Every Super Bowl is historic. The game is the most-watched television event in America. It’s the culmination of the most popular sports league. And, of course, it offers one football team–and select players–the chance to etch themselves into sports history, in a way that few other sports venues do.
Some Super Bowls, though, are more historic than others.
Super Bowl LIII, without question, is one such Super Bowl.
Tom Brady, coming off a loss to the Eagles last year, entered the game still seeking to become the first player in NFL history with six Super Bowl Rings. (He became the only quarterback with five rings two years ago, but linebacker/defensive lineman Charles Haley has five as well.)
The Los Angeles Rams, meanwhile, had their own demons to contend with. Underdogs, the Rams had to respond to those claiming that they don’t belong after the way the NFC Championship Game ended. Quarterback Jared Goff is a young sensation. How young? He was in kindergarten when Brady won his first Super Bowl.
The game would absolutely become an important marker in the annals of Super Bowl history. But who would win? Would Brady capture that elusive number six? Or would the Rams bring Los Angeles its first Super Bowl victory since the Los Angeles Raiders in 1984?
The Rams are obviously a very good team, but coming into the game it just felt like they would struggle to play from behind. Los Angeles obviously trusted its defense, as the Rams chose to defer the opening kickoff. That choice paid off early, as Cory Littleton intercepted Brady’s first pass attempt of the game. Goff and the offense couldn’t do anything in response, though, and the Rams went three-and-out.
The story of the early parts of this game followed this trend. The Los Angeles defense bent, but it never broke. The Rams gave up yards, on both the ground and through the air, but Aaron Donald and the defense stood strong when the situation called for it. Stephen Gostkowski aided the defense by missing a field goal, but the Rams still couldn’t do anything on offense. Gostkowski made a 42-yard field goal almost five minutes into the second quarter–and Los Angeles still had just one first down.
Goff responded to New England taking the lead, though. He hit Robert Woods for an 18-yard game (that might not have stood on review, but wasn’t challenged) for another first down. The drive stalled after that, but at least the Rams saw that they could move the ball. The Patriots again moved the ball well on the following possession, but it ended with an incomplete pass–deflected by Littleton–on fourth down.
The second half got off to a much different start than the first, with an obvious explanation. Todd Gurley only saw three touches for the Rams in the first half. He touched the ball three times on the opening drive of the second half. That drive also ended with a punt after just one first down, but the tone of the drive was much different than the first half.
After a big reception by Julian Edelman–who very quietly racked up catches and yards throughout the game–a New England punt pinned Los Angeles back on its own two-yard line. After yet another three-and-out, the Rams finally came up with the play to change the game. Punter Johnny Hekker boomed a Super Bowl-record 65-yard punt to flip the field. The defense, as it did all game, held strong, and Los Angeles tied the game with a Greg Zuerlein 53-yard field goal on its ensuing drive.
The Patriots responded with a drive that leaned heavily on Sony Michel, though, as Bill Belichick’s New England teams always seem to have an answer in the biggest of situations. The drive stalled, though, as Cory Littleton once again made a huge defensive play, this time breaking up a pass on third-and-four around mid-field. The defense finally cracked on the next drive, though, as passes to Gronkowski, then Edelman, then Gronkowski again set up a one-yard touchdown run by Michel. The first touchdown of the game came with seven minutes to go, and the Patriots held a 10-3 lead. Would McVay, Goff, and the Rams have an answer?
It seemed like they would, as big passes to Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods got the ball almost to the red zone. However, Stephon Gilmore intercepted a Goff pass (intended for Cooks) inside the New England five-yard line. With big runs by Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead on the following drive, New England kicked a field goal to go up 13-3 with just over a minute to go.
Goff didn’t have a miracle in him, though. The Rams missed a field goal with a few seconds left, and Tom Brady had the honor of kneeling out his sixth Super Bowl victory, the all-time record. Sony Michel fell to the ground in celebration, Bill Belichick was doused in Gatorade, and even the Rams came up to hug and congratulate Brady.
Embed from Getty Images