ATLANTA – The diamonds on Tom Brady‘s sixth Super Bowl ring will gleam just as brightly as the first five.
Which is good. Maybe he can invite America over to look at them so it has something thrilling and beautiful to remember about this game … other than how many chicken wings and seven-layer dip people ate.
Brady, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots have treated football fans to some all-time Super Bowl classics – both in victory and defeat. Adam Vinatieri, the helmet catch, 28-3, the Philly Special, the Malcolm Butler pick …
New England 13, Los Angeles 3 was not one of them.
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This was a slog of a football game, a tractor pull turned punt-fest that featured – yes, excellent defensive play – but also a lot of offensive ineptitude on both sides.
A year ago Brady threw for 505 yards and three touchdowns and lost.
This year he went just 21-of-35 for 262 yards with no TDs and a bad interception. And won.
He was saved by a disastrous performance by Rams quarterback Jared Goff, who looked completely overmatched. He finished 19-of-38 for 229 yards and a pick that all but sealed New England’s victory. Even those humble numbers are inflated. Seventy-two of those yards came on a pointless final drive.
The Rams punted on their first eight possessions. They ran no trick plays and showed little play-calling innovation. Coach Sean McVay entered the game being hailed as a daring, young genius. At least he’s young and has time to still prove it.
Had Brady lost, he would have gone to his grave wondering how he couldn’t beat Jared Goff.
Essentially, that blown no-call in the NFC championship game did no one any favors. Maybe New Orleans would have lost to New England anyway. It couldn’t have matched how boring the Rams were to watch. L.A. looked every bit like a team that didn’t deserve to be here.
This was a complete disaster. The Rams have comparatively few fans, having just recently relocated back to Los Angeles and leaving hard-feelings in St. Louis.
As such, the place was overrun with Patriots jerseys, which would have been fine because they could have whipped it up and turned Mercedes-Benz Stadium into a home-field advantage. Except they had to sit on their hands for prolonged periods and wait for something to happen. There was little atmosphere or drama. It was mostly just frustrations and disbelief.
“It was like a home game here,” said Super Bowl LIII MVP Julian Edelman.
Actually, home games in Foxborough are usually pretty exciting.
Basically this entire Super Bowl came down to a single fourth-quarter drive, when Brady began dealing it a little. He found old friend Rob Gronkowski twice on big plays, one for 18 yards and the other for 29. That was the longest play from scrimmage by either team. It set up a Sony Michel touchdown plunge and that was all New England needed.
The Patriots survived turnovers, missed field goals, dumb penalties, ill-advised timeouts and third-down play-calling that was baffling.
New England did. The winners.
At least there was the halftime act … oops. That made viewers wistful for left shark. For some reason Adam Levine was allowed to go shirtless. Poor Janet Jackson, done in by a double standard.
The 3-3 tie heading into the fourth quarter set a record for fewest points scored in a Super Bowl to that point.
“I don’t think anyone would have predicted that,” Patriot Matthew Slater noted. Whoever said it’s always good to set a record never watched this one get accomplished.
The previous record was nine points in Super Bowl IX. If you want to know what offenses were like then, know that the winning quarterback, Terry Bradshaw, went 9-for-14 for 96 yards for the entire game.
Since there were so few Rams fans, much of America fell into three categories on Sunday. Patriots fans, who, justifiably, wanted to win no matter how ugly it was. To them, they’ll take it and should never apologize.
Then there are Patriots haters, who had to watch them win despite not playing well. And finally there are general football fans who might not mind if the Patriots win again, but would like to see the game coming down to Brady winning some kind of shootout, like most years.
Instead they got a dull game with the Patriots still playing the “no respect” card as a motivational tool.
“Everybody counted us out,” said coach Bill Belichick.
Sure. Sure. Everybody.
At least the long suffering fans in Boston got a professional sports title, their first in 97 … days.
There were few memorable plays. Few incredible catches or brilliant throws or even long runs or clutch pass breakups or much of anything. There were 128 plays in the game. Just 27 resulted in gains of 10 or more yards.
If you are a fan of third down futility, well, the teams did come through for you. They combined to go 6-for-25.
“We weren’t very good on third down,” Brady acknowledged.
There were a combined 14 punts, yet somehow no exciting returns or near blocks. Last year, there was one combined punt in the Super Bowl. The Patriots’ punt coverage was excellent on Sunday, repeatedly downing the ball inside the Rams’ 5-yard line. And Rams punter Johnny Hekker set a Super Bowl record by booting (or mostly rolling) one 65 yards.
So there’s that.
Another Super Bowl record: fewest kick returns, one for each team.
The Rams’ biggest star on offense, Todd Gurley, carried it 10 times for 35 yards. Their best defensive player, Aaron Donald, had one tackle, four assisted tackles and no sacks. Each club missed a makeable field goal.
The teams combined to convert on 100 percent of their trips to the red zone, but that’s because New England was there only once and the Rams never. Seriously, Los Angeles never even got near the end zone. Not once.
“You get in these games you have to find a way to win,” Brady said.
New England did. Congratulations to the Patriots. They can and should celebrate like this was the Seattle victory or the St. Louis victory or any other victory.
Everyone else can wake up Monday and try to wipe these four hours from their memory.
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