A lot of people are going to want to sit there this morning and say that was one of the worst Super Bowls that they’ve ever watched. It felt long. It felt tedious. It felt just outright boringgg a times. And it did feature the lowest total amount of points scored in any title game in NFL history, as the Patriots beat the Los Angeles Rams by a score of only 13-3.
All that matters, though, is that the Pats came out victorious in the end, tying them with Pittsburgh for the most championships in NFL history (6) and making Tom Brady the ONLY NFL player in the history of the planet with six Super Bowl titles to his name.
Julian Edelman, the game’s MVP, continued his long history of postseason dominance with another exceptional performance. His 141 receiving yards accounted for over a third of the Pats’ total offensive output in the game, and his 10 receptions were just under half of the total passes Brady completed overall in the game. Gronk also stepped up with six catches and 87 yards of his own, as the two combined for 228 of the team’s 262 total receiving yards.
But this game was ALL about the defense, as both sides were absolutely dominant on that side of the ball. Here’s a few stats for you to illustrate just how tough it was for both teams to move the chains last night:
- Neither Brady nor Jared Goff could surpass 262 yards through the air, and both quarterbacks finished with ratings well under 75 for the game. (Goff had a putrid 57.9 rating!) Each signal-caller also threw a pick without a score.
- Both teams converted on only about 25 percent of their third-down opportunities, and the Pats failed on their only fourth-down attempt.
- There were a total of 14 punts in the game for over 630 yards.
- The Rams did not reach the red zone ONCE throughout the entire game.
So, while some may be quick to claim that both teams were “bad” last night, maybe it was actually just the fact that both defenses were so “good.” In today’s NFL, offense usually steals the show, but I thought it was actually refreshing to see both sides play some old-school, smash-mouth, grind-it-out pigskin. And considering that both the Pats and Rams were top-five scoring teams this year, what both defenses were able to do was all the more impressive.
Both team’s defensive success started with their pass-rush. After not getting touched all postseason, Brady was finally sacked and hit another four times. But the Patriots were even more aggressive coming at Goff; they were able to take the young fella down four times and hit him another 12 (!), forcing him to make horrible tosses all over the field last night. For as much as I crap on Kyle Van Noy and his pass-coverage skills, he was a monster up front for the Pats on Sunday, with one sack and three QB hits of his own. Dont’a Hightower also had two sacks.
However, I would be entirely remiss if I did not mention the incredible play of the Pats’ secondary. Everyone will mention Stephon Gilmore‘s game-ending interception, but I think that Jason McCourty may have single-handedly saved the game with one third-quarter play. With the Pats up by only three points and just over 18 minutes to play in the game, Brandin Cooks broke free down the seam and was sitting WIDE OPEN in the end zone for what should have been a cupcake touchdown for L.A. Yet McCourty never gave up his pursuit and followed the 40-yard bomb Goff threw all the way to Cooks’s body, ultimately using his arms to knock the ball right out of Cooks’s hands at the very last moment in front of the goal post. (You can watch the play here. It truly was a season-saving play by No. 30.)
The Pats then held the Rams to a 53-yard field goal, which would be their only score of the game. In total, the defense also defended another eight passes from Goff, and, above all, they held both Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson to 68 total yards on 20 touches. At one point, the Pats also forced the Rams to punt the ball eight straight times. The Patriots defense was the real Super Bowl MVP last night.
Here’s a few more key takeaways from last night’s events:
- I was all ready to write a fury-filled post today about Stephen Gostkowski AGAIN missing yet another field goal in a Super Bowl. On the Pats’ second drive of the game, Gostkowski missed a 46-yarder, after Brady threw a pick on the first drive, causing me to just stare blankly at the TV in complete fear and disbelief early on. BUT, the 13-year vet made up for it with two other successful kicks (and an extra point) which ended up being vital to the game’s final outcome. Still, that’s three straight times Gostkowski has missed a field goal on the game’s biggest stage, plus the one he missed in the 2015 AFC Championship in Denver. I’d still rather have him than most other guys in the league, but it’s never a given with him in pressure situations.
- Even though it’s usually a bad sign when you notice your punter’s efforts in a particular game, I gotta give it up to Ryan Allen. Some casual Pats fans probably couldn’t even name the 28-year-old or pick him out of a lineup, but he pinned three of his five punts last night inside the 20. He was one of the reasons the Rams kept starting off with such poor field position all night long. Matthew Slater also kept proving why he’s one of the best special teams guys ever, as he was constantly the one chasing those punts down and preventing them from bouncing into the endzone. I just wanted to make sure I gave credit to some guys who I know will fly under the radar in most postgame pieces out there today.
- While both Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead ran the ball well last night, I was completely shocked by how little the running backs were used in this one. James White – who I shamelessly praised earlier this week – was completely invisible, in every sense of the word, touching the ball just three times for a total of nine yards. Surprisingly, however, White was on the field for just as many plays (27) as Michel, and both guys outsnapped Burkhead by eight plays. When you look at it, they all still played about a third of the team’s offensive snaps, and it seems as though they were simply called upon to be decoys last night, being used to draw coverage off of the primary targets Brady really wanted to go to. So, they didn’t really play “bad” at all; they just didn’t all get as much shine as usual. (And yes, game script was also a big factor here, too.)
- If this really is Gronk’s swan song, what a way it was to go out. Sure, he didn’t have a throwback, tried-and-true GRONKINATOR performance, but he was the team’s second-leading receiver behind Edelman. He also played on 100 percent of the plays, and we all know this guy still isn’t fully healthy (and may never be again). But he still gutted it out, with a few huge grabs in the biggest moments, cementing his status as one of the greatest Pats ever. Hats off to you, No. 87!
In all honesty, there’s really not much more to say about the game last night, as it truly was a test of patience for everyone involved – players, coaches, and fans alike. Sometimes, it’s just like that, and it all comes down to whoever’s left standing at the end.
And for the sixth time in the past 18 years, the ones left standing were none other than your New England Patriots. We’re champs again, baby! We are champs AGAIN!!!