It wasn’t pretty, but the Patriots defense put together a stellar effort after shutting down the Rams and carrying New England to their sixth Super Bowl Championship on Sunday night.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady didn’t have his best game, but he came up big when it mattered most as the Patriots took care of Los Angeles in a 13-3 win, capping off what will likely go down as one of the more memorable seasons given how tough it was to get this one.
Here are some thoughts on this one.
1) It wasn’t Brady’s best, but he was clutch when he needed to be – Expect the offseason to be dominated by the talking heads who will likely dissect Tom Brady’s Super Bowl performance, likely trying to pour water on the quarterback’s championship outing.
Give the Rams credit. They were disruptive and made things tough, including on the Patriots first drive of the game after they had driven down to the Rams 34-yard line. Brady was picked off on his first pass attempt of the night after he tried to throw outside to Chris Hogan without seeing a defender step into his lane. Hogan tried to bat the football down, but it ended up in the hands of Nickell Robey-Coleman, who had talked trash all week about Brady leading up to this game.
Overall, Brady finished the game 21-of-35 (60%) for 262-yards and the interception, including just 1-of-4 on third down in the second half.
However, he was big in the fourth quarter, hitting 4 of his five 5 passes (80%), including a perfect 4-of-4 for 67-yards during their lone scoring drive of the night.
Tom Brady Final Stats:
Total: 21/35 (60%) 262yds 1 INT
1st: 7/10 (70%) 78yds
2nd: 8/14 (57.1%) 103yds 1INT
3rd: 6/10 (60%) 81yds
1st: 6/11 (54.5%) 84yds 1INT
2nd: 9/14 (64.3%) 76yds
3rd: 2/5 (40%) 35yds
4th: 4/5 (80%) 67yds
— PatsFans.com (@PatsFans) February 4, 2019
Say what you want, but this game resembled his original Championship run against the St Louis Rams where he did just enough to win the game in what was also a solid defensive performance by New England. The Rams have a terrific defense, but save for Brady’s one miscue, the Patriots were clearly the more poised offense in this one and it ended up ultimately being the reason why they walked away with their sixth Lombardi Trophy.
As a result, Brady became the only quarterback in NFL history to win his sixth career championship. It may not have been easy, but the win obviously counts regardless of the score, with the Patriots being the ones who found a way to win.
Fortunately, for the sixth time, Brady was also one of the reasons they managed to do just that.
Flowers and Hightower introduce themselves to Goff. (USA TODAY Images)
2) What an effort by New England’s defense – For a group that took a lot of heat for much of the season, the Patriots defense had played arguably their best game of the year two weeks ago out in Kansas City.
On Sunday night, they proved they were far from finished. They took things even further against the Rams in what was the most dominant performances we’ve seen in recent memory, pitching a near shutout in a game that could have easily been a blowout had the offense performed better.
They completely dominated the Rams in the first half, holding them to just 2 first downs as Los Angeles went 0-for-6 on third down and were shut out through the first two quarters.
During that time they made quarterback Jared Goff completely miserable, forcing him out of the pocket and sacking him twice, while also knocking him around. Goff finished the first half just 5-of-12 for 52-yards, with the Patriots holding the football for nearly 20-minutes.
Those problems continued in the third quarter where Goff completed just 4-of-9 for 43-yards and it wasn’t until the final two drives where Goff was trying to answer the 10 points the Patriots had added that he had any real success. However, after his second to last drive ended with an interception to Stephon Gilmore, it was simply too late.
One of the stats mentioned following this game was the fact the Rams failed to pick up a yard or lost yardage on 27 of their 60 offensive plays. Here’s how that breaks down:
1) Jared Goff – 19 Incompletions
2) Jared Goff – Sacked 4 Times
3) Todd Gurley – Was stopped for no gain on a carry in the 3rd quarter.
4) Todd Gurley – Had a reception for a 1-yard loss early in the 4th quarter.
5) C.J. Anderson was brought down for a 3-yard loss on a carry in the second quarter.
Overall, the Patriots also held the Rams to 3-of-13 on third down, with Goff completing just 3-of-10 over that span. For a group that had one of the highest-scoring offenses in the league, the Patriots made them look mediocre in front of a crowd that largely favored New England. Speaking of which…
3) The fans who were on hand were terrific – Considering all the problems this team has had away from Gillette Stadium at times this season, Sunday night allowed them to settle in as the crowd was clearly dominated by Patriots fans who were there to support the soon-to-be World Champions.
They were loud all night, with the crowd noise clearly audible in the broadcast. They seemingly helped force some pre-snap penalties and were deafening on multiple occasions on third down, including when the Rams were backed up in their own territory.
You couldn’t have asked for a better crowd. They were a big factor in key moments and the players commented after the game about how big of a difference they made.
Tom Brady with his daughter in his arms at the podium praises the fans: "The support here tonight was like a home game, we could have been at Gillette Stadium."
