Sunday, February 03, 2019

New England Patriots: Super Bowl LIII Champions

ATLANTA -- Tom Brady led a fourth-quarter touchdown drive to lift New England over the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII, with the 13-3 final standing as the lowest outcome in Super Bowl history. Here's what we learned as the Patriots tied the Pittsburgh Steelers for most ever Lombardi Trophies (6):

1. With apologies to connoisseurs of prodigious punting displays, nobody tunes into the biggest stage in American sports to watch defensive coordinators locked in a battle of gridiron chess for three hours. Both quarterbacks struggled from the outset, with Tom Brady's perennial first-quarter Super Bowl woes growing infectious. The Rams were shut out at halftime for the first time in the Sean McVay era. The six points combined were the fewest after three quarters in Super Bowl history.

Pining for points with just under 10 minutes remaining, a crowd heavily slanted toward the Patriots began a "Brady, Brady, Brady" chant as their hero took the field at the 31-yard line. The greatest quarterback of all time proceeded to unfurl his two best throws of the night, dialing up a Canton connection with Rob Gronkowski for gorgeous plays of 18 and 29 yards. The latter of the two gems put New England on the doorstep of the end zone, giving Sony Michel an easy scoring opportunity and the go-ahead touchdown. The Rams were driving for the answer when Stephon Gilmore stepped in front of Brandin Cooks near the right pylon to intercept the potential tying score.

"You know it was an unbelievable year," Brady told CBS after the game. "We just fought through it more so than anything. It's unbelievable to win this game. They played so well, the Rams' defense they played their butts off. What a great defense, they had a great plan. They made it tough on every play. We just kept fighting and finally got a touchdown. The [Patriots] defense played the best game of the year."

2. Awarded Super Bowl LIII Most Valuable Player honors, slot receiver Julian Edelman is starting to inspire Hall of Fame discussions himself. A chain-moving machine, Edelman bedeviled Wade Phillips' otherwise impressive defense with eight first downs en route to 141 yards on 10 receptions. For the first 50 minutes of game time, he was the only weapon firing on either offense. It's a credit not only to his mind meld with Brady on option routes, but also to his rare mix of agility, toughness and run-after-catch elusiveness. After passing Hall of Famer Michael Irvin in the second quarter, Edelman now stands second only to San Francisco 49ers legend Jerry Rice with 1,412 receiving yards in the postseason. Gronkowski, meanwhile, ranks first among tight ends in postseason receptions (81), yards (1,163) and touchdowns (12).

3. Miami Dolphins faithful must be excited at the prospect of stealing linebackers coach Brian Flores away from the AFC East end boss. Teaming with defensive mastermind Bill Belichick, Flores put on a game-planning and play-calling clinic in the postseason, confusing opposing passers with line stunts, timely blitzes and an interchangeable cadre of pass rushers. The Patriots are the first team since the iconic 1985 Chicago Bears to hold their opponents to a total of seven points or fewer in the first halves of three consecutive playoff games.