ATLANTA – In what is likely the final game of his future Hall-of-Fame career, Rob Gronkowski came up big in the moments that mattered. The New England tight end sparked a stalled offense during a critical fourth-quarter drive, catching two passes for 47 yards leading to a 2-yard touchdown run by Sony Michel. It was the Pats’ only trip to the end zone.
It was enough to give the Patriots their sixth championship via a 13-3 victory over the Los Angeles Rams in the lowest-scoring Super Bowl ever. Wide receiver Julian Edelman earned MVP honors after catching 10 passes for 141 yards.
The game was going almost nowhere, stuck at 3-3 deep into the fourth quarter when Tom Brady, who won his record sixth championship, finally got hot. The two big strikes, though, were classic Gronk, a bruising over-the-shoulder catch-and-run for 18 yards and then another for 29 that put the Pats on the goal line.
He finished the game with six catches for 87 yards and was instrumental blocking along the offensive line. New England rushed for 155 yards and amassed a 33:05 time of possession, a stat it dominated throughout this postseason. On their final, game-sealing drive, New England rushed seven times for 66 yards.
Gronk will go down as one of the finest tight end blockers in NFL history, a dying breed as offenses open up in the modern game.
“Everybody counted us out from the beginning of the season to midseason. But we’re still here,” a triumphant Bill Belichick said during the Lombardi Trophy ceremony. It was the sixth time Belichick held the NFL’s ultimate prize as a head coach, tying Curly Lambeau and George Halas for number of league championships among coaches.
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The Patriots hadn’t scored since early in the second quarter, allowing a Rams offense under young QB Jared Goff that was accomplishing little to stick around and eventually tie the game
Gronkowski hasn’t said whether he’ll retire or not this offseason, but he has given plenty of indication that the physical beating he has taken on his 6-6, 265-pound frame will cause him to walk away from the game at age 30.
The Rams tried to rally, driving down the field and showing life until Stephon Gilmore picked off Goff on a floater on the Patriots’ 4-yard line. It was a poor and dangerous pass.
The first three quarters were a slog, featuring 12 punts and just six points, the lowest through that period in Super Bowl history.
“It wasn’t beautiful,” Gronkowski said.
Neither Brady nor Goff was sharp. The Rams didn’t use Todd Gurley much. About the only Patriot who did much was Julian Edelman. While the defenses for both teams were stout, there were also ill-advised timeouts, procedural penalties and just poor play. The teams went a combined 4-for-20 on third downs.
New England dominated time of possession in the first quarter but had little to show for it. A Brady interception ended one drive while it was in field-goal range and kicker Stephen Gostkowski missed a 46-yarder on another, points the team desperately needed until Gronk helped fire the offense up late.
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