How bad was the 53rd Super Bowl?
So bad that Maroon 5 was the best group of players at the game.
Even before the pop band took the stage at half-time, the favourite joke on Twitter after a mind-numbing first half was the score was Maroon 5, Patriots 3, Rams 0. It was the second-lowest scoring first half in Super Bowl history. The first Super Bowl record of the game was a 65-yard punt. The second Super Bowl record? It was the first one with no touchdowns in the first three quarters.
The first touchdown of the game, a two-yard run by Sony Michel eight minutes into the fourth quarter, was the decisive play as the New England Patriots beat the Los Angeles Rams 13-3 Sunday night in what will go down as one of the most boring NFL championships ever.
Unlike almost all of the other Patriots wins in the Tom Brady era, the quarterback was not the team’s best offensive player. This time the Super Bowl’s most-valuable player was receiver Julian Edelman, who hauled in 10 catches for 141 yards, who kept the offence moving with some help from tight end Rob Gronkowski, who made a big gain to set up Michel’s touchdown.
Still, from a historical perspective Brady’s overall performance was astounding even aside from the fact he is 41 years old. It was his sixth Super Bowl win in nine appearances, not only the most by a quarterback but the most by any player. That gives him more wins than 30 NFL franchises.
Brady was far from his best in the first half and he didn’t exactly light it up in the second. Then again, he was still a lot better than Rams quarterback Jared Goff, as the Patriots took a 3-0 lead into the third quarter, practically by default.
The game could stand as a metaphor for the Patriots season, as they may be a dynasty but this time they played in fits and starts at times in finishing with an 11-5 record. But once the playoffs started, they were the same old Patriots.
“It was an unbelievable year,” Brady told the CBS network. “We fought through it more so than anything. It’s unbelievable to win this game. The Rams defence played their butts off. They had a great plan and made it tough on every play.
“We’ve been this far and lost, which is really rough. We had a lot of resolve. I wish we played a little better on offence but we won.”
At his age, of course, Brady is always asked after every season if he wants to keep playing. Once again, he said he plans to be back next season. Asked why, he pointed at the roaring crowd at the stadium in Atlanta and said, “Look at this, how could this not motivate you?”
Yes, according to the glass-half-full crowd the first 30 minutes were a defensive battle. Rams defensive co-ordinator Wade Phillips got almost as much camera time as Brady thanks to his schemes for neutralizing the Patriots offence.
Led by defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who was a force against the New England running game, the Rams did not take long to confuse Brady and the Pats. By the end of the first quarter, Brady had already burned two timeouts because he and the rest of the offence were not on the same page.
Not that this was all that unusual for the Patriots. According to ESPN, the last time New England managed one or fewer timeouts in the first quarter was in 2009. And they have never done it in the playoffs under Brady and head coach Bill Belichick.
The Patriots’ first two drives of the game ended with an interception and a 46-yard missed field goal by Stephen Gostkowski. But Gostkowski came back early in the second quarter to provide the only scoring of the first half on a 42-yard field goal. He added a 41-yarder with 1:16 left in the fourth quarter to nail down the win.
As unimpressive as the Pats offence was, though, it was still way better than the Rams’ counterpart. The Rams managed just 57 yards total offence in the first half compared to 195 for New England. And all the Rams could muster were three first downs.
Once again, the big mystery about the Rams offence was running back Todd Gurley. Once again, just like the NFC final, the best running back in the NFL in the regular season was almost a rumour. He did get the ball on the Rams’ first play from scrimmage but that was about it. Gurley finished the first half with three carries for 10 yards after spending a good portion of it on the sideline watching C.J. Anderson carry the ball.
There are suspicions the knee injury Gurley sustained in week 15 of the regular season flared up again. But Rams head coach Sean McVay denied this after the NFC final and in the days leading up to the Super Bowl.
However, unlike the NFC final, McVay turned to Gurley in the second half. He got the ball early, ripping off a 16-yard gain on the Rams’ first series in the third quarter. But just as it appeared this might be a trend, the Rams went back to Anderson for the most part.
All that needs to be known about the Rams offence is that the best player was punter Johnny Hekker. As one Twitter wit pointed out at half-time, he had the ball more than Gurley. But Hekker bailed the Rams out of poor field position several times with booming kicks and he set a Super Bowl record with a 65-yard punt midway through the third quarter. Now, it must be said that the record kick did get a good 20 yards added on with a nice roll along the grass.
Despite the Gurley mystery, the Rams’ worst problem was Goff. He was five-for-13 in passing in the first half for 49 yards and by early in the second quarter he was 0-for-6 on third-down passes.
Goff did get a break early in the third quarter started when the Patriots lost one of their best defensive players, safety Patrick Chung, to an arm injury. Not long after that, Goff directed the first decent drive of the game for the Rams that actually saw a ball tossed in the end zone, to receiver Brandin Cooks, but it was batted out of his hands. However, the drive did result in a 53-yard field goal by Greg Zuerlein that tied the score 3-3.
The only other time Goff got near the end zone, late in the fourth quarter, he saw a pass go through Cooks’ hands again and then he threw an interception.