Super Pats stifle the Rams to win their sixth title!

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I’m not sure that most fans or casual viewers were expecting a defensive slugfest when they tuned into Super Bowl LIII, but that ‘s what we got yesterday, as the Patriots prevailed 13-3 over the Los Angeles Rams (15-4) to win the Super Bowl for the sixth time in the last seventeen years. Although points were at a premium in this game, Julian Edelman capped off his impressive postseason with a performance that earned him the Super Bowl MVP Award.

Here are some takeaways from Super Bowl LIII.

1. Defense wins championships!

As most Patriots fans lament, the New England defense was the weak link the last time the team was in the Super Bowl, as they didn’t have an answer for Nick Foles or the Philadelphia Eagles who dropped 41 points on them. Following that dreadful performance, not much was expected of the defense, with most people overlooking them throughout the season and also leading up to this game, as pundits felt that the Rams had the edge against Bill Belichick’s defensive unit. That was not the case last night, as the raw physicality and ferociousness of the Pats’ defense sent the high-flying Rams crashing down to earth. Whenever Tom Brady and the offense struggled to finish off drives, the defense had their back, as they didn’t allow Jared Goff and the Rams to gain any sort of momentum.

Belichick and Brian Flores ensured that Goff would never be comfortable, as they consistently sent pressure after him which caused the young signal caller to either rush throws or absorb vicious hits. In total, the Pats sacked Goff 4 times and hit him an additional 12 times, with Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy playing a huge part. The Rams were one of the NFL’s best offenses due to a steady balance between their rushing and passing attacks which allowed them to either stretch the field with play action or punish their opponent with the speed and power of Todd Gurley. Neither facet of their identity was in play yesterday, as Gurley only got 11 touches, and Goff was forced to drop-back more times than he was accustomed to. This resulted in the Rams being shut out in the first half for the first time under Sean McVay.

In the second half, the Rams had a chance to take the lead, as Brandin Cooks was wide open in the end zone due to a busted coverage, but a second’s hesitation by Goff resulted in a wobbly ball that allowed Jason McCourty to cover 10 yards and dislodge the ball from Cooks’ hands. Later on in the fourth quarter, with the score at 10-3 in favor of the Patriots, the Rams were driving to tie the game, and Goff lofted a perfect pass to Cooks that was knocked out by Duron Harmon to save a touchdown. On the very next play, Harmon came on a safety blitz that caused Goff to panic and float a ball in the vicinity of Cooks that was picked off by Stephon Gilmore to all but seal the victory.

The game plan constructed by Belichick and Flores was absolutely remarkable, as it befuddled the normally impervious McVay, and knocked the Rams out of rhythm. As the Pats proved last night, defense wins championships.

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(Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports)

2. The offense was clutch when it mattered

As the final score indicates, the Patriots’ offense left a bunch of points on the field, as Wade Phillips’ defensive unit were able to consistently make stops in order to ensure that the Rams were in contention throughout the night. Tom Brady had a nightmarish start to his night, as his first pass was intercepted (due to a bad read on his part), which wiped out a promising opening drive that appeared to be destined for points. Julian Edelman (10 catches for 141 yards) was a consistent mismatch for the Patriots, as the Rams could not cover him regardless of who was on him, with Nickell Roby-Coleman and Aqib Talib being burnt on several occasions. Edelman was Brady’s security blanket throughout the night, and was especially clutch on third down.

In the fourth quarter, the Pats got the ball back with just under 10 minutes left, and Tom Brady relied on his old friends, Edelman and Rob Gronkowski, on a 5 play, 69 yard drive that helped the Patriots drive down the field. Gronk turned back the clock on this drive, as he first beat Samson Ebukam on a 18-yard catch and run, and he set up the Pats deep in the red zone with a diving 29-yard catch. On the very next play, Sony Michel pounded the ball in for the game’s only touchdown to give the Patriots a 10-3 lead that they would never relinquish.

I also feel that the penultimate possession by the Patriots was equally impressive, as they were able to use Gilmore’s interception to milk the clock. They rushed the ball from their own 4-yard line all the way to the Rams’ 24-yard line, with Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead leading the way to set up Stephen Gostkowski’s 41-yard field goal to make it a two possession game.

One of the headlines leading into this game was the matchup between the Rams defensive line and the Pats offensive line, who were amongst the NFL’s best at their respective positions. I think it’s fair to say that the Patriots’ offensive line performed much better than people expected, as the Rams only sacked Brady once (the first and only time he was sacked during the postseason) and hit him 4 times. The duo of Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh were limited to 2 combined QB hits.

Brady did look erratic at times and he was hardly his best self, but it is hard to deny that #12 and the rest of the offense were absolutely clutch when it counted.

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(Photo via Getty Images)

3. Special teams was remarkable!

Apart from Stephen Gostkowski’s missed field goal in the first quarter, the Pats’ special teams unit had an unblemished performance, with Ryan Allen constantly booting impressive punts that resulted in the Rams being pinned deep in their own territory. Matthew Slater also played a big role, as he was responsible for downing Allen’s punts and stopping punt returns before they could become deadly.

