10 Takeaways from Super Bowl LIII
I get it, casual football fan.
To you, I’m sure Super Bowl LIII was… boring.
I’m sorry the high-powered Rams offense and the Tom Brady-led Patriots couldn’t bring you the 74-point, 1000-yard offensive showcase that the Pats and Eagles did last year. And for the two squads this time around to manage only 16 points in the lowest scoring Super Bowl ever? It has to be a let down.
This game was WEIRD, man.
Even the halftime show was weird.
But hey, it was close the entire time except for the very end.
I mean, you know me. I’m only a LITTLE bit invested in it.
At 4:30pm (two hours before game time), I told my friend I could already feel my heart rate accelerating.
After Sony Michel scored in the fourth quarter to put the Patriots up 10-3, my heart rate did begin to decrease a little bit.
And as we speak, the Patriots are taking their victory parade through the streets of Boston.
They won their sixth Super Bowl championship on Sunday- weeks after I publicly wrote them off and declared them dead.
I whiffed. Like badly.
Man, six titles. The 99-day Boston sports drought is over. What a crazy ride this season was.
The Patriots established the run early, but Tom Brady’s second pass attempt of the game was intercepted. Fortunately for New England, they forced the Rams to punt.
And punt again.
Rams punter Johnny Hekker was busy in this game, punting on the Rams first eight possessions. It was just up to the Patriots to capitalize on the Rams not being able to do anything with the ball.
They didn’t do themselves any favors when Stephen Gostkowski missed a field goal in the first quarter on New England’s second drive of the game.
But after the teams traded punts for three possessions, Gostkowski finally connected on a 42-yard field goal. 3-0, New England.
It would stay that way heading into halftime.
The halftime show was… underwhelming. We’ll talk about that later.
In the second half, it was more of the same. Just when it seemed like both offenses were about to get something going, the opposing defense would make a stop. Through the first half, the Rams (who had the second-ranked offense in football) managed only 57 yards.
LA nearly managed to break through in the third quarter, though. Brandin Cooks beat Stephon Gilmore and was left all alone in the end zone, and Jared Goff’s pass looked like it might put the Rams ahead. But Jason McCourty made an excellent recovery, and knocked the ball out of Cooks’ hands before he was able to maintain control. The Rams had to settle for a field goal,
and Greg Zuerlein connected on a 53-yard field goal, capping off a 10-play, 42-yard drive that tied the game at 3 heading into the fourth quarter.
It was from there that Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels made some slight adjustments that almost immediately yielded results. The teams traded punts before the Patriots got the ball on their own 31.
Tom Brady hit Rob Gronkowski for 18 yards, then Julian Edelman for 13 yards. He hit Rex Burkhead with a short pass for 7, putting the ball at the Los Angeles 31. On the next play, Brady went back to Gronkowski, completing a pass for 29 yards that put the Patriots in the red zone for the first time.
Sony Michel punched it in from the 2, finally scoring the game’s first touchdown.
On the very next possession, Jared Goff threw off his back foot toward the end zone intended for Cooks. This time, Gilmore stuck with his man, and intercepted the underthrown ball.
9 plays and 72 yards later, all of them coming on the ground, Gostkowski nailed a 41-yard field goal, and that would prove to be all she wrote.
In a game that was supposed to be a Super Bowl shootout, it was the defenses of the two teams that ultimately claimed the day.
Julian Edelman was named the game’s MVP, as he was the most productive offensive player, with 10 catches for over 140 yards.
Bill Belichick became the oldest coach, at 66, to win a Super Bowl. Tom Brady became the oldest quarterback, at 41, to win a Super Bowl.
Despite the lack of scoring, there’s a lot to unpack here. Here are my ten immediate reactions to the game.
1. Patriots MVP- Bill Belichick.
This win was an important notch in Bill Belichick’s belt. With no outstanding players (at least not overtly), it came down to the coach’s game plan that made the difference. The defensive scheme work time and time again confused Jared Goff, to the point where you could see his uneasiness creeping in on him as the game wore on. From changing defensive plays inside 15 seconds on the play clock, to keeping constant pressure on Jared Goff and shutting down the running game, Belichick’s defensive mastery harkens back to Patriots victories like that in Super Bowl XXXVI, where they held the “Greatest Show on Turf” to 17 points while forcing three turnovers, and multiple AFC playoff games, against Peyton Manning and the Colts (2005, when the Pats held the league’s best offense to 276 yards and 3 points), and Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs in this season’s most recent AFC Championship game. Much like the Red Sox under the direction of Alex Cora, Bill Belichick showed us why he is the best coach in all of football with his preparation and proper execution.