— PatsFans.com (@PatsFans) February 4, 2019
Most reports said that Patriots fans vastly outnumbered Rams fans 4-1, which considering how many of these this football team has been to, it’s truly impressive. As Brady said, it certainly sounded like they were at Gillette Stadium, so kudos to those who were there who helped make them feel right at home.
4) Another gem for Michel – Patriots running back Sony Michel put together another solid outing on Sunday night, albeit the Rams defense certainly made him work for it.
The rookie carried 17 times for 92 yards including the game’s only touchdown, but played a key role in the final quarter as he rushed for 41 of those yards, including a 26-yard gain with under 3-minutes left to play that helped set up Stephen Gostkowski’s game-clinching 41-yard field goal with 1:16 left to go in the contest.
While he may not have necessarily been the player people wanted when the Patriots took him in the first round before the season, there’s no denying that the rookie played a clear role in the team’s championship run. He’s been a difference-maker all season and he did a great job once again in a game where they certainly needed it most.
Michel finishes the postseason with 71 carries for 336-yards and a team-leading 6 touchdowns.
Losing Chung was tough Sunday night.
5) Big Loss in This one After Chung Went Down – Patriots Safety Patrick Chung ended up a casualty of this game after the safety suffered an apparent broken arm in this game.
Chung went down on just the third play of the third quarter after coming up to make a tackle on Rams running back Todd Gurley. He went down immediately after the play, screaming in pain and clearly frustrated with the realization his night was over.
Trainers came onto the field and put the veteran’s arm in an air cast and also brought the cart out to take him off the field. However, Chung refused to get on it, opting instead to walk off the field under his own power. He later returned to the sideline with his arm in a sling.
That left his duties in the hand of Duron Harmon, who stepped up and played well in his absence.
Best wishes to Chung, who has been terrific all season and is a big part of this defense. Fortunately, thanks to his team closing this one out, he was spotted after the game looking like he’ll be just fine.
Patrick Chung not feeling the pain. pic.twitter.com/o0uq6x5NUp
— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) February 4, 2019
6) Terrific night by McCourty – It’s hard to believe in preseason there were so many people wondering whether or not Jason McCourty would even make the team, let alone be a potential difference-maker in one of the most important games of the season.
McCourty came up huge late in the third quarter, coming in at the last minute in what appeared to be a blown coverage to knock the football away from a wide-open Brandon Cooks in the end zone.
It was a brilliant play and at the time it forced the Rams to have to eventually settle for a 53-yard field goal, which tied the game at 3-3 with 2:11 left to go in the quarter. Had Cooks caught the touchdown, the Rams would have had the lead and potentially the momentum, which obviously could have seen this game turn out differently.
It was great to see as McCourty has been a quiet contributor all season and Devin has mentioned repeatedly what an incredible experience it’s been for him to finally have the opportunity to play on an NFL team with his brother.
Given how the game ended and how that play turned out, Patriots fans are certainly glad Jason was a part of this as well.
7) Ryan an unsung hero – Thanks to what turned into a defensive battle, the punters each ended up with an expanded role Sunday night and it was clear that Allen proved to be an incredibly important asset in this football game.
Allen really had a great night. He helped the Patriots win the field position battle and forced the Rams into multiple occasions where they were forced to start the game inside their own 10-yard line.
Ryan and fellow special-teamer Matthew Slater pinned the Rams inside their own 10 three times on the night, forcing the Rams to have to try and drive the length of the field each time after New England’s secondary did a good job of preventing the big play. That played right into their hands as Goff simply couldn’t do it, leaving them to exchange punts with the Patriots until Brady and the offense finally wore down their defense and scored their 10 points in the final quarter.
One small note on Ryan, he had his Super Bowl record 64-yard punt taken away after Rams punter Johnny Hekker hit a 65-yard punt of his own Sunday night, snatching the accolade away from Ryan. Ryan will likely take it, since he now has yet another Super Bowl ring to help him get over it.
8) There was context behind Gostkowski’s miss – Finally, our thoughts go out to Stephen Gostkowski, with Mike Reiss reporting that the kicker lost his grandfather on Saturday night.
Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski played Super Bowl LIII with a heavy heart as his grandfather, William Klick, passed away Saturday night. Gostkowski wanted to dedicate his last kick to him. “He was the kindest, funniest man I knew,” he said. pic.twitter.com/5azPVCq6Hk
— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) February 4, 2019
That potentially adds context to the earlier first quarter miss by Gostkowski, who was clearly playing this one with a heavy heart and ended up pushing his first 46-yard field goal attempt of the night wide-left.
Fortunately, Gostkowski did manage to hit the most important kick of the game, after nailing the game-clinching field goal down the stretch, which made it a two-score game and put it out of reach and ruined any shot at a Rams comeback.
It was a huge kick, and it’s one of the big reasons why the Patriots will be bringing their sixth Lombardi Trophy back to New England this week.
Brady said after the game that he’s looking forward to going after another one in 2019. Expect the Patriots to make some additional personnel moves this offseason to hopefully make them even more dangerous as they begin building the group that will hopefully help him get there next season.