ATLANTA — It wasn’t very super. Instead it was a verification of one of football’s oldest adages: You win on defense. Especially against team built on offense.
Especially against the youngest coach in the NFL, 33-year-old Sean McVay, and one of the youngest quarterbacks.
The New England Patriots didn’t so much beat the Los Angeles Rams Sunday night in Super Bowl LIII, they stuffed them, shut them down, locked them up, took away their high-scoring, Hollywood-style game that had people counting points and relishing possibilities.
But the Patriots, who struggled themselves in a game that belied all the offensive excitement of the 2018 NFL season, gave little and took just enough, defeating the Rams 13-3 to win their sixth Super Bowl.
“They discounted us in the beginning of the season,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said almost gleefully, “and we’re still here.”
If anybody dismissed the Pats’ chance of winning again and again, it may have been from wishful thinking, as well as the fact that Julian Edelman was suspended for PED use for the first four games of the regular season.
And wouldn’t you know it — and this must be some sort of embarrassment to the league — Edelman, with 10 catches for 141 yards, was named MVP of the Super Bowl?
But the real MVP is the crafty 66-year-old Belichick — who, with his assistants, devised the defensive plan that held the Rams to 260 total yards, and more importantly to only three points in what turned out to be the lowest scoring Super Bowl in history.
Yet if the game was a bit boring to the millions of TV viewers who expected high scoring and a passing battle between the Patriots' Tom Brady and Rams' 24-year-old Jared Goff, it was a delight to the Patriots fans who were the noisy majority of the crowd of 70,081 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
And to team owner Robert Kraft, who as we have learned is one of Donald Trump’s prime supporters — not that it has anything to do with constructing a football team that has become omnipotent.
“Two men are responsible,” said Kraft of a franchise that has been in the Super Bowl nine times and been champion two thirds of those times. “Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.”
Brady, the 41-year-old quarterback, threw an interception early on in a game that was 3-0 at halftime, the second lowest intermission score ever. (Back in the early years, the Steelers once led Minnesota 2-0 at halftime.)
In the fourth quarter, with the game still tied 3-3, Brady found his opening, connecting with Rob Gronkowski on a 27-yard pass play that put the ball at the Rams’ three. One play later, Sony Michel scored. Game.
Asked about Goff’s problems, McVay said, “Until I go back and watch the video I can’t say. I think the biggest thing is that the play selection really didn’t give him much of chance. I think it starts with me.”
Or with Belichick.
“They have done a good job with their stunts,” said McVay. ”They mixed it up. They played almost exclusively some man-coverage principles and decided to take away. It was a great game plan. There is no other way to say it. We got outcoached.”
Not exactly a surprise. Belichick now is recognized as the best coach of all time, ahead of Bill Walsh, ahead of Chuck Noll. Belichick is a no-nonsense sort. If you can’t perform, you’re gone. But he’s always coming up with a replacement.
“Our goal,” said Michel, who had the game’s only touchdown, “was to take control as the game progressed.”
Forget the game, and this one was forgettable. The Patriots have taken control of pro football. And as long as Brady and Belichick are around, it doesn’t appear they’ll be relinquishing that control for a long while.