It’s all over and done with. The 2018-19 NFL season came to a ho-hum conclusion with the New England Patriots defeating the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII on Sunday evening in Atlanta.
All of the excitement that came with a two-week wait for the big game culminated in one of the lowest-scoring first halves in Super Bowl history. Struggles by both Tom Brady and Jared Goff gave way to a 3-0 halftime score.
When all was said and done in Atlanta on Sunday evening, New England came out on top by the score of 13-3. It’s a game that saw Sean McVay struggle big time calling plays against Bill Belichick and Co. And on the other side of the ball, the Patriots struggled to score until the final quarter of action.
Here are your biggest takeaways from New England’s sixth Super Bowl championship under the wizardry of Brady and Belichick.
Patriots dynasty continues
It wasn’t pretty at times. Tom Brady struggled to get things going before helping his team to 10 fourth quarter points. The likes of Rob Gronkowski, James White and Sony Michel were largely held in check. But when all was said and done Sunday night in Atlanta, Mr. Brady earned a record sixth Super Bowl title.
More than anything, it was the performance we saw from Bill Belichick, Brian Flores and the Patriots’ defense that made the difference here. But we still can’t take away just how dominant this team has been under the leadership of Tom Brady. He just continues to win at a clip we’ve never seen in the modern history of the NFL.
Stage was too big for Jared Goff
It’s something we focused on a ton in the lead up to Sunday’s big game. Was the stage in Atlanta going to be too big for this third-year quarterback? That question was answered early with the Rams putting up 57 total yards, two first downs and exactly zero points prior to halftime. For his part, Goff completed just 5-of-12 passes with 32 net passing yards in the first two quarters.
Goff did have his Rams driving late in the fourth quarter to potentially tie the game up. That’s when the young quarterback made a rookie mistake. He floated the ball up to Brandin Cooks in double coverage. All-Pro Patriots corner Stephon Gilmore intercepted it — pretty much ending the game in the process. Just a horrible all-around performance from Goff in the biggest game of his career.
Pats struggle to get James White involved
The AFC Championship Game saw this veteran running back come up with third-down conversation after third-down conversion on the ground. He also dominated to the tune of 15 catches for 97 yards in the AFC Divisional Playoffs win over the Los Angeles Chargers. Whether it was the Rams’ solid defensive scheme or something completely different, this didn’t take hold in the Super Bowl.
White caught just one pass out of the backfield and added four rushing yards in a surprisingly ineffective performance for the birthday boy. New England focused more on Julian Edelman creating mismatches underneath against the Rams’ defense. Even then, it was pretty surprising to see how little White was involved in this one.
Wade Phillips dials up amazing scheme
One of the most underrated stories heading into Super Bowl LIII was the brilliance of Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. His scheme worked perfectly against Dak Prescott in the divisional round — forcing the quarterback to beat his defense. Then, in the NFC Championship Game, Los Angeles’ defense pretty much shut down the Drew Brees and Michael Thomas connection.
What was apparent Sunday in Atlanta was that Phillips would force Tom Brady to dink-and-dunk his way down the field. Whether it was bracket coverage or taking away the boundary, Brady had a heck of a time driving the ball down the field. Los Angeles also dialed up a ton of pressure against a quarterback that had not been sacked in the postseason heading into Sunday’s game. Despite the loss, Phillips’ scheme proved extremely effective in this one.
It was just a bad football game
After two weeks of anticipation and story after story about the game, both the Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots disappointed us at every turn. As noted above, Jared Goff was downright horrible for the Rams. Equally as shocking, Tom Brady might have put up the worst performance of his playoff career. Dropped passes, penalties and missed opportunities defined the remainder of the game.
When all was said and done, New England came out on top by the score of 13-3 in one of the most brutal offensive showings in Super Bowl history. Sure we can say the defenses played well. They did. Both coordinators did their thing. Even then, the game itself might have been the most disappointing in NFL Playoff history. Can fans inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium get a refund? We’re asking for tens of thousands of fans.
Todd Gurley was a complete non-factor
A lot was made of Sean McVay’s lack of usage of this All-Pro running back in the conference championship game. Was Gurley still battling a knee injury that cost him the final two regular season games? If not, was something else going on? We still don’t have a complete answer to these two questions. What we do know is that Gurley was a non-factor in Super Bowl LIII.
After seeing one touch in the Rams’ first possession, Gurley didn’t see the ball until late in the second quarter. All said, the dynamic back put up 10 yards on three attempts in the first three quarters. He didn’t see a whole lot more action as the game progressed — tallying 35 yards on 10 attempts. We’re sure to find out here soon exactly what was going on behind the scenes with Gurley. But one thing is clear. His inability to make any real impact cost the Rams big time.
Where was Brandin Cooks?
It goes without saying that Cooks wanted to exact revenge against the team that traded him to the Rams less than a calendar year ago. That just didn’t come to fruition. Pats cornerback Stephon Gilmore played like the All-Pro that he is — holding Cooks to all of two catches in the first half alone.
When all was said and done, one of the Rams’ most expensive players came up absolutely small in the game’s grandest of stages. Two weeks after tallying 107 yards on seven catches against another former team, Cooks caught just 8-of-13 targets for 120 yards in the Rams’ loss. Most of that came with the game decided late in the final stanza. Prior to that, Cooks dropped what would have been a game-tying touchdown in the fourth quarter. Just brutal.
Tom Brady did not play well, period!
When it counted the most Sunday night, Mr. Brady came up big time en route to earning his record sixth Lombardi Trophy. But prior to the game-winning 60-yard touchdown drive in the four quarter, this future Hall of Famer struggled big time. It will be lost in the narrative because the Patriots came out on top. In no way does this mean it should be ignored.
Brady had issues getting the ball downfield to his receivers on a consistent basis. He struggled with the interior pressure Los Angeles was providing. In the end, the game’s best quarterback completed 21-of-35 passes for 262 yards without a touchdown in a ho-hum overall performance. Sure the Pats came out on top, but that had more to do with the team’s performance on defense.
The magic of Sean McVay fades
The 33-year-old McVay headed into Super Bowl Sunday as the talk of the NFL water cooler. What he had done with the Rams’ offense after replacing an ineffective Jeff Fisher in Los Angeles was nothing short of extraordinary. The team averaged nearly 33 points per game during the regular season. Jared Goff played stellar football until some late-season struggles.
Even then, we fully expected the Rams’ offense to show up Sunday evening in Atlanta. It did not happen. Los Angeles’ blocking scheme left a lot to be desired. McVay couldn’t get out of his own way calling plays — relying way too much on drop back passes from Goff. It resulted in the Rams scoring a grand total of three points in a performance that reminded us of the above-mentioned Fisher. Ouch!