ATLANTA (Reuters) – Tom Brady is appearing in his ninth Super Bowl but that doesn’t faze Aaron Donald.
The Los Angeles Rams star defensive tackle is fully aware of Brady’s accomplishments but doesn’t see why anything should be different on Super Bowl Sunday than any other day of football.
“He’s a great quarterback,” Donald said Monday night at Super Bowl LIII Opening Night. “But just like anyone else, you put pressure on him and just like anybody else, it will be a tough day for him.”
Donald led the NFL with 20.5 sacks this season and has 59.5 in five overall campaigns.
He figures if the secondary can hold coverage, then he and his linemates can let loose.
“Just not let him get comfortable,” Donald said.
Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips sees Donald as the key to Los Angeles’ defensive success. For good reason.
“He’s the best defensive player in the league,” Phillips said. “He’ll be Defensive Player of the Year. That’s two years in a row.
“That tells you what kind of player he is.”
Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh knows slowing down Brady isn’t the easiest thing to do. “It’s a great task for us,” Suh said. “I’m excited about it. I look forward to it. First and foremost, we need to shut down the run. … Until we take care of that, we won’t have the opportunity to take care of Tom.”
Brady said the Rams pose a big challenge and pointed at cornerback Aqib Talib – his former teammate – and the star-studded line.
“They have a great defense,” Brady said. “They have the best D-line in the league. I have my work cut out for me.” While the Rams are focused on slowing Brady, they also know the play of their own quarterback will be significant.
Jared Goff is on the big stage for the first time but coach Sean McVay feels the 24-year-old will be able to deal with the multitude of things he will face during Super Bowl week.
“He’s unfazed, good or bad,” McVay said. “I think his ability to handle success and handle adversity the same demonstrates that poise and confidence that you want from your quarterback.”
Goff quizzed some past Super Bowl participants and was able to glean that keeping a consistent routine was crucial this week.
“If you do this on a Friday, do this out here,” Goff said. “If I go to dinner on Friday, go to dinner on Friday. If Wednesday you get in early, get in early.” Of course, Brady has the routine down as the owner of five Super Bowl rings.
But McVay is more concerned about slowing the future Hall of Famer on Sunday and is keenly aware that isn’t an easy thing to do.
“It’s incredible what he’s done when you look at the consistency at which they have been able to operate,” McVay said. “You respect him as a competitor but it’s a great opportunity for us to be at our best this week.
“We are certainly looking forward to the challenge, but we know we have to be at our best to give ourselves a chance.”