2. Rams MVP- Johnny Hekker. I guess.
If you can him an MVP. Hekker did a lot of work in the game, punting 9 times. He also set the record for the longest punt in Super Bowl history at 65 yards. But aside from that, the Patriots’ scoring drives came on punts that landed outside the New England 20 yard line. Honestly, it could have been the Rams defense for keeping the Patriots to 13 points. It could have been, but they lost. Last time I checked, losing teams don’t have MVPs.
3. In a season dominated by offense, this Super Bowl showed us that defense hasn’t gone away.
I think this season spoiled us. I think players like Patrick Mahomes have spoiled us. Not to put this all on the 2018 NFL MVP, but he did throw for 50 touchdown passes this season, and his Chiefs were lighting up opposing defenses. And when we saw a 54-51 instant classic between the Rams and Chiefs on a Monday night (or even a 43-40 game between the Chiefs and Patriots), everyone assumed that this offensive gun show was just the new way of the NFL now, that defenses were becoming obsolete because teams with great offenses could score pretty much at well. Take a look at coaches like Sean McVay, even. He’s young, pretty (that has nothing to do with it but his physical appearance was a main talking point at my Super Bowl party), and has a great football mind. He’s made headlines with his near-photographic memory. It’s flashy, it’s new, and because the new kid was successful in such a high-profile, exciting way, we all thought the league was turning into the high-powered offense show. This Super Bowl showed us that defense still wins championships. The Patriots’ defensive unit, a squad devoid of a real A-list star, played cohesively and dominated. The Rams didn’t run a single play inside the red zone. High-powered offense, who?
4. The blame for the Rams offensive ineptitude can be placed on Jared Goff...
The guy looked like a deer in the headlights. What stood out to me is his obvious unraveling as the game progressed. On the Rams’ first drive, Goff was flushed out of the pocket, then slyly got rid of the ball, throwing it away before stepping out of bounds. On a play in the 2nd quarter, on 3rd down, he was flushed out of the pocket once again, pressured by three Patriot defenders. Rather than chucking the ball away, he took a 14-yard sack, sinking to his knees in what looked like total defeat and concession to the play. The Patriots would change their defensive plays inside the 15-second mark on the play clock and Goff had no idea what to do. Now, it is not Jared Goff’s fault that his pass intended for Brandin Cooks (that should have put the Rams ahead) was knocked away by Jason McCourty. McCourty made an excellent defensive play. But the Gilmore interception in the fourth to ice the game was absolutely his fault. It was a terrible throw, on the run, off his back foot, and under thrown. Goff’s a good player, but he didn’t look ready for prime time in this game.
5. But the real blame deserves to be placed on Sean McVay. He’s not as smart as we think he is.
I feel like the Rams spent so much time on defense trying to contain Tom Brady and the Patriots offense, that they completely forgot to develop their offense. It’s like they just thought that their offense was good enough and just kind of left it as-is to “play their game” against the Patriots. McVay got 100% outcoached in this game. He conceded that in his postgame speech; talking about “buzz sequences” and “quarters strategies” or “packages” or whatever. I’m convinced that he’s just using football jargon to make himself sound smarter than he actually is. I was so surprised that the Rams didn’t come out and try to catch the Patriots off guard with some no-huddle, or some more play action, or perhaps even running the ball on 3rd and short instead of trying to force the ball to your receivers that were being covered to no end, especially late in the game when it began to turn into a stalemate. It’s like McVay had this whole game plan developed, except he did it in reverse. They ran the ball early, and then we never heard from Todd Gurley again (I think he was hurt). 27 of the Rams’ plays went for zero or negative yards. He focused too much on defense and forgot to coach the offense. He could have made some adjustments and those never happened. When you play the Patriots, and especially in a high-stakes game like the Super Bowl, you better be ready to play a full 60-minute game that is constantly in motion. Bill Belichick would rather tell you nothing and make you think he’s stupid than try to prove he knows everything. Now, McVay is not a bad coach. But he’s got a lot of learning to do in order to be a truly great one. This time, the master is the victor, not the pupil.
