If it wasn't apparent against the Chargers -- when the Patriots took Los Angeles' six, seven and eight defensive back alignments and shoved it down their throats for 47 carries and 177 rushing yards -- it became crystal clear after Sunday's AFC Championship game:
Patriots opponents, and there's only one left in the Rams, better match up better with personnel. Or they risk getting run over.
There's been a lot of discussion this season about the Patriots' running game, its origins, and the reasons for the success. Is it SonyMichel? Is it the offensive line? Is it DanteScarnecchia? Is it JoshMcDaniels? Is it the threat of TomBrady?
To be honest, it's a mixture of everything. Michel has been a good player, but the Patriots had more rushing yards in 2013 (StevenRidley, LeGarretteBlount), '12 (Ridley) and '08 (SammyMorris, KevinFaulk). Nobody was touting those players as the secret sauce. The offensive line has been better, but for the most part, it's been together for a few seasons. Scarnecchia is the epitome of consistency, and the same goes for McDaniels. Brady, with better weapons in the past, has been more of a threat in his career.
Yet here they are, heading Super Bowl LIII, largely on the strength of a running game that has dominated time of possession and put the offense -- for the most part -- ahead of the sticks for the past nine quarters.
So why have the Patriots morphed into a powerful, rush-based offense in the biggest games?
And the Rams — who played a lot of defense this season with only one linebacker on the field — better wise up to the equation, or they'll be joining the Chargers and Chiefs as Patriots' playoff roadkill.
So what's the Patriots advantage the Rams will have to counter?