ATLANTA - Life can be interesting sometimes. The Pats have Tom Brady and the Los Angeles Rams think that their ability to stop the run will be the key to winning Sunday in the Super Bowl.
The Rams must be worried if they watched the Pats beat the Los Angeles Chargers in the playoffs. The Pats used their large offensive line to manhandle the undersized Chargers. The Chargers, like the Rams, are thin at linebacker and played mostly dime defense and even some looks with seven defensive backs. Mark Barron, who the Tampa Bay Buccaneers originally drafted as a safety, was moved from safety to linebacker when he was traded to the Rams in 2014. Barron, at 6-2 230 pounds, will be a key cog if the Rams are to stop the run.
One of the surprises about the Rams defense, for those have not watched it all year, is they have struggled to stop the run. This is surprising because the Rams are big inside with the game's best defensive lineman Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh. The Rams, though, at times have lacked the discipline with players getting out of their lanes. The Rams run defense has improved in the playoffs, particularly in the NFC Championship Game. The Pats are in the Super Bowl in large part because of their running game, particularly after Josh Gordon was suspended with two games remaining in the regular season. Neither the Chargers nor the Kansas City Chiefs were able to stop the run in the playoffs.
"It has been a big emphasis every week because it is something we have been inconsistent with throughout the year," said Barron who plays like a linebacker. "It is most definitely something we are going to harp on. You gotta be able to stop the run to beat this team. They have a great QB who is going to do their part so you want to be able to take away some things and stopping the run is one of them."
Barron, 29, thought a big reason why the Rams defense improved against the New Orleans Saints was because of communication.
"That is just a matter of playing with each other - playing together. We are playing our best defense because we are trusting each other and communicating," Baron said.
Even with Donald and Suh, the Rams expect the Pats to run the ball until they can stop it. Barron said the key to stopping James White, who might be the best pass-catching back in football, is to know where White is at all times and close fast.
"The defense is not just about one person. It is not about one or two people. It is about everyone playing in their gaps," Barron said.
The Rams knows that their defense must be physical regardless of whether it is against the pass or the run. Barron said the Rams have to physical with Julian Edelman who got two free releases in overtime on his big third down catches against the Chiefs.
"There are times we have to be physical at the line of scrimmage and there are times we will let the receiver get a free release. You have always have to vary your coverages especially against this team. But the key is to execute what the coach's call," Barron said.
Barron has been impressed with the Pats offensive line.
"They have done a great job this year," Barron said. "We got a great front so we will be ready for them."
Even though, the Rams were 13-3 and the Pats 11-5 the Rams are still considered the underdogs. Barron is not surprised.
"That has to do with how many times they have been to the Super Bowl in recent years. But we will be ready. We feel we are in this game because we deserve to be here. We feel we are one of the best teams in the league so we will be ready for them," Barron said. "Being an underdog that is outside noise."
Barron said the Rams are not buying into the Pats mystique.
"We don't care about that. We will go out and play anybody. We are trying to win the Super Bowl and that is what we are prepared to go out and do," Barron said.