For the fourth time in five years, the New England Patriots earned the opportunity to capture yet another Lombardi trophy.
Their opponent, fittingly enough, was the same Rams franchise that on the same date 17 years earlier, the Patriots defeated for their first championship.
Check out all the highlights from social media during Super Bowl LIII below.
For the eighth time in the last nine Patriots Super Bowls, the team was held scoreless in the first quarter. 0-0 after one.
A Stehpen Gostkowski field goal gave the Patriots a 3-lead at the half in a surprise defensive battle between both teams.
A Greg Zuerlein 53 Yd Field Goal knotted the game at 3-3 late in the third, but the Patriots defense continued its domination of the Rams.
With the game still tied at three with seven left in the 4th quarter, the Patriots offense at last put together the first (and only) touchdown drive of the game.
Leading by ten with under five to play, the Rams appeared to be in position to tie the game.
Stephon Gilmore had other plans.
The interception by Gilmore led to a Patriots Super Bowl clinching drive when Stephen Gostkowski redeemed his first quarter miss with a 41 yard Field Goal to push the lead to seal a 13-3 championship win.
For the sixth time since 2001, the Patriots were Super Bowl champions.
As the Patriots took the field for pre-game introductions, WR Julian Edelman led them out in a full sprint. He leaped in the air and pumped his fist at the end of his sprint, clearly fired up to be back from a torn ACL that sidelined him in 2017.
In the second, Redskins quarterback Colt McCoy continued his hot start, and Washington added to their lead. 17-0 midway through the quarter.
Nice release and widening of the route by Cam Simms to work into the C2 hole between CB and safety. Great ball by McCoy to hit that hole. Simms then breaks a tackle to turn it into a huge gain. #Redskinspic.twitter.com/DU5X6BueKu
With the clock winding down on the first half, backup quarterback Brian Hoyer finally found rhythm and the Patriots got on the board heading into the half following a 52 yard Stephen Gostkowski field goal. 17-3 Washington.
Brian Hoyer on that drive: 3/3 (100%) 56yds Points Scored: 3
In the fourth quarter the Patriots still found themselves trailing by seven, but newly signed wideout Cordarrelle Patterson hauled in his highlight catch to put the patriot in position to tie the game.
The wait is nearly over as the Patriots head into training camp tomorrow. NFL Football is back among us until February, and not a moment too soon.
The Patriots offseason has been mired in innuendo, speculation, with an almost soap opera-like aura that seems more like “keeping up with the Kardashians” than the Patriot Way. So now we can fill the airwaves of football talk again.
There should be no shortage of competition at a number of spots. But for our final position there shouldn’t be a lot of movement at the key spots. We’re on to the Special Teams.
So, with that in mind who is locked in and who is on the bubble?
Roster Locks- Stephen Gostkowski, Joe Cardona,
The team brought in no competition for their kicker and long snapper which speaks volumes in the confidence they have in both.
Gostkowski had a nice comeback season in 2017 in the kicking game. He was good on 92.5 percent of his field goals, hitting on 37 of 40 attempts including going 4 – 4 on attempts over 50 yards including career-long 62-yarder against the Raiders.
Gostkowski continues to be outstanding with his kickoffs. The Patriots were very good at pinning opponents back inside their 25-yard line or better during the season with the changes to the touchback rule. And Gostkowski had that developed into an art form, angling his kicks on one side of the field near the corner of the end zone. Opponents drives average start was their 24 yard line, the best in the NFL.
Cardona has been a solid accurate long-snapper since entering the league. A testament to his prowess is that you very, very rarely hear his name called in a game. Which means his snaps on field goals, extra points and punts are usually spot on. He’s done a terrific job of balancing his job with the Patriots and his duties as a Naval Officer which isn’t an easy task as well.
Facing no camp competition again this year, Gostkowski and Cardona need only worrying themselves to be ready to go for the season opener.
On the Bubble: Ryan Allen, Corey Bojorquez
Allen is facing competition for the first time in his tenure since besting Zoltan Mesko in the 2013. And while his punting average has gone down each year for the past three years, he has actually become more effective at pinning opponents inside the 20-yard line.
Rewind to the 2nd half of the AFC Championship Game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Allen pinned the Jags offense inside the 10-yard line three times in the second half, flipping field position for the Patriots and having a big role in the comeback victory to send the team on to the Super Bowl.
But he’s in the last year of his contract, and this is something we’ve seen before with the Patriots, Bill Belichick will change things up every few years with his punters. We’ve seen Ken Walter, Josh Miller, Chris Hanson and Mesko, who lost his job to Allen. He’s been here five years but faces serious competition for the first time.
Bojorquez is another left-footed punter from New Mexico. Last season for the Lobos, he punted 67 times with an average of 47.3 yards, so he has a tremendously strong leg. He had 12 of those turn into touchbacks, which will need to be remedied. But despite his average, 25 of his punts were fair caught by the opposition which speaks highly of the amount of hang time.
We were witnesses to that during June’s minicamp. Bojorquez was absolutely booming the ball with incredible hang time. One punt which went well over 50 yards, hung up so long, punt returner Riley McCarron would have been forced to fair catch the ball during a game.
