(Reuters) - As the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams prepare to do battle in the Super Bowl on Sunday in Atlanta here are five players who may well have a big say in the National Football League championship game’s outcome:
Brady is appearing in his ninth Super Bowl and will be seeking a record sixth title. The 41-year-old quarterback is remarkably not showing any signs of slowing down and will be eager to avenge last year’s Super Bowl loss to Philadelphia.
The Rams will no doubt do their best to get pressure on Brady and limit his impact but he often manages to set the pace of a game and holds the career Super Bowl records for passing yards, touchdown throws and completions, to name a few.
A first overall draft pick in 2016 who lost all seven of his rookie starts, Goff was considered by many to be a bust but he has blossomed into a bona fide Most Valuable Player candidate about to start in the first Super Bowl of his young career.
Goff finished the regular season ranked fourth in passing yards and could prove a game-changer in the biggest game of his career when he faces a Patriots team that ranked 22nd in pass defense during the regular season.
Gurley, who was the NFL’s third-leading rusher during the regular season, is coming off a surprisingly quiet performance in the NFC Championship game during which he rushed for just 10 yards on four carries.
The 24-year-old running back, who had been the focal point of the Rams’ intimidating offensive attack for much of the year, missed the final two games of the regular season with a knee injury and will look to rebound on the game’s grandest stage.
A five-times Pro Bowl player, Donald is the Rams’ top pass rusher and will need to bring his A-game in order to get plenty of pressure on Patriots quarterback Tom Brady who could just be the toughest test he has faced all season.
Brady has barely been touched during the postseason — he even posted a photo of his clean, white AFC Championship Game jersey on Instagram — and if Donald can present the veteran quarterback with the first real pressure he has faced in the playoffs it could go a long way towards securing a Rams victory.
Gilmore will be handed the all-important task of trying to slow down either Robert Woods or speedy Brandin Cooks, who this season became the first Rams receiving duo with at least 1,000 yards each in the same season since 2006.
The All-Pro cornerback, who was part of the Patriots defense that were pushed around in last year’s Super Bowl loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, has been one of the NFL’s best cornerbacks this season despite often being matched up against the opposing team’s top wide receiver.
Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Toby Davis