Patriots Defense Shuts Down Rams to Clinch Super Bowl LIII Win
When a contest features two of the top five offenses in the National Football League, one would think that offensive fireworks were going to be on display, but Super Bowl LIII proved to be anything but an offensive showcase. The two defenses ruled the day, as the two teams combined for the fewest points scored in Super Bowl history and the New England Patriots stifled the Los Angeles Rams, 13-3. The win was the sixth title for the Patriots, tying them with the Pittsburgh Steelers for the most in NFL history.
This was a game that truly showcased the brilliance of New England Head Coach Bill Belichick, who confused and frustrated Rams quarterback Jared Goff all night with a series of well-timed blitzes and disguised coverages. That proved to be no more true than on the most pivotal play of the game, which almost all but secured the Patriots victory.
The first quarter would see the New England Patriots move the ball, but come away empty-handed. Their first drive moved into Rams territory before quarterback Tom Brady was picked off. On their next possession, New England would reach the Los Angeles 28 yard line. Stephen Gostkowski would attempt a 46 yard field goal, which sailed wide left, making him the first kicker to miss a field goal attempt in Mercedes-Benz Stadium this season.
While the Patriots were unable to get on the scoreboard, the Rams were simply unable to move the ball. Through their first three possessions, Los Angeles had run a total of 11 plays for 32 yards with just one first down.
In the second quarter, the New England Patriots would finally get on the board. Gostkowski made up for his earlier miss by drilling a 42 yard field goal to make it 3-0. Ironically, that would be the only points of the half, making it the lowest scoring first half in Super Bowl history.
The Los Angeles offense had punted on their first eight possessions of the game, as the New England defense shut down the vaunted Rams running attack while confusing Goff. However, on their ninth possession, Los Angeles would finally get on the board when Greg Zuerlein kicked a 53 yard field goal to tie the score at three. The 53 yarder was the longest successful kick in Super Bowl history.
The game headed to the final frame tied at three, setting another Super Bowl record as this was the first championship game where a touchdown had not been scored through the first three quarters. The six total points was also the lowest total through three frames in the Super Bowl era.
The Rams began the quarter with the ball at their own seven. They were having success moving the chains, reaching their own 40 before being forced to punt.
That gave New England the ball at their own 31 and they would not be stopped this time. Brady began the drive with an 18 yard strike to tight end Rob Gronkowski, and would then hit Julian Edelman for 13 yards on the next play, moving to the Rams 38. Two plays later, Brady dropped a perfect touch pass down the left sideline to Gronkowski, who hauled the ball in before being tackled at the two. One play later, rookie Sony Michel burst through the line for his sixth touchdown run of the post-season to give the Patriots a 10-3 lead.
The Rams looked like they would respond right away. Starting from their own 25, Goff caught fire, connecting for a 19 yard pass play to Brandin Cooks before finding Josh Reynolds on a third and 9 for 11 yards and a first down to the New England 44. Goff then found receiver Robert Woods over the middle, who would reach the New England 27.
That is when All-Pro cornerback Stephon Gilmore made back-to-back plays against the Rams top receiver to save the day. With it first and 10, Goff looked for Cooks in the end zone, dropping a perfect pass to the receiver, but Gilmore was able to strip the ball out of the receiver’s hands before he came down.
On second and 10, it was time for a classic Belichick move. The New England Head Coach dialed up a blitz, as a Patriot defender came through the line unabated. Goff tried to make a big play, hurling the ball up toward Cooks who was heading toward the end zone. However, Gilmore read the play perfectly, stopping while positioning himself to make the interception.
The Patriots would take over with 4:17 left in the game and the ball at their own five. On second and 9, Michel broke free, gaining 26 yards for a first down. New England would move to the Los Angeles 29 where it was first and 10. That is when the most foolish coaching decision in years was made by Rams head coach Sean McVay. The Patriots would rush for four yards, but would receive an illegal hands to face penalty. McVay opted to decline the penalty, making it an almost sure field goal for Gostkowski, who connected on a 41 yarder with 1:16 left in the game.
That put the Rams down by 10 with 76 precious seconds to go. Los Angeles would move to the New England 30 with eight seconds left, hoping they could get a field goal and two miracle plays, but Zuerlein’s 48 yard attempt sailed wide left and the Patriots would go onto win 13-3.
The 16 points was the fewest scored in a Super Bowl. Brady completed 21 of 35 passes for 262 yards with no touchdowns. Michel had 18 carries for 94 yards and the only touchdown of the game. Edelman was named the MVP of the contest after making 10 catches for 141 yards.
The New England Patriots defense held the Rams to just 260 total yards of offense. Dont’a Hightower sacked Goff twice as New England recorded four total sacks. Jonathan Jones led the Patriots in tackles with six, including a sack.