This should be a fantastic competition, while Bojorquez has the edge on leg strength and distance, Allen’s directional punting and consistency gives him the nod there. This should be fun to watch.
The Patriots place a premium on players who excel on Special Teams among them Matthew Slater, Brandon Bolden, Nate Ebner, Brandon King, Geneo Grissom, Nicholas Grigsby among others. Those players were listed elsewhere as positional players but are truly more special team’s aces than offensive or defensive players.
Ebner in particular was missed for his expertise as the personal protector on punts after he went on IR last year.
Some of the new players or ones returning from injury are also special teams mavens such as Cordarrelle Patterson, who besides being the NFL’s best kick returner, is a very good gunner. Marquis Flowers was brought over last season for his STs experience but parlayed that into a role on defense as well.
What it means is that these players will be fighting for their roster spots every day as well as the positional players. Keep an eye on the kickoff and punt coverage units during training camp. Because those positions will ultimately tell the tale for some of the bottom of the roster players who will either make the team or be released. Bill Belichick and ST’s coach Joe Judge will have some interesting decisions to make.
With training camp just days away, our look at the 90-man roster is nearly complete. We’ve looked at the different positions on offense and most of the defense.
So next up is the Patriots’ safety position. The team has been fortunate to have had no turnover in the safety position and return the top three players who are ostensibly starters in their own right.
The team normally carries a few safeties as special teamers and this year will be no exception. Last season the team began with five safeties on the roster. So, with that in mind who is locked in and who is on the bubble?
Roster Locks: Devin McCourty, Pat Chung, Duron Harmon, Nate Ebner
The team is in very good shape at safety to start the season as they have all three starters returning for 2018. McCourty is an excellent free safety and makes all the calls for the secondary as the quarterback back there. He’s a team captain and a leader, on and off the field.
Not only is he always in the right position but he ensures everyone else is too on the field. He’s like having an extra coach on the field. He’s become a much more vocal presence on the field as one of the captains and is a leader on and off the field.
Chung has been a totally different player in his second stint with the Patriots. The coaches play him close to the line of scrimmage in the box where he’s much more effective. He outstanding in run support, and like everyone else in the secondary, is a good tackler and is rarely out of position.
He’s physical and does a pretty good job of covering backs out of the backfield and tight ends close to the line of scrimmage. He’s a solid locker room guy and seems to be a popular teammate while being another quiet leader.
Harmon is essentially a starter with the number of snaps he plays and he has a tremendous nose for the football. A few of his big plays that come to mind are the interception to seal the deal against Baltimore in the playoffs and the one to close out the close win in Pittsburgh a year ago. Harmon allows the Patriots to move McCourty around in the big nickel defense. He’s always making big plays at key times and is a very trusted player on the defense.
If McCourty were to miss any time with an injury, Harmon can be relied on to step in and do the job. Would he be able to make all the calls? That’s a question that we don’t know yet, but he’s another valuable piece of the defense.
Ebner is coming off of a serious injury where he was placed on IR, however, he was re-signed to a two-year, $5 million dollar deal this spring, so he’s not going anywhere. He’s more of an STs ace than a safety, however.
On the Bubble: David Jones, Jordan Richards
The Patriots signed UDFA safety Jones from Richmond last year and he has very good size for a strong safety at 6’3, 210 pounds to be a backup and eventual replacement for Pat Chung. He stuck on the practice squad last year, he saw almost 50 percent of the snaps in preseason and was a Patriots practice player of the week six times in 2017.
Jones is athletic for a big man and returned kicks and punts in college and got some work in the return game last year. But he missed all of the spring with an unspecified injury so we’ll have to see if he’s healthy once camp begins.
Richards continues to be unimpressive when he’s asked to play defense. After being a high draft pick (2nd Round, 64th overall) in the 2015 NFL Draft, he barely played defense in his first two years, and after a disastrous preseason in 2017, it was a surprise to not only see him make the roster but play significant snaps on defense. And the results were not good.
He’s very stiff in his change of direction and takes horrible angles. Despite being a very solid locker room guy and very good on STs, his spot has to be tenuous after the showing he had in 2017. If Jones or Travis (below) can show the same STs ability, they could get the nod.
Outside Looking In… Long Shots: Damarius Travis
The Patriots signed Travis as a UDFA and he’s an in-the-box safety. He has very good size at 6’2, 210 but he too is a bit stiff in his ability to change direction at the NFL level. He does a very good job against the run and is considered a high character player and person. He does, however, have excellent special teams’ ability.
So it should be noted that Jones, Richards and Travis are essentially playing for one roster spot unless they decide to bring in another player.
Even Super Bowl champions have their star struck moments.
On Instagram Wednesday night, New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman shared a photograph of himself and special teamer Nate Ebner with musician Justin Timberlake who was performing at Boston’s TD Garden.
Timberlake has crossed paths with the Patriots on a few occasions over the years, performing the halftime show at two of their Super Bowl appearances.
Harrison Is Another Bama Safety Destined For Big Things
As the 2018 NFL Draft draws closer we’ll profile some of the players that may be on the Patriots radar or that we feel would be a great fit.
