Super Bowl LIII was super blah. The game was a 3-3 defensive slug-fest for three quarters that came and went with few offensive fireworks. That changed slightly after a Sony Michel one-yard score (set up by a 29-yard catch by Rob Gronkowski) put the New England Patriots ahead of the Los Angeles Rams with seven minutes left. New England scored another field goal later, but overall the game was “boring” by today’s standards.
Rams Rubbish Running
Much will be made about Jared Goff‘s poor performance, and rightfully so. But the reason the Rams were ineffective was their usually-potent ground attack was anything but. Todd Gurley was a non-factor and C.J. Anderson was unable to save the day this time around as the duo totaled 57 yards on 17 carries (3.3 YPC).
This could easily be blamed on L.A. play calling, but New England did the same thing to the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship. It is not that they simply made it tough to run against them, they took it away by daring the Rams to do what they do best but being in a position to make the play. Also, not getting the backs involved in the passing game – five targets, three catches, and 11 yards combined – did nothing to help alleviate the pressure on Goff from the pass rush.
They coupled getting vertical — thank you Tony Romo – in the run game on defense with masking coverage on the back end. L.A. tried to adjust by waiting until communications were cut off to show their formation. Goff did not respond, eventually putting up a pop fly to Brandin Cooks that easily found Pats cornerback Stephon Gilmore‘s hands. Goff’s reliance on his coach reading the defense for him caught up to the young passer and will likely be the priority this off-season.
Pats Play Part
We know the Tom Brady–Bill Belichick battery is the key to this operation. But guys like Julian Edelman have been the most intriguing part of the Patriots run. Obscure upon entering the NFL, they blossom into key contributors. From Troy Brown to Wes Welker to Danny Amendola and now Edelman. Sure the Patriots have reclamation projects that hit like Antowain Smith, but there’s also the Josh Gordon‘s of the world. But those players need the Patriots. For guys like Edelman, it is the other way around.
Brady gets another ring but he too was shaky for much of the night. Still, winning will make his final performance look better than it actually was. He was fortunate for some late chunk runs from Michel and Rex Burkhead. The Rams defense was making an impact so it is not as if Brady just looked off. But he says he wants to play until he is 45, and as we know the Patriots tend to move on too soon rather than too late.
That is not to suggest the end of the Brady-era is nigh. After nine Super Bowl appearances if anyone gets to go out their way in New England it is him. Even in one of the worst Super Bowl performances of his career, the 41-year old still piloted a fourth-quarter game-winning drive. To think that this was the Patriots largest margin of victory in any of their Super Bowl wins almost suggests the best is yet to come. That has to be terrifying to everyone who wants to write them off every year. They just continue to reinvent themselves and will have an influx of youth with 12 picks in this year’s draft.
Defense Dominates Day
The entire playoffs saw suppressed scoring and Super Bowl LIII was no exception. By today’s high-scoring, hands-off defense standards it was a “boring” game. But in reality, we were treated to a defensive chess match that should quell the rumblings over the style currently being played in the NFL. A groundswell of fans lamenting the low-score has unavoidably risen up, though.
Los Angeles was mostly able to keep the Pats down. But the offense did not show up and never leading kept the Rams from rushing the passer as they like. Edelman’s MVP-winning performance (10-141) was what did most of the damage. The Rams defense played a really good game and it goes for naught. That is a feeling that will not go away easily, especially after comments made to the media by Rams slot-corner Nickell Robey-Coleman.
New England lost safety Patrick Chung to a broken arm but the secondary made plays all night and allowed a 50% completion percentage to Goff. They forced the game into Goff’s hands and capitalized with the interception. They sacked him four times and never let him get truly comfortable in the pocket. Their disguising of coverages was expected with the well-known way Sean McVay runs the L.A. offense. But their execution against Gurley – who says he is not injured – and Anderson was impressive. Neither back looked decisive running at the New England front.
Bowl of Blah
The explosive Rams offense was defused by the Patriot defense. In fairness, the L.A. defense mostly returned the favor. This was the lowest scoring Super Bowl in history. In the end, the veteran, battle-tested duo of Brady and Belichick outlasted their (much) younger counterparts. Of course, Goff and McVay will not take solace in it, but this is what the Patriots do. They have done it six times now and show no signs of letting up. Congratulations (again) New England!
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