ATLANTA (Reuters) - The New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams will play for a Super Bowl title on Sunday in a generational clash that could come to define an era or mark a new beginning for the National Football League.
The NFL will celebrate a landmark 100th anniversary next season with either the Patriots’ old guard as defending champions looking to extend their dynasty into a new century or with the kids from Los Angeles having seized the torch.
In sport a changing of the guard is usually a slow, drawn-out process and rarely comes as sharply defined as it could be in this year’s Super Bowl.
If Los Angeles beats New England on Sunday in Atlanta, Rams head coach, 33-year-old Sean McVay, will become the youngest to win a Super Bowl.
If the Patriots lift the Vince Lombardi Trophy 66-year-old Bill Belichick becomes the oldest.
“To even be mentioned in the same breath as coach Belichick ... I’ve got a long way to go to even be in the same category,” said McVay. “He’s been doing it for so long, so consistently.”
At 24, Rams’ Jared Goff is the fourth youngest quarterback to start a Super Bowl and with a victory would become the second youngest winner behind Pittsburgh Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger.
The Patriots’ Tom Brady, 41, will replace Peyton Manning as the oldest quarterback to win a Super Bowl if he can secure a sixth ring that would also all but put an end to the debate over whether ‘No. 12’ is the greatest NFL player of all-time.
The future Hall of Famer is the only starting quarterback in league history to win five Super Bowls and the only player ever to be named Super Bowl most valuable player four times.
He owns almost every significant Super Bowl quarterbacking record including single game passing yards (505), career passing yards (2,576), completions (235), passing attempts (357) and touchdown passes (18).
The Super Bowl will provide a matchup that could not be more different in both style and substance.
The Patriots will be making their third consecutive Super Bowl appearance, their fourth in the last five years and ninth since 2002, winning five times.
With a win the Rams, who won a Super Bowl in 2000 before relocating to the West coast, would celebrate their second Super Bowl title and first since their move to Los Angeles in 2016.
For all of Belichick and McVay’s coaching and motivational brilliance and the quarterbacking wizardry of Brady and Goff, the battle for the Super Bowl will most likely be won in the trenches.
The Patriots’ offensive line has put an impenetrable force field around Brady, allowing the 41-year-old time to work his magic particularly in two contests where the Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers failed to register a sack.
Keeping Brady upright against one of the NFL’s most menacing defenses spearheaded by Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald, who led the league in sacks with 20.5, will be a challenge for the Patriots’ offensive line that must also open holes for the New England running game.
“We’ve been able to play the game on our terms and that includes being able to run it and throw it on our terms,” said Brady. “Our line has done an incredible job all year but we have the biggest test of the year coming up.”
Editing by Toby Davis