A Very Overhyped Super Bowl

John Lee ‘20

Experience versus firepower. Everyone was on the edge of their seats this past week eager to witness with their own eyes what may have been one of the most highly anticipated Super Bowl matchups of all time. The New England Patriots, whose dominance began in the 2001 season with Tom Brady’s first Super Bowl win, had all the experience in the world. While Tom Brady has played with the Patriots, they have won an outstanding 220 games and lost only 63 games. Many people hail Brady as the greatest football player to live, and his career and stats definitely reflect this. In fact, 31/32 players on the current Patriots starting roster had already been to a Super Bowl, an incredible statistic. On the other hand, you had the Los Angeles Rams under the reigns of 3rd year quarterback, Jared Goff. The 2018-2019 season was a spectacular one for Jared Goff, as he threw for 4688 yards and 32 touchdowns, and averaged 293 passing yards per game. His successful season can be credited to Sean McVay, the head coach of the Los Angeles Rams.

Both Bill Belichick, the head coach of the Patriots, and Sean McVay play a very important role in their teams. While Belichick has the experience, McVay has youth and a newfound knowledge that allowed the Rams to end the season 13-3 and with 32.9 points per game, only behind the Kansas City Chiefs. The difference in age is extraordinary, as Belichick began coaching professionally 11 years before Sean McVay was even born, and when Belichick won his first Super Bowl with Tom Brady, McVay was only 16 years old. There were many expectations for Super Bowl LIII, and the vast majority of football fans were excited to see how experience would matchup against firepower.

The Super Bowl matchup between two of the strongest teams this year turned out to be a lackluster, lifeless, and stale game. With a final score of 13-3, Super Bowl LIII became the lowest scoring Super Bowl of all time. The first play of the game spelled out a bad omen for the rest of match: Tom Brady had thrown an interception on his first pass for the first time in his postseason history. The next 5 drives went down as a Missed Field Goal, Punt, Field Goal, Punt, and turnover on downs. The first 5 drives for the Rams were even worse, as they failed to score in the first half and ended up punting 5 times. In the first half the Patriots had only gained 195 total yards from scrimmage, and the Rams had gained 57 yards. The Patriots defense played extremely well in both the 1st and 2nd quarter, limiting the Rams to a possession time of only 10:08 in the whole first half. The Patriots on the other hand had the ball for 19:52, almost double the amount of time the Rams had. Furthermore, the Patriots had 12 first downs in the first half, while the Rams only had 2, making it easy to say that the Patriots were the superior team in the beginning of the game.

The Rams failure to capitalize on turnovers by the Patriots, an interception and missed field goal, allowed the Patriots to stay in the game and not give up an early lead. The Patriots defense played exceptionally well against the Rams super-offense. The Patriots were able to stop the ground and air game, an achievement many fans speculated that they would be able to do. Todd Gurley, arguably one of the league’s best running backs, had only 3 carries for 10 yards, while his counterpart, C.J Anderson, had 4 carries for 10 yards. By stopping one of the most essential parts of the Rams offense, the Patriots were able to stuff the air game.

The Ram’s lack of ability to run the ball didn’t allow for any play-action plays and permitted constant pressure from the Patriots front 7 to Goff and his offensive line. For example, in the second quarter, around the 4:56, when the Rams had the ball on the Patriots 47 yard line, the Patriots managed to sack Goff for a 14 yard loss on a 3rd and 2. Important and decisive plays like this allowed the Patriots offense to consistently stay on the field and build their offensive momentum. On another 3rd and 3 in the first quarter, at 3:36, Patrick Chung made a tackle on Robert Woods on a short comeback route to get a 4th down, resulting in another punt by the Rams. Jared Goff ended the first half with 5 completions over 12 attempts, and only threw for 52 yards. The pressure of playing against one of the greatest coach-quarterback duos of all time was crushing Goff, and his first half passer rating was at a horrific 54.9. However, Tom Brady’s passer rating was not that much better, and he ended the half with 62.1. Fortunately for Brady, Julian Edelman was playing lights out, as he managed to catch 7 of his 8 targets and ended the first half with 93 receiving yards. With the help of experienced, key players like Edelman, the Patriots were able to move down the field and be in excellent field position to score.

The Rams defense was able to make up for their weak offensive performance. With Aaron Donald leading the Rams front 7, they did an excellent job of slowing down the Patriots offense by jamming up the run game. Sony Michel, the starting running back, had 6 carries for 22 yards, and the Patriots totaled 44 rushing yards at the end of the half. Although the Rams did allow the Patriots to move down the field and rack up offensive yards through the air, they did very well to not let them score. The Rams racked up 13 tackles and 19 combined tackles, and also had 1 quarterback hit, making important defensive plays to stifle Tom Brady and his offense. By the end of the first half, the score was 3-0, with the Patriots leading, and the only score had come from a 42 yard field goal made in the 2nd quarter at 10:33. Many people were disappointed by the low-scoring game and hoped that there would be more action in the second half.

The 3rd quarter was a disappointment, similar to the first half. Both defenses would not budge, consistently making stop after stop, and the first four possessions of the quarter all resulted in punts. The only positive would be that Johnny Hekker, the punter for the Rams, established a new record for the longest punt in Super Bowl history, reaching an astounding distance of 65 yards. However, on the 5th possession of the game, the Rams on their 3rd drive, after a sluggish 41 minutes, scored their first points of the Super Bowl, with Greg the Leg (Legatron) kicking a 53 yard field goal.

It seemed that the Rams had gained the momentum and after looking at the benches it was clear that the overall team morale had increased.

However, what Tom Brady has shown us after countless years of victories and comebacks is that you should never sleep on him. After three punts in a row, the Patriots were determined to get the ball back and do something with it. After an offensive penalty on J. Sullivan for offensive holding, the Rams found themselves in a sticky situation on their own 33 yard line. Even worse, Todd Gurley’s 15 yard run would count for nothing. The next play, on 1st and 20, Jonathan Jones, a cornerback for the Patriots, tackled Goff, who was scrambling at the time, for a loss of 2 yards. What followed was a 39 yard punt by Johnny Hekker, giving the ball to the Patriots on their 31 yard line.

It was Brady time. Tom Brady was relentless, picking apart the Rams defense and making chunk plays as if there was no defense at all. He went 4/4 on the Drive, throwing for 67 yards to three different receivers. During this drive a play occured that could be considered the offensive play of the match, as Tom Brady threw a deep left bomb to Rob Gronkowski for 29 yards. Gronkowski, who had been limited throughout the whole game, came up big for the Patriots this drive, catching 2 passes for 47 yards, bringing them to the Rams 2 yard line. The drive resulted in Sony Michel running up behind the left tackle for a 2 yard touchdown run.

With the Rams down by a touchdown with only 7 minutes left in the game, the levels of tension rose exponentially and fans had their eyes glued to the screen. It was finally a Super Bowl.

The Rams started on their own 25 yard line, and managed to move down the field all the way to the Patriots 27 yard line in 5 plays. The Rams offense finally looked normal, they played in this one drive how they played the entire season. Goff completed 3 of his 4 throws for 47 yards. However, what seemed like a spectacular drive was stopped short by Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore. As Goff threw a deep pass to the right side of the field that was intended for Brandin Cooks, a former Patriots player, Gilmore managed to intercept the ball at the Patriots 4 yard line. This was a game-changing play, possibly even the defensive play of the game. All the momentum that Jared Goff and the Rams carried with them in their most successful offensive drive was stolen away by Gilmore and stomped into the dirt.

As the Rams slowly walked to their benches with their heads hanging low, the Patriots team erupted in cheers and celebration. With 4 minutes left in the game, all Tom Brady had to do was waste as much time as he could. Through the use of short pass plays and running the ball with Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead, the Patriots moved up the field and made it all the way to the Rams 24 yard line. Here, Gostkowski attempted and made a 41 yard field goal to seal the game.

The Super Bowl ended 13-3, and although there was not much action in the first three quarters, the last 10 minutes did have viewers on the edge of their seats. Tom Brady finished with 21 passes completed out of 35 attempts for 262 yards, and a passer rating of 71.4. Jared Goff on the other hand, went 19 of 38 and threw for 229 yards, and finished with a paser rating of 57.9. The star receivers of both teams played well, with Edelman catching 10 passes for 141 yards and Brandin Cooks catching 8 passes for 120 yards. One of the more surprising statistics was the Rams lack of rushing yards. As the Rams were a very potent offense that depended on their run game, it was disappointing to see that Gurley had only 10 carries for 35 yards. However, rookie Sony Michel showed promise for the future as he ended the game with 18 carries for 94 yards, and scored the only touchdown in the whole match.

With the Patriots 6th Super Bowl win under Tom Brady, many analysts consider this franchise to be one of the greatest and most successful in sports history. Furthermore, the Patriots climbed to the ranks of most Super Bowls won, tying with the Pittsburgh Steelers at 6.

With a sullen face, Jared Goff had a lot to say during the postgame press conference. When asked about how he felt about losing, he simply stated, “It kills, kills… and it hurts”. Goff expressed his disappointment in how the offense played, saying that they didn’t hold up their end of the bargain, and was proud of his defense for playing well.

Tom Brady’s postgame press conference, however, had a completely different atmosphere. His leadership and experience was evident as he did not fail to congratulate and praise Julian Edelman’s excellent performance. When asked about what he thought of Edelman’s performance he stated, “He played the best game he has all year… So proud of him, what he’s accomplished, coming back from his ACL… he grinded out like everyone else. He’s a fighter, man, I’m just so proud of him, he’s been an incredible player for this team”

After Super Bowl LIII ended with the blue, red, and white confetti falling through the air, the question of experience versus firepower has been answered. Experience has claimed victory this year. As Tom Brady and Belichick have been a dominant football force for so long, it’s hard to predict what teams will rise up in the 2019-2020 season to overtake the tyranny and establish their own, dominant rule over football.