Time is a flat circle. For the second time since the turn of the millennium, the New England Patriots beat the Rams on the game’s biggest stage. The Patriots defense once again shut down a high-flying Rams offense which looked borderline unstoppable for the majority of the season. Tom Brady wasn’t great throughout the entire game, but, just like in 2001, the greatest quarterback of all time saved his best work for the biggest moments. The most awe-inspiring part of the Patriots dynasty is New England’s ability to turn back the clock and win in a wide variety of ways. This time, New England won their latest championship using the same plan that won them their first championship.
2018 New England Patriots Win Super Bowl LIII Just Like 2001 New England Patriots
The 2018 New England Patriots won thanks to one of the best defensive performances in recent memory. The Los Angeles Rams offense entered the game as one of the best units in the league, ranking second in points per game and DVOA. However, despite that success, the Patriots defense limited Jared Goff and company to just three points. Stephon Gilmore was the star of the show, recording a forced fumble, three pass breakups, and the game-sealing interception.
Similarly, the 2001 New England Patriots held the Greatest Show on Turf to just 17 points. Future Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner couldn’t find a rhythm throughout the entire game. The pass rush was ferocious, the front seven shut down superstar running back Marshall Faulk, but the defensive star of the game was cornerback Ty Law. Law shut down Isaac Bruce all night while also recording a game-changing pick-six midway through the second quarter. The 2018 Rams offense wasn’t as good as the 2001 Rams, but in both games, the Patriots defense stepped up to the challenge and shut down an elite unit.
An Average Brady Saves His Best For Last
Super Bowl LIII wasn’t Brady’s best Super Bowl performance. When looking at his final stat line (21/35, 262 yards, zero touchdowns, one interception), one might think the Greatest of All Time had a bad game. While the quarterback was certainly hit-or-miss throughout the contest, Captain Comeback saved his best for last.
Tied at three apiece, Tom Brady and the Patriots offense started off at their own 31 with just 9:43 left on the clock. Needing a championship drive to secure a win, Brady led a heroic five-play drive to take the lead. While Sony Michel ultimately got the go-ahead touchdown, Brady completed all four of his passes for 67 yards. The 41-year old connected on all different parts of the field, spreading the ball around to three different receivers and challenging the Rams offense deep.
Similarly, Brady’s first legendary moment of his career came back in the Super Bowl against the Rams. Facing a 17-17 tie with just 1:21 left on the clock, most assumed New England would run out the clock and play for overtime. Instead, the Patriots gambled on their first-year starter and were rewarded with a game-winning field goal drive as time expired. Despite finishing the night with just 145 yards and one touchdown, Brady created his own legend with that magical drive.
Of course, Brady’s fourth-quarter magic is not exclusive to the Rams. The Patriots now have six Super Bowl championships and Brady has led a game-winning fourth-quarter drive in each one of those victories. Additionally, he had another in Super Bowl XLII when he connected with Randy Moss to take a 14-10 lead late in the fourth. However, David Tyree and the Giants had other plans, taking the lead with just seconds left on the clock.
The Underdog Mentality
While nobody doubted the 2018 Patriots as much as the 2001 Patriots, the talk all season long was that this year was different. Tom Brady was a little too old. Bill Belichick was on the decline after benching Malcolm Butler in Super Bowl LII. Rob Gronkowski was old and slow and Julian Edelman wasn’t the same after coming back from his ACL injury.
— SIXtriots (@ftbeard_17) January 18, 2019
In fairness, this wasn’t a completely unjustified take. The Patriots finished the year with an 11-5 record, their worst since 2009. Gronkowski had the worst season of his career, and Brady didn’t look like the same guy for stretches of the season. However, all those doubts were erased as Brady and the Patriots hit their stride at the right time. They took down a 12-4 Chargers team at home before going on the road to beat the Kansas City Chiefs and MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes. They capped it all off with a Super Bowl win against a team many predicted to win the Super Bowl back in the off-season.
The 2001 Patriots, meanwhile, were seen as one of the worst teams in the league when Brady took over. Fresh off the heels of a 5-11 campaign, New England lost franchise quarterback Drew Bledsoe in Week Two, forcing them to start a skinny sixth-round pick out of Michigan. Finding themselves 5-5 after 10 games, not many believed the 2001 Patriots had a bright future. Instead, that team won their final six regular season games before taking out the heavily favored Oakland Raiders in the AFC Divisional Round. One week later, they went on the road and pulled the upset against the 13-3 Pittsburgh Steelers. Despite nobody giving them a chance, the 13-point underdog New England Patriots toppled the unstoppable Rams in one of the greatest upset in history.
The 2018 Patriots were never as doubted as the 2001 Patriots, but this team underwent the most scrutiny since the 2009 version of the team. Instead of folding and accepting their place as an incomplete team, both units rallied, got hot at the right time, and pushed their optimal momentum to Super Bowl immortality.
Embed from Getty Images