The Patriots are set at Safety with all three starters returning in Devin McCourty, Pat Chung and Duron Harmon. We say starting because all three play enough snaps to be considered starters. But in August both McCourty and Chung will turn 31(13th and 19th respectively) and it isn’t too soon for the Patriots to begin looking for possible prospects as replacements.
Alabama is a place where Bill Belichick’s buddy Nick Saban cranks out NFL ready players, especially on their defense. In recent years the Crimson Tide has produced Eddie Jackson, Clinton Ha-Ha Dix, and Landon Collins to make their mark on the Pros.
This season’s crop has two that should be gone off the draft boards by the 2nd round. The Patriots have a thing about selecting safeties early in the draft and with Harmon facing possible discipline from the league over a recent incident in Costa Rica, they could be in the market again. Although they have three other safeties in Nate Ebner, Brandon King, and Jordan Richards, Ebner and King are special teamers and Richards has filled in at safety but not very well (see Super Bowl LII). David Jones is on the practice squad.
Ronnie Harrison from Alabama is another excellent safety from the Crimson Tide program. He possesses great size (6’3, 216) and speed. Harrison was a high school quarterback, so he understands well what the offense is trying to do. He is versatile and has played both safety spots but he’s a better fit as the strong safety in the box due to his issues with the changing of direction and range. But as an overall safety? There are few better in the country.
He has plenty of physicality, athleticism and good instincts to be an impact player on Day 1. Bama moved him around but he was at his best when they had him attacking the line of scrimmage. He does a great job of recognizing plays and attacking downhill.
He’s outstanding in run support, filling the holes quickly and a violent, punishing hitter in the trenches. He led the team with 74 tackles, (43 solos) and seven passes defensed with three interceptions.
Harrison has the size, speed and physicality to play the linebacker role in the Patriots “Big Nickel” defense as well as their in the box safety.
– Outstanding size and speed
– Excellent in run support
– Very good blitzer
– Physical, Competitive, versatile
– Can play a bit out of control
– Doesn’t always wrap up, goes for the big hit
– Range is good but not elite
What his Role Will Be:
Harrison could immediately vie for reps and let the coaches see what he can do. They’ll spell Chung and McCourty for a bit and let the rookie get his feet wet in the NFL. As we mentioned above, he could be used as the linebacker in the Patriots “big nickel” look on defense.
Will his Role Change from Year 1-2?
Yes, in Year 2 with a bit of experience, he could push Chung for his roster spot. Or perhaps Harmon.
How Many Downs Can He Play?
What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?
Harrison would be an immediate upgrade from Richards and he’d take over his STs duties as well
What is his ST Value?
He’d immediately become a core special teams guy with his athleticism and physicality.
Conclusion: NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein in his profile wrote that “Combination safety with all the size and athletic traits you could hope for in a safety. Harrison is a fluid athlete with few athletic limitations and has the ability to fit into a variety of defensive schemes. His penchant for flying in shoulder first will need to get cleaned or risk giving up missed tackles and big plays. Harrison’s physical approach and urgency in run support gives him a chance to start early, but his potential in coverage and athletic ability give him a chance to become a Pro Bowler.”
Harrison isn’t without a few issues that will need to be cleaned up. He doesn’t have great range or change of direction which could limit his use as a single high safety. He sometimes goes too much for the big hit and doesn’t wrap up which can result in a big play or broken tackle.
But as a strong safety in the box, he’s outstanding in run support and he’ll be just fine covering tight ends close to the line. He could easily gain another 5-10 pounds without any loss of speed and be the hybrid safety/linebacker the Patriots like to use in their big nickel packages. His physicality, and instincts are off the charts. By Year 2, he’ll be not only pushing for starter reps but could become an impact player on the defense.
While safety isn’t a position of need right now, the Patriots could find themselves in a dilemma. If Harrison is on the board, the team could be hard-pressed to pass him up. He is a potential Pro Bowler and will be a very solid player at the next level. Zierlein compared him to a young Adrian Wilson and that may be the best description of him yet.
Harrison’s highlight reel tape from Harris Highlights can be seen here:
His game against Colorado highlights from Felipe Vierra can be seen here:
The New England Patriots made their first official signing of 2018 Free Agency on Tuesday, bringing back safety and special teamer Nate Ebner on a two-year contract worth 5 million with $1.2 guaranteed. He can make $2.8 million in 2018 and $2.2 million in 2019 per the Boston Globe’s Ben Volin.
Ebner, a Patriot for his entire NFL career dating back to being drafted in the sixth round in 2012, had his 2017 season cut short in Week 12 following an ACL tear while recovering a fake punt.
Despite the 2017 setback, Ebner has been a reliable member to the teams special teams unit in his six seasons and has been viewed highly by head coach Bill Belichick.
In a Sports Illustrated article leading up to Super Bowl XLIX in January 2015, Belichick was quoted saying,“I would probably put him in the, not the all-time top, but maybe in the top-five percent all time of players that I’ve coached, from where they were in college to how they grew in the NFL.”
On Instagram Wednesday, Ebner shared his excitement towards the new contract.