IT wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t even close – it was flat out ugly. Somewhere smiling in America, Bill Belichick doesn’t care. For the sixth time in 17 years, New England are the kings of the NFL taking out Super Bowl LIII with a 13-3 victory over the Los Angeles Rams. After a season that will be remembered for offensive dominance and unreal box scores, the old adage of ‘defense wins championships’ shone through on the biggest stage.
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A colossal matchup between two of the games brightest minds in Sean McVay and Bill Belichick was expected to feature a ton of points, touchdowns and offensive brilliance as the Rams and Pats battled for a dynasty altering championship. Yet, what unfolded was the lowest scoring Super Bowl in the game’s history. It took only two minutes and 54 seconds for the defense to become a talking point as Tom Brady threw an interception into the hands of Cory Littleton on his first pass attempt of the game.
WE should have known then that defense would rule the 53rd edition of the Super Bowl, with L.A. totalling just 22 yards of offense in their next three drives and New England only able to add three points to the board in their subsequent possessions. Aided by a dominant running attack, the Patriots looking in control early, leaning on the likes of Sony Michel, Cordarelle Patterson, Rex Burkhead and James White to move the ball upfield. Any other chance the Pats got saw Tom Brady connecting with Julian Edelman, a trend that didn’t slow up all game long.
Image from nesn.com
EDELMAN was the runaway MVP by half-time, totalling seven catches for 93 yards from his eight targets and even though New England only led 3-0, you could sense that motivation was well and truly going their way. Once again in the second-half Belichick’s defense came through with the goods, forcing the Rams to punt on their next two drives making it eight straight scoreless possessions to start the game. It took until the 2:11 mark of the 3rd quarter for Los Angeles to get on the board, but not long after that, for the umpteenth time, Tom Brady proved to be the difference maker.
FOLLOWING back-to-back punts, New England got the ball on their own 31-yard line and drove the ball down the field to score the game’s sole touchdown. They proceeded to run a now infamous ‘Hoss Y-Juke’ play three straight times and after Brady dropped an absolute dime to Rob Gronkowski for a 29-yard gain, the Patriots were just one 2-yard Sony Michel rush away from a TD. Soon after putting seven on the board it looked Jared Goff and the Rams were going to respond, advancing the ball 49 yards. Until the Patriots got after Goff which led to…
WITH possession back in their hands, the Patriots marched back into field-goal range and drilled another +3, pushing the margin out to double-digits, effectively sewing up the game. Los Angeles tried their best to extend the contest, but a missed Greg Zuerlein 48-yarder later, their fate was sealed. With the ball back in the Patriots hands, they bled the clock out with the ball fittingly ending in Brady’s hands as he became the winningest player in NFL history adding a sixth Super Bowl crown to his resume.
SO where did it all go wrong for McVay and the Rams? For such a powerful offense to be basically shut out by a New England defense that frankly wasn’t the best unit going around is one of Belichick’s finest moment. Credit deserves to go to defensive coordinator Brian Flores, but this was yet another masterclass from the footballing Yoda that is Bill Belichick. Sean McVay went on the record and admitted that he was outcoached, as his stars failed to fire in the biggest moments.
TODD Gurley, whose health is still a talking point, was basically a non-factor recording just 35 rushing yards and one catch which saw the Rams lose yardage. The Los Angeles star averaged over 130 scrimmage yards per game this season, so it’s fair to say shutting him down was a contributing factor for the Patriots victory. He wasn’t the only Ram to go missing though, with Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh having an insignificant impact on the contest. L.A.’s defensive line as a whole was miserable, with the Rams recording just two tackles for loss (TFL) and one sack compared to the Patriots seven TFL’s and four sacks.
Image from bleacherreport.com
WHILE LA laid an egg, make no mistake, they didn’t lose this game, New England won it. Jason McCourty made a touchdown-saving play, Sony Michel dictated the running game, Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy both made crucial defensive plays at critical times, Rob Gronkowski came through in huge moments when he was called upon, Julian Edelman was a more than deserving MVP, and, of course, Tom Brady was Tom Brady. The quarterbacking Jesus had more passing yards (262) than the Rams had total offensive yards (260), which tells you all you need to know about the contest.
TERRIFIC Tom needed just one drive to change the Super Bowl storyline, not for the first time in his storied career. While they claimed to be underdogs and stated that people counted them out all year, that’s only partially true. Following a lacklustre regular season there was understandable doubt over their chances of making their third-straight Super Bowl, but as soon as they stepped onto the field to start the postseason, we all knew they had fallen for the old rope a dope. Yet again, Brady and Belichick won it all. As if the season was going to end any other way.
Banner from theatlantic.com
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