All hail the Patriots as their 13-3 (lowest score in SB history) scoreline versus the Rams gave the New England franchise their sixth title. No one was expecting (or could have predicted) that scoreline. Most pundits had scores of 45-60 points in total (I went 27-20 to Pats) and given the offensive talents on both sides this slugfest was out of left field – and in part at least due to 2 defensive masterplans from Wade Philips and Brian Flores (food signs for Dolphins fans). Not going to review in detail but what did I pick out….?
MVP Edelman – the Rams had no answer to Edelman and on a night where receivers struggled to get free (see below) he held a masterclass on getting separation on his 10 catches for 141 yards (from 12 targets). Often he was the one moving the chains for the Patriots getting those crucial first downs to keep possession. He’s a worthy MVP but there was one other stand out candidate for me…..
Swarming secondary – I would have gone for Stephon Gilmore on a night where defenses reigned supreme and the coverage (from the Patriots especially) was first class. Proof that in this day of aerial dominance by QBs you need your corners shut down. Gilmore was excellent and his INT sealed things in the 4th Qtr just as the Rams had a glimmer of hope.
Both side brought pressure – tough night for the all-star QBs, young and old, and both sides managed this by only bringing 4 or 5 max on the pass rush – helping to ensure coverage was tight. The only time the Patriots brought everyone was at the end to pressure Goff into throwing the INT. Brady also looked knocked out of his rhythm as he was hurried by Suh, Donald et al.
Could have been so different – 2 crucial moments for me in this games for Rams to look back on. First not being able to move the ball with 1:13 to go in the first half when the Patriots turned the ball over on downs. A score there and then getting the ball first second half could have seen the game swing to LA. Then with 3:42 left in the 3rd Qtr Jason McCourty just (and I mean just) got to a free Brandin Cooks in the end zone to prevent a TD catch – that would have been 7-3 Rams….
Patriots go jumbo – late in the game the Patriots turned jumbo and it paid off, particularly with the game ending drive for a FG to make it 13-3. I was really impressed with the work of James Develin all game in lead blocking for Sony Michel and it was Michel’s hard fought 94 yards helped to close the game out. Think the Rams missed a trick by not doing the same.
No fake – Johnny Hekker, 9 punts, including one on a 4&3 on the New England 42 yard line in the 1st Qtr – and there were NO FAKES ATTEMPTED….WHAT? Again missed a trick there in a game where a slight shift in momentum was badly needed at times for the Rams. Wider issue of the Rams being cautious throughout on offense – surprising.
Gronk played his part – if this is the one where Gronk says ‘au revioir’ well he goes out after crucial catches in the AFC championship and an important 6 catches for 82 yards (7 targets) in SB53. The one in the 4th Qtr to bring the Patriots into a red zone possession set up the all important 10-3 go ahead. He can now ride off into the sunset but he will leave a huge Gronk sized hole in the Patriots offense.
LA Home Alone – now we know they played the NFC Championship game in the loudest, most distracting atmosphere possible in New Orleans but they did not anticipate Atlanta being a Patriots outpost on Sunday, which it was – where were you Rams fans? Understandable for Sean McVay to think the crowd would be perhaps the usual Super Bowl mix and that maybe the neutrals would root for LA – however, when the ‘Brady, Brady’ chants went up in the second half we all knew who was at home. Seemed to unsettle some of the less experienced Rams players throughout.
Not a classic in the sense of the Super Bowls of the last 2 years involving the Patriots but one for the purist and, as a coach fully grounded in the defensive dark arts, probably one of the sweetest for Bill Belichick – well he has six to choose from!
As for the Rams they will return, as it says in the films, but they do need to secure some key pieces on the board as they go into free agency so that all the hard work of this season does not evaporate. Fortunes change quickly in the Not For Long league and they need to find a way to come again to try and take that mantle of the dominant NFL team away from the Patriots. Bring on NFL Season 2019!