Trey Flowers: Tackling Rams' RBs is high on 'to-do list'

ATLANTA -- The New England Patriots finished the regular season ranked 11th against the run, and the defense will face a stiff challenge from the Los Angeles Rams' tandem of Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson.

And if the Rams' offense showed anything over the last month, the scheme doesn't require too much adjusting to either rusher.

"Both of those players are outstanding," Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said during a Wednesday news conference. "A lot of the plays are the same, if not all of them."

Still, the Patriots faced their share of quality backfields throughout the 2018 regular season and only Detroit Lions running back Kerryon Johnson and Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jaylen Samuels topped 100 yards rushing.

The Patriots' success in the regular season against the run carried over to the postseason, where the Los Angeles Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs combined for just 60 total yards rushing against New England.

The proven ability to stop the run certainly allows for a level of confidence heading into Sunday's matchup against the Rams' two-headed backfield.

"We've faced a lot of great running backs this whole season," defensive end Lawrence Guy told NFL.com. "There have been a lot of good combinations of running backs and every last one of them had their own unique abilities to make plays just like Gurley and Anderson.

"We have a good system together to control the run game and we know they're going to make plays, we're going to make plays. We just have to limit the big plays they make and continue to go out there and play ball."

Nevertheless, the Super Bowl showcases one area of strength against another. And for the Rams, Anderson, who signed as a free agent in Week 16, has been doing the bulk of heavy lifting, topping 120 yards rushing in three of his four games with Los Angeles.

The Rams lead the NFL with 193.5 yards rushing per game, including the two postseason games, since Anderson joined the team. Gurley finished the regular season nursing a knee injury, but he isn't listed on Wednesday's injury report for Sunday's game and this could signal the Rams will be at full strength for the championship game.

Should the Patriots see both Rams' tailbacks on the field, defensive end Trey Flowers said the ability to get either rusher on the ground is a top priority.

"Tackling is going to [be] high on our to-do list as far as executing," Flowers told NFL.com. "You have to tackle well as far as the defensive linemen. Obviously, you got to get yourself in position so you got to play with fundamentals, technique and play with physicality, and just get off the offensive linemen and make the tackle."

The Patriots defensive lineman adds maintaining gap integrity is essential for Sunday's game. And Flowers further believes he and his teammates will be prepared because of what they see every day in practice against teammates Sony Michel, James White and Rex Burkhead.

"They do a great job for us as far as giving us a look," Flowers said. "They're hitting the hole hard, hitting the hole low, and sometimes in practice just knowing sticking an arm out probably won't get guys like Gurley and C.J. Anderson down.

"So, being able to read their angle of the pads to see if they're going downhill or if they're going to the edge, just being able to get that look and being able to get off and shed the block is definitely important."

Linebacker Dont'a Hightower agreed.

"Obviously, our offense is a little bit different," he said. "But we see great backs every day in what we do."

The Patriots' run defense versus the Rams' running game is but one of many storylines for Super Bowl LIII that could ultimately affect the outcome.

But if New England has shown anything over the past decade, no storyline is bigger than the team's ultimate goal. And trust in each other to do their jobs to stop Gurley and Anderson carries significance.

"That's what we preach here is to execute the defense we want to execute, everyone has to do their job," linebacker John Simon told NFL.com. "That means having faith in the guy next to you. If you leave your gap and he goes through, you're going to give up a chunk play. So, it's truly a defense within a game, where all 11 guys have to do their job."

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