After a defensive struggle, the New England Patriots hoisted the Vince Lombardi Trophy up to the closed roof at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in what some contend was a boring Super Bowl LIII.
However, for those football purists, it was a masterpiece of blocking and tackling, filled with big hits and tight defensive coverage. The Patriots, with a late touchdown from running back Sony Michel, prevailed 13-3 over the Rams before 70,081 fans Sunday in Atlanta.
The victory gave New England its sixth Super Bowl title in the franchise’s 11th appearance in the championship game.
It was the first Super Bowl played in Atlanta since Super Bowl XXXIV in Jan. 30, 2000, and the first in the sparkling $1.5 billion stadium.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, 41, led the way as he completed 21 of 35 passes for 263 yards. Michel, who played at Georgia, finished with 94 yards rushing on 18 carries.
“It’s impossible to reflect,” Brady said. “I’m beyond blessed.”
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Rams coach Sean McVay, who was raised in Atlanta and went to the Marist School, took the defeat hard.
“I got out-coached,” McVay said. “I didn’t do nearly good enough for our football team.”
He also was hard on himself for not unleashing star running back Todd Gurley.
Here are five things we learned:
1. Gronkowski makes clutch catch. New England wide receiver Julian Edelman, who was named the Most Valuable Player, did most of the damage. But when the Patriots needed a big play they went to tight end Rob Gronkowski, who got open for 29-yard gain up the left sideline to set up the winning touchdown.
“It was my turn to make a play,” Gronkowski said.
Michel slammed into the end zone from 2 yards out on the next play for the game’s only touchdown.
Edelman finished with 10 catches for 141 yards.
“We got the drives going, but they stalled,” Brady said. “I was throwing to Julian and he did a great job. He had the best season of his career with him coming back from a (knee injury) and the toughness he showed. I couldn’t be more proud of him.”
Brady and Edelman are going to Disney World on Monday.
Wide receiver Josh Gordon, who led the Patriots in receiving yards and the NFL is yards per catch, was suspended this season. The Patriots missed him as a deep threat against the Rams.
Edelman did most of his damage underneath, especially on third downs. The Rams had a defensive end, usually Dante Fowler, peel off and cover running back James White, who is normally Brady’s third-down security blanket.
“I was just trying to go out and have a good week of practice and do my job,” Edelman said. “Sometimes, the cookie crumbles that way.”
Running behind the line of Trent Brown, Joe Thuney, David Andrews (Georgia), Shaq Mason (Georgia Tech) and Marcus Cannon, Michel ran strong.
Michel’s touchdown put the Patriots up 10-3 with 7:00 to play.
“It’s amazing,” Michel said. “It’s not really about me, it’s about the team.”
2. Goff struggled mightily. Rams quarterback Jared Goff struggled and was ineffective on third downs. He threw incomplete passes on six of the first seven third-down attempts. The Rams didn't convert on their first eight third-down attempts.
The Patriots out-gained the Rams 407 to 260 yards as the defenses dominated. The Rams were 3 of 13 (23 percent) and the Patriots were 3 of 12 (25 percent) on third down.
The Rams picked up their first third-down conversion late in the third quarter when Goff connected with wide receiver Robert Woods for an 18-yard gain on third-and-6 from New England’s 47.
Credit: Curtis Compton
Credit: Curtis Compton
Goff threw the ball late to a wide open Brandin Cooks in the end zone in the third quarter. New England cornerback Jason McCourty raced over and broke up the pass to prevent the touchdown.
The Rams had to settle for a field goal after Goff was sacked on third down.
Goff had another deep pass to Cooks broken up in the fourth quarter and finally cornerback Stephon Gilmore intercepted another errant pass intended for Cooks with 4:17 to play.
The Patriots, who dominated the time of possession, 33:10 to 26:50, started to wear down the Rams’ defense. Michel busted loose for a key 26-yard run to jump-start a drive that helped the Patriots get the clock under two minutes.
Stephen Gostowkski added a 41-yard field goal with 1:12 left.
“It hurts me knowing how well our defense played, against that team, against Tom,” Goff said. “(The offense did) not hold up our end of the bargain. It’s our job to score points and we didn’t do that tonight.”
3. Slow start. Both teams struggled early.
The Patriots’ first drive ended with linebacker Cory Littleton’s interception of a Brady pass that was intended for wide receiver Chris Hogan. The weak pass was tipped by Nickell Robey-Coleman.
Their second drive ended with a missed 46-yard field goal by Gostkowski. It was wide left. Gostkowski made 27 of 32 field goals during the regular season. He was 3 for 3 in the postseason before the miss.
The Patriots opened a 3-0 lead when Gostkowski made a 42-yard field goal on their fourth possession.
The Rams punted on their first five possessions.
Johnny Hekker had a 65-yard punt in the third quarter, which was the longest in Super Bowl history. New England punter Ryan Allen had the previous longest punt, a 64-yarder in Super Bowl XLIX.
Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein added a 53-yard field goad with 4:22 left in the third quarter to tie the game, 3-3.
The game became the lowest scoring game through three quarters in Super Bowl history.
Credit: Bob Andres
Credit: Bob Andres
4. Offensive genius. The Rams scored 583 points in their previous 18 games this season. They finished the regular season as the league's second-highest scoring team at 32.9 points a game.
The Rams were 0 of 6 on third downs in the first half and mustered only 57 yards in the first half.
It was the second-lowest Super Bowl halftime score ever, 3-0. In Super Bowl IX, the Steelers led the Vikings 2-0 and went on to win 16-6.
“This game will serve as a great opportunity for us to learn from,” McVay said.
5. Where was Gurley? Rams running back Todd Gurley, who insisted that he was not injured, was not a factor in the game. He had 10 carries for 35 yards. Rams running back C.J. Anderson had seven rushes for 22 yards. Gurley had four carries for 10 yards in the NFC Championship
“You just have to give credit to the Patriots,” Gurley said. “They’ve been here the last three years in a row for a reason. They got the job done again.”
Gurley was not dejected with his production.
“It’s cool man,” Gurley said. “It’s a team sport. It’s 11 people on the field. Everyone can’t touch the ball. It was still a wonderful season by us. I’m blessed. I’m just grateful for the opportunity to play in the Super Bowl.”
Gurley wasn’t able to find Michel in the chaos on the field after the game.
“No, I didn’t,” Gurley said. “I will send him a text later and congratulate him. Hopefully, he got the MVP.”
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