Just when you thought your Patriots spank-bank couldn’t get any fuller, they go and do something like this. Patriots fans have already had their share of football pornography in the last two decades; the 14 point upset (SB36), the last second game winners (SB38, SB49) and the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history (SB51). But, to be fair, the championship drought in Boston had lasted an entire three months and even the casual sports fan would admit that the people of Boston deserved to celebrate for once.
The chatter of media day in Atlanta circled not around the Patriots, but rather around the controversy surrounding the NFC Championship Game between the New Orleans Saints and LA Rams. A blatant pass interference penalty on Rams CB Nickell Roby-Coleman went inexplicably uncalled, and for all intents and purposes, won the game the Rams. Sports media had a meltdown of hot takes, the Saints were sent packing and the Los Angeles Rams, in only their 3rd season in LA, were heading to the Super Bowl. And to think, they were only two years removed from the Jeff Fisher era.
The matchup storyline between the Patriots and Rams focused around youth versus experience. The young gun-slinger Jared Goff versus the wily veteran Tom Brady. The hottest young coach in the game Sean McVay versus the old hand Bill Belichick. Would America be witnessing the passing of the torch or another chapter in the NFL’s greatest dynasty?
No matter what you predicted, you didn’t predict the first half unfolding the way it did. The game kicked off with the Vegas over/under line listed at 56.5. A grand total of 3 points were scored in the first 30 mins of the football game. The 3rd and 4th ranked scoring offenses from the regular season could only manage a field goal between them. The Rams offense was notably inept, accumulating a total of only 57 yards and 2 first downs in the entire first half. Kyle Van Noy and Dont’a Hightower did the bulk of the heavy lifting for the Patriots defense while forcing Jared Goff into confused looks that can only be described as Manning-esque. The Patriots offense didn’t fare much better though, book-ending the half with a Brady INT and a failed 4th down conversion attempt. Julian Edelman was the only consistent offensive player on the field accounting for 7 catches and 75 yards at the half. A Stephen Gostowski FG was the difference at half, putting the Patriots ahead 3-0 heading into the locker room. Only 54 points from hitting the over.
The start to the second half trended much in the same way the first half had with both defenses remaining staunch. The most memorable defensive play came from
Devin Jason McCourty as he tracked Brandin Cooks from off-the-entire-TV-screen to break up a sure touchdown in the end zone. The vaunted Rams special teams shined in the 3rd quarter accounting for the Super Bowl’s longest punt (Hekker – 65 yards) and the second longest FG (Greg the Leg – 53 yards) to tie the game 3-3 at the end of 3 quarters. Only 51 points from hitting the over.
It was half way through the 4th quarter until we got what we all came to see. Tom Brady with the ball with less than 10 minutes left in a tied Super Bowl. Anyone that had watched the AFCCG or any Patriots game in the last two decades knew exactly what was coming. The Patriots finally found the look they wanted and ran the same exact formation four plays straight, culminating in a 29 yard, Brady-to-Gronk reception to the Rams 1 yard line. Sony Michel hammered it home on the next play and the game’s first TD came with only 7:03 left on the clock.
The Rams responded by driving to the edge of the Patriots red zone until Brian Flores dialed up the zero blitz and Jared Goff floated one up into the awaiting arms of Stephon Gilmore. The Patriots proceeded to kill 3 minutes of clock time with good old fashioned power football, riding the backs of Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead and the hogs up front. Stephen Gostowski ripped a 41 yard field goal to essentially put the nail in the coffin, making it a two score game (13-3) with a minute left. A desperation Rams drive followed by a missed FG and that was all she wrote.
Edelman with his typical big-game performance (10 for 141) brought home the MVP. Belichick and Flores had crafted a gem of a game plan. Gilmore, Hightower and Van Noy had dominated. Thuney, Brown, Mason, Cannon and Andrews with 100% offensive snaps. Vintage Gronk. Classic 4th quarter Brady. Championship number SIX. Ring number SIX. Parade number SIX. A defensive masterpiece to add to your Patriots spank-bank.