also relied on Talib to cover other playmaking tight ends when healthy this season.
Who will the Patriots defend?
The Patriots feature cornerbacks Jason McCourty and Stephon Gilmore at the top of their depth chart. Given the loaded Rams receiving corps, they should have their hands full.
The best matchup will most likely be Gilmore covering his former Pats teammate Brandin Cooks. Gilmore signed a 5-year, $65 million contract with New England in March 2017. He’s more than lived up to the contract. The 2012 first round pick emerged as one of the league’s best cornerbacks in recent years, and his numbers show it. He finished the season with 20 passes defended and two interceptions.
Meanwhile, Cooks recorded 80 catches for a career-high 1,204 yards. The Cooks versus Gilmore rivalry seems to be fun for both players. They are friends as well as fierce competitors. They should provide quite a show in Atlanta.
McCourty will most likely cover Robert Woods or Josh Reynolds depending on who features in the slot. McCourty has recorded 70 tackles and one interception during the regular season. He had one pass breakup in the AFC Championship game against the Chiefs. His twin brother Devin McCourty will also be playing free safety.
How Do the Rams Win?
The Rams cornerbacks can help this team win by sticking with their assignments, especially man coverage. Tom Brady’s receiving targets lately have been mainly Edelman, Gronkowski and Hogan. The Rams can ill afford to play loose. Talib, Peters and Robey-Coleman have speed on their side and combined experience. They should be able to cover the Pats receivers with few issues and stay ahead of the plays. It’s really about the short-to-intermediate routes. New England no longer features a receiver that can stretch the field deep, but they remain one of the league’s best in the short to intermediate passing game. A Super Bowl win or loss could depend on how the Rams cornerbacks respond to this challenge.
Sources: ESPN, USA Today Sports