6. The halftime show was hot garbage.
Again, if you were a casual fan, everything about the four-plus hours of game sucked. And that includes Maroon 5, Travis Scott, and Big Boi’s performances during the halftime show. Was there no one else, NFL? Have you really burnt bridges with every other big name performer that we had to listen to Maroon 5 sing “She Will Be Loved”??
This was probably the most bizarre group of performers ever assembled for a halftime show. Adam Levine looked like he was having the time of his life, clearly. And he just kept taking off clothes. Now, I’m not going to lie, I like Maroon 5. I don’t think they’re bad. But I just think they were a bad pick. And cramming Travis Scott and Big Boi (but not Andre)? This whole thing was a culmination of the NFL’s connection to the outside world. Bland and out of touch.
AND ANOTHER THING. Don’t show me Spongebob and then give me Travis Scott singing Sicko Mode. How DARE you.
7. Sony Michel has come into his own and I apologize for everything I’ve ever said about him.
Michel has been brilliant for the Patriots on ground in the latter half of the season. In this game alone, he rushed 18 times for 94 yards and a touchdown. But more than that, he’s turned into the sturdy, solid, every-down back the Patriots haven’t had since Corey Dillon was in the backfield.
My one qualm is that I wish his selection had been in a later round of the draft, but I am pleased to see Michel has blossomed into a good running back, and I hope the Patriots don’t screw it up with him in three years.
8. Tom Brady has at least one (or more) playoff runs left in him.
There is no “cliff.” Let me just say, first and foremost, that this “cliff” everyone wants Brady to fall off does not exist. He is not going to wake up one morning and suddenly be like Charles Barkley from Space Jam. The dude is a phenomenal athlete, and this season has shown me that he’s got the stuff to continue playing at a high level. Between the ages of 39 and 41, the guy has won two Super Bowls, and in the one he lost, he threw for 505 yards, which was a Super Bowl record.
It has never been about going out on top for Tom Brady. He will stop playing once he feels he is no longer able to. I think he wants another ring, another MVP, another passing record. He wants more. And the rest of the world is going to have to live with the fact that the man that Father Time forgot is going to be torching defenses for the foreseeable future.
9. The Patriots got hot at the right time.
In my funeral for the Patriots a few months ago, I said that I hoped that Bill Belichick hadn’t shown us the full potential of his team, and I think we saw that during this playoff run. It started with a dismantling of the Chargers, and then two great defensive showings against the Chiefs and Rams. Even after dismal months to open and close the season, they got the job done- even after everyone counted them out. Again.
I almost feel like Belichick could be recycling old game plans from his first go-around of Super Bowls: his teams aren’t fantastic on paper, but they play strong, hard-nosed football, and they’ll beat you on the ground as well as on the defensive side of the ball.
But whether Brady is throwing for 500 yards, or the defense gets 7 turnovers, what matters is that the Patriots were playing the best football at the right time. Their 18-1 season in 2007 showed us that it doesn’t matter how good you play in September. If you don’t play well in January and (especially) February, nobody cares. The Patriots played their best and smartest football when it mattered most. Love them or hate them, they earned this one.
10. You are a slave to the Super Bowl.
That’s right. Even if you have a negative opinion on the game. If you watched the game and found it boring and did nothing about it, you are a slave to the game.
Why were you still watching if the game was boring? Just turn it off. Don’t bitch about it on Facebook or Twitter about how boring it was, just turn it off! If you liked defense, that game was incredible. Just because it wasn’t another 41-33 game doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good game.
You can call it boring all you want. But you can’t stop watching. That’s the effect this game has on people- it will make you wait for things to get exciting. But don’t complain when you get let down by it. You chose to watch it, not the television.
Anything I missed? Tell me your thoughts from the Super Bowl! Leave a comment down below.
Don’t forget to check out my other Super Bowl article, the Top 10 Super Bowls of All Time, by clicking HERE.