The Super Bowl shootout everyone expected turned out to be a defensive deadlock. The New England Patriots defeated the Los Angeles Rams 13-3 in a game where two of the premier offenses in the league were held to a combined 16 points, the lowest total in Super Bowl history.
Sunday also marked the 17-year anniversary of the beginning of the Patriots dynasty: it was exactly 17 years ago, in Super Bowl XXXVI, when The Patriots shocked the football world by defeating a heavy favorite, the then St. Louis Rams featuring “The Greatest Show on Turf,” to win their first title in franchise history. The victory launched the Brady-Belichick partnership that has now resulted in an unprecedented six Super Bowl wins in nine appearances.
While Super Bowl LIII may not have exactly been an exhilarating contest for anyone who is not a defensive and special teams enthusiast, there were many notable moments throughout the affair, one of which was definitely not the halftime show by Maroon 5. And despite a 2018 season in which offenses broke all kinds of records, Sunday once again proved the old cliche that it is indeed defense that wins championships.
The game began with an uncharacteristic turnover by Tom Brady, as he threw an interception to Rams’ linebacker, Cory Littleton, on his first pass attempt of the game. For Brady, it was the start of a quite lethargic performance, as the Rams’ defensive coordinator, Wade Phillips, dialed up a great defensive game plan that contained Brady and company for much of the game.
New England's offense was able to move the ball effectively for much of game but were contained once they were in Ram territory and in third-down situations.
Unfortunately for the Rams, however, their offense failed to capitalize on the stellar play of their defense as the Rams’ offense punted on all six of their possessions in the first half. Rams’ quarterback, Jared Goff, had one of the worst performances in his short 3-year career, as he was under duress by the Patriots’ pass rush for much of the game. Bill Belichick and defensive coordinator, Brian Flores, called a great game on defense that seemed to get Goff and the Rams' high-powered offense off of their comfort zone.
With 9:59 left in the final quarter, with the game still tied at three, the Patriots finally orchestrated the game’s first touchdown drive. It was vintage Tom Brady, as he threw four straight completions to get the Patriots in goal-line position. The highlight was 29-yard rainbow down the left sideline to tight end, Rob Gronkowski, who laid-out for the completion with three Rams’ defenders around him. The completion was Brady’s best throw on the night and was the longest play from scrimmage by any team in the game. It eventually set up a go-ahead touchdown by running-back, Sony Michel, who punched it in from two yards on the next play out to give the Patriots a 10-3 lead with 7:03 left in the game.
On the ensuing drive by the Rams, it seemed that they had finally gotten their act together as they drove deep into Patriots territory and were in position to score the game-tying touchdown. However, with 4:24 left in the game, Patriots’ all-pro corner, Stephon Gilmore, picked off an ill-advised throw from Jared Goff at New England’s 4-yard line. Following the turnover, the Patriots’ ground attack was able to chew up much of the game clock and set up a 41-yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski with 1:16 left in the game that extended the Patriots’ lead to 13-3 and essentially sealed the game.
For the Patriots’ this was their record-tying sixth Super Bowl title in franchise history, joining the Pittsburgh Steelers as the only team with six. There may be some uncertainty surrounding Rob Gronkowski's future as he weighs retirement in the next few weeks. However, both Bill Belichick and a 42-year old Tom Brady will return for the 2019 season, and if this season has made anything clear, it is that Brady and Belichick are done when they say they are done.