The highest scoring season in NFL history ended with the lowest scoring Super Bowl ever and the sixth championship for the New England Patriots since 2001.
In an unexpected twist, the high-powered Los Angeles Rams offense was stifled by the defense of the Patriots. None of their first eight offensive drives lasted more than five plays and all of them ended in punts. They would punt nine times in the game.
But the LA defense was just as impressive for much of the night. The Patriots left at least 10 points on the table and held a slim 3-0 lead at the halftime break. Tom Brady was intercepted on his first drive of the game and was not able to get his offense going consistently in the first half.
But wide receiver Julian Edelman, who was named Super Bowl MVP, was simply unstoppable throughout the game. Edelman hauled in 10 passes from Brady, most of which resulted in first downs, for a total of 140 yards.
The Rams were able to tie the game at 3 late in the third quarter, but they missed a golden opportunity for more. Goff and his offense were inside the New England 30-yard line when they decided to take a shot deep downfield. Goff appeared to have Brandin Cooks wide open in the back of the end zone, but cornerback Jason McCourtey ran across the field and broke up the play. This would ultimately be followed by a sack and a field goal.
It was far from Brady’s best night, but he answered the call when it mattered most. With less than 10 minutes to play in the fourth, he led a five play, 69-yard drive that culminated in the game’s only touchdown. He found Edelman along the way as well as Rob Gronkowski, who hauled in a beautiful pass at the LA two-yard line. Sony Michel would pound it in for six and the Patriots did not look back.
The last real hope for LA would come on the ensuing possession. Goff would once again lead the team inside the 30 before another missed opportunity to Cooks spelled their doom. Cooks appeared to have a play on a Goff pass in the end zone, but was not able to hang on. On the next play, Goff would again look for Cooks deep but was under pressure and intercepted by Stephon Gilmore.
This would ultimately decide the game. The Patriots used their running game to chew up three minutes of clock and set up a field goal attempt for Stephen Gostkowski. He had missed earlier in the game, but was able to connect from 41 yards to give New England a 13-3 lead and ensure the Lombardi Trophy.
Edelman certainly deserved MVP for his efforts, but it was the defense that carried New England across the finish line. A fierce attack led by Dont’a Hightower terrorized Goff from start to finish and Bill Belichick dismantled young Sean McVay’s game plan.
Considering the era and opponent, New England’s defensive performance in Super Bowl 53 could certainly be the best the big game has ever seen.
It was also poetic justice for Tom Brady. In last year’s 41-33 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, the highest scoring Super Bowl of all time, Brady threw for over 500 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Belichick also shockingly benched starting cornerback Malcolm Butler against Philadelphia, which certainly did not help the defensive effort against Nick Foles. But on this night, Belichick and his unit carried the greatest quarterback of all time.
However they got there, the duo of Brady and Belichick continues to rule the world of football. They have competed in nine of the last 17 Super Bowls and won six of them, a feat almost unimaginable in a modern, single-elimination format that promotes constant parity. And the final chapter remains to be written.
The 41-year old Brady will be back with his Patriots to defend their title next season. Judging by their performance over the last month, there is no reason to believe they will not put up a serious fight while doing so.
They may, however, be without the services of Gronkowski moving forward. The 29-year-old tight end has been mulling retirement and is expected to announce his future plans in the coming weeks.