New England Patriots v Los Angeles Rams
Super Bowl LIII was not the exciting offensive masterpiece that we’ve come to love and know, but instead a battle of the defensive coordinators and the secondaries ensued.
Both Tom Brady and Jared Goff struggled from the outset, with Brady‘s first-quarter Super Bowl woes clearly becoming infectious.
The Patriots headed into the break with a 3-0 lead, a field-goal from Stephen Gostowski, with the Rams being shutout at halftime for the first time in the Sean McVay era. By the end of the third quarter the game was tied 3-3, those six points combined were the fewest after three periods in Super Bowl history.
As Tom Brady and his offense took to the field with just under 10 minutes remaining, a crowd heavily swayed toward the Patriots began a “Brady, Brady, Brady” chant. If it was meant to inspire their quarterback and offense it worked, the greatest quarterback of all-time started unfurling his best throw of the night. He hit Rob Gronkowski for two beautiful plays of 18 and 29 yards, the latter setup New England on the doorstep of the end zone.
Sony Michel took advantage of the easy scoring opportunity and got the go-ahead touchdown.
On the resulting play L.A. were driving for the equaliser when Stephon Gilmore stepped in front of former Patriot Brandin Cooks near the pylon to intercept the potential tying score. Post-game Brady told CBS that “the [Patriots] defense played the best game of the year.”
It wasn’t just the defense who put on a strong, talented display, despite the score the New England offense made some great moves. Julian Edelman, voted MVP, started inspiring Hall of Fame discussions. He moved the chains almost constantly all night, using his speed and agility to gain eight first downs en route to 141 yards on 10 receptions.
For the first 50 minutes of the game Edelman was the only weapon firing on either offense. In the second quarter he passed Hall of Famer Michael Irvin in receiving yards in the postseason. He now stands second only to 49ers legend Jerry Rice with 1,412 receiving postseason yards. Gronkowski meanwhile, ranks first among tight ends in postseason receptions (81), yards (1,163) and touchdowns (12).
Brady raved about Edelman to the media after the game saying, “he just played the best game he has all year…. He’s a fighter”. He continued, “he’s been an incredible player for this team in the playoffs and he just cemented himself, again, in the history of the NFL for what his accomplishments are.”
After their winning defensive performance the Miami Dolphins faithful must be exited at the prospect of stealing linebacker coach Brian Flores away from their AFC rivals. Paired with mastermind Bill Belichick, Flores put on a game-planning and play-calling clinic in the postseason, easily confusing opposing passers with line stunts, blitzes and an interchangeable corps of pass rushers. The Patriots are the first team since the iconic 1985 Chicago Bears to hold their opponents to a total of seven points or less in the first half of three consecutive playoff games.
Since losing Todd Gurley and Cooper Kupp to late-season knee injuries the Rams offense has been out of sync. While the latter was lost for the remainder of the postseason, Gurley returned as a shadow of his former self.
Prior to the Super Bowl McVay insisted the running back was perfectly healthy and was poised for a workhorse role, instead the 2017 Offensive Player of the Year touched the ball just 11 times for 34 inefficient yards. He’s a legitimate difference-maker when he’s in peak form, but we haven’t seen it since early December.
McVay shouldered the blame telling media, ” I was not pleased at all with my feel for the flow of the game and kind of making some adjustments as the game unfolded and with giving ourselves a chance at some success and put some points on the board. Credit to them, they did a good job, and I certainly didn’t do enough for us.”
His Rams became the sixth team without a third-down conversion in the first half of a Super Bowl. Punter Johnny Hekker had a season-high in attempts a few minutes after halftime and finished with 417 yards on nine punts, as a result of Jared Goff passing for just 229 yards in one of the least effective QB performances the big game has ever seen.
A late third-quarter sequence encapsulated Goff‘s troubles of reading the field whilst facing defensive pressure. Cooks sprinted wide open in the back of the end zone, though Goff didn’t see him until Jason McCourty closed in to salvage the coverage and prevent the touchdown. Two plays later the signal-caller held the ball for too long, taking a third down sack that pushed Greg Zuerlein‘s field-goal attempt to 53 yards rather than 44.
With seconds left in the game McVay opted to go for the field-goal on 2nd-and-10, Zuerlein missed the chance to cut their deficit to seven, handing the ball back to New England who spiked and went straight to the knee to end the game.
Upon the completion of Super Bowl LIII, Hall of Famer Terell Davis is the only player ever to rush for more touchdowns in a single postseason than Sony Michel. The Patriots rookier’s score gave him his sixth trip to the end zone in three playoff games.
Michel and Rex Burkhead came up big later in the fourth quarter, each breaking off 26-yard gains to drain the clock and prevent a Rams comeback.
This Super Bowl win sees Bill Belichick and Tom Brady boast two more Super Bowl rings than any other coach/quarterback due in history. Their 30 playoff wins are 16 more than any other pairing.
Belichick has tied George Halas and Curly Lambeau for the most championships (6) by a head coach. At 69 he also set the record for the oldest Super Bowl winning coach. Speaking of age, not only is Brady the oldest Super Bowl winner of his position but he has thrown for 3,840 more yards and 28 more touchdowns than other other postseason quarterback.
After hoisting another Lombardi Trophy, Patriots owner Robert Kraft highlighted the importance of his head coach and star quarterback to the NFL’s reigning dynasty. In his winner’s speech he addressed the fans telling them “there is one constant throughout this whole 18 years, two men who are the best at whatever has been done in the history of the NHL: Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.” He went on to state he is “honored to say for the sixth time, we are all Patriots and once again the Patriots are world champions.”
New England join the Pittsburgh Steelers as the only teams to win six Lombardi Trophies.