Patriots Win Sixth Title, Shut Down Powerful Rams
ATLANTA (973espn.com) - To many of the NFL's detractors Super Bowl LIII featured the team nobody wanted vs. the team which didn't deserve to be in Atlanta.
By the time Sunday arrived, however, the page was finally turned and it was about new school against old school with either the oldest coach ever about to win on the NFL's biggest stage with a 41-year-old quarterback or the league's youngest mentor, Sean McVay, triumphing with a largely inexperienced option at the game's most important position.
In a game, no one expected the New England Patriots won the sixth Super Bowl of the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady era by outlasting the Los Angeles Rams in a defensive slugfest.
The Pats dominated the stat sheet for the most part and moved the ball pretty well but failed to cash in on multiple occasions before Greg Zuerlein booted a 53-yard field goal with 2:11 left in the third quarter to deadlock the game at 3-3, the last thing expected in the modern era of the NFL which generally slants everything toward the offense.
After the teams traded scoreless possessions after that the crowd in Atlanta, which was filled with New England fans, began a Brady chant and the veteran QB, despite playing a pedestrian game to that point, delivered.
A quick wheel route to Rob Gronkowski gained 18 yards and that was followed by a connection to Julian Edelman for another 13. A Rex Burkhead run gained seven and then Brady threw a perfect touch pass to Gronkowski that gained 29 yards and put the ball at the Los Angeles 2-yard line. Sonny Michel took it over from there for the first SB touchdown since Zach Ertz scored in Minneapolis last February.
"Tom threw it to me and I had to make a play," Gronkowski said of his big play. "... He knows to trust in me and throw that ball and I'm going to grab it."
The Rams and Goff showed some life from there but the young signal caller ultimately wilted under a zero blitz, foolishly throwing the football up for grabs and allowing Stephon Gilmore to pick it at the New England 4-yard line with 4:17 left in the game.
The Patriots then won the game with their power running game, utilizing fullback James Develin and Gronkowski. Michel and Burkhead both busted runs of 26 yards on the drive and Stephen Gostkowski barely snuck a 41-yard field goal inside the left upright with 1:12 remaining to make it a two-score game at 13-3.
Zuerlein missed a late FG and the 13-3 final was the lowest scoring Super Bowl in history, surpassing Super Bowl VII where the Miami Dolphins beat the Washington Redskins 14-7.
The Rams had the second-ranked offense in the NFL during the regular season, averaging 421.1 yards-per-game and 32.9 points in the regular season but Belichick and his defensive play caller, Brian Flores, who is expected to be named the head coach of the Miami Dolphins on Monday, befuddled McVay, the supposed offensive wunderkind, and his exoskeleton QB Goff, limiting the Rams to 260 yards and just the one Zuerlein FG.
Goff was confused throughout as the Pats didn't show as many man looks as expected, instead mixing in zone coverage behind a ton of stunts and finished 19-of-38 for 229 yards with a dismal 57.9 passer rating. Meanwhile, Todd Gurley managed just 39 yards on the ground.
Brady wasn't his usual self as well but did have success when targeting Edelman and Gronkowski, finishing 21 of 35 for 262 yards. Edelman caught 10 of 12 targets for 141 yards and was named the game's MVP while Gronk hauled in six of seven targets for 87 yards.
Michel led a rushing attack that outgained the Rams 154 to 62 with 94 yards on 18 carries and the TD.
-John McMullen is a national football columnist for Extra Points Media and 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen