Who could have predicted this: A Super Bowl featuring two of the NFL’s top offenses, in one of the highest scoring seasons in league history, turned into an historic defensive showdown.
In the end, New England’s defense held the upper hand, carrying the Patriots to a 13-3 victory. It’s the lowest-scoring Super Bowl in history, topping Super Bowl 7, when the Dolphins beat the Redskins 14-7.
It is the Patriots’ second Super Bowl title in three years and sixth title overall, all during the Brady-Belichick era. The Patriots are now tied with the Steelers for the most Super Bowl championships.
Patriots receiver Julian Edelman picked up the MVP award and Tom Brady ended up with OK stats (21-of-35 for 262 yards) but this night belonged to Dont’a Hightower, Stephon Gilmore and the rest of the Patriots defenders, who frustrated Rams quarterback Jared Goff, made Todd Gurley a non-factor, and made one big play after another.
Here are three takeaways from the latest Patriots Super Bowl victory.
Defenses ruled, and we shouldn’t be surprised
How thoroughly did the defenses dominate this game? Neither team ran a play in the red zone until midway through the fourth quarter. The Rams punted eight straight times at one point.
Given the defensive talent on both teams, maybe we should have seen this defensive battle coming.
The underrated Patriots defense pressured Goff all night and took running backs Gurley and C.J. Anderson out of the game. The pass rush sacked Goff four times, and the secondary was especially great in keeping receivers Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks under control. And when Goff did get the ball away, the Patriots defensive backs made plenty of big plays. Gilmore in particular made two consecutive game-saving plays with around 4 minutes remaining, first knocking away a potential touchdown pass to Cooks, and then picking off Goff.
Stephon Gilmore comes down with the big INT of Jared Goff.
On the other side, Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh, Dante Fowler and the rest of the Rams’ front seven made Brady look very average most of the night. They pressured him and made him rush his reads and throws. Even when Brady got the ball away, he took a beating, as on this encounter with two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year Donald.
Aaron Donald is the one who knocks pic.twitter.com/7lRrL0tK9M
So this didn’t turn into the scoring fest most fans expected — or might have preferred — but give the defenses their due.
The ‘Patriots Way’ still works, despite the drama
The Patriots are the greatest dynasty in U.S. sports history (apologies to the mid-century Yankees and the 1960s Celtics).
Much has been said and written about the “Patriots Way,” the team-first, machine-like approach that Belichick brought to New England. The approach has now reaped six Super Bowl wins.
It still works. This was supposed to be the season it showed cracks. Remember that report from January 2018, that claimed Brady, Belichick and team owner Robert Kraft were feuding behind the scenes over who deserved more credit for the Patriots’ success? And when the Patriots stumbled a bit during the season, naysayers used it as proof the dynasty was cooked.
That report and those thoughts seem ridiculous in retrospect. The Patriots are still fundamentally sound, execute plays, and minimize their mistakes. From a personnel standpoint, they exemplify the “team-first” approach. You don’t see Patriots stars holding out for big contracts, or causing scenes. The Patriots don’t go out and sign big deals to bring in superstars who often bring a prima-dona attitude with them.
Perhaps no one exemplifies the Patriot Way better than Edelman. The 32-year-old veteran won MVP honors for the game after compiling 10 catches for 141 yards.
The Rams tried everything to stop Edelman, but he kept finding seams in the defense. And he racked up some big yards after the catch, as on this key play late in the game.
Julian Edelman has 8 catches for 120 yards.
Robert Woods leads the Rams with 2 catches for 25 yards. pic.twitter.com/u2BYeDFIDf
Edelman is not flashy. Like most Patriots not named Tom Brady, he doesn’t put up gaudy statistics. All he does is get open and catch passes. That proved to be a particularly useful skill in the Super Bowl.
Despite rumors of its demise, the Patriot Way rolls on into 2020, alive and well.
We haven’t heard the last of Sean McVay and this Rams team
The Rams came into this game as the most disrespected conference champion in recent memory. Despite their fine performance this season, many fans and critics thought the Saints were more deserving of a Super Bowl appearance given that controversial no-call in the NFC championship.
But while the Rams came out on the short end of this score, they have the cornerstones of a dynasty in place. Goff was criticized at times this season, and didn’t have his best game in the Super Bowl, but credit the Patriots’ defense for holding him in check. He finished 19-of-38 for 229 yards and that key interception by Gilmore. Gurley is arguably the NFL’s best running back when healthy, and the offensive line ranks near the top of the league. The defense’s performance speaks for itself. When you hold Brady and the Patriots to three points for 53 minutes in a Super Bowl, you’ve made a huge statement.
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Coach Sean McVay has all the pieces to make it back to the big game next year. It’s worth noting the Rams became only the second team in Super Bowl history not to score a touchdown. The Miami Dolphins were the first such team, way back in Super Bowl 6. The next season, of course, the Dolphins won the Super Bowl to finish a perfect 17-0 season.
This is obviously not to say the Rams will be that dominant next season. Yet it’s been said that sometimes a team has to make a championship game before it’s ready to win one. Bottom line: Don’t be surprised to see the Rams make a return appearance next year.
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