Gostkowski made up for his early miss with a late field goal that made it all but impossible for the Rams to mount a comeback.

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(Matt Rourke/AP)

Statistical Leaders:

Patriots

  • Passing: Tom Brady – 21/35 for 262 yards, and 1 interception
  • Rushing: Sony Michel – 18 carries for 94 yards, and 1 touchdown
  • Receiving: Julian Edelman – 10 catches for 141 yards
  • Defensive: Jonathan Jones – 8 tackles (including 1 sack)

Rams

  • Passing: Jared Goff – 19/38 for 229 yards, and 1 interception
  • Rushing: Todd Gurley II – 10 carries for 35 yards
  • Receiving: Brandin Cooks – 8 catches for 120 yards
  • Defensive: Cory Littleton – 10 tackles

 

What’s next?: The Patriots enter the offseason as champions, but will need to quickly turn their attention to the draft and free agency, as they may end up losing key contributors to either free agency or retirement. It will be interesting to see how this team looks during the 2019-20 season.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Pats may end up hosting the Chiefs, Steelers, Cowboys, or Browns for their season opener.

Bonus: Check out this sweet Disney World promo featuring Brady and Edelman!

 

 

Stunner in Pittsburgh!: Brady and the Pats capture Round 1 against Big Ben and the Steelers

What a game!

The Patriots absolutely shocked the Pittsburgh Steelers yesterday, coming back from an 8 point deficit in the final minutes of the fourth quarter, winning the game 27-24. The final minutes of the Week 15 contest featured several jaw-dropping plays, such as Rob Gronkowski’s remarkable catch in the red zone, or JuJu Smith-Schuster’s 69-yard catch and run. However, the most controversial play of the game came with 28 seconds left, when Ben Roethlisberger appeared to have thrown the game winning touchdown to his tight end, Jesse James. The play was overturned when the referees determined that James lost control of the ball while reaching across to the end zone. The referee’s interpretation of the NFL’s puzzling catch rule was deemed to be correct by CBS’ Tony Romo, and even ESPN, but still wasn’t enough to dispel the beliefs of fans who feel that the NFL is rigged in favor of the Patriots.

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(Photo by Jim Davis/Boston Globe)

Here are a few takeaways from yesterday’s wild game.

1. Never count out Tom Brady!

Stop me if you’ve heard this before… Tom Brady and his Patriot offense had no business winning this game, but still found a way to get it done when it truly mattered. This sounds familiar right? TB12 was not very good in the first 3 quarters of the game, resembling his uneven performances from the last 2 weeks. For a change, it appeared as if Pittsburgh’s defense had his number, as they constantly got after him, and made him very uncomfortable in the pocket. Brady even threw an interception in the third quarter, when he forced an ugly throw into coverage, which resulted in a defensive lineman picking him off. As NFL teams have learnt over the last 16 years, nothing is impossible for the Patriots when Tom Brady is under center. They may be down 25 in the second half, or be outplayed for the first 55 minutes of the game, but to beat the Patriots you have to play for 60 minutes, and keep #12 off the field. For over three and a half quarters it appeared as if Pittsburgh was going to succeed in doing those two things, but they unfortunately gave Brady enough time to take the lead in the waning moments of the game. Brady was surgical on New England’s final drive, connecting with Gronk on several key plays, which allowed the Patriots to drive 77 yards in just over 70 seconds. Brady’s clutch performance helped move the Patriots to the #1 seed in the AFC, and he will need to continue to play at this level for the Patriots to secure home-field advantage for the playoffs.

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(Photo by Nancy Lane/Boston Herald)

2. You just got Gronked!

Rob Gronkowski returned from his one-game suspension and continued his dominance over Pittsburgh’s secondary. Gronk recorded 9 catches for 168 yards (a new career high), and his impact was felt throughout the second half, with 135 yards in the last 30 minutes of the game. Gronk’s main contribution to the game came during the last drive, where he corralled 3 catches for 69 yards, including a breathtaking catch in the red zone. Gronk constantly beat Sean Davis on the drive, and helped extend the Pats’ lead to 3 with a clutch catch on a fade route for a two-point conversion. With #87 in the lineup, the Patriots can flip the switch at any given moment.

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(Photo from USA TODAY SPORTS)

3. The Patriots’ defense struggled, but managed to seal the game

If you tuned into the early stages of this game, you never would have thought that the Patriots’ defense would be able to stop Pittsburgh’s high-flying offense, as the Pats could not stop the Steelers on third down. Pittsburgh went 10-for-16 on third down in the game, allowing them to extend drives and tire out the Patriots. Le’veon Bell also had his way with the Patriots, as his patient running style got him 117 yards off 24 carries. New England was clearly on the ropes, but Pittsburgh simply could not knock them out. The Patriots were able to get two stops in the fourth quarter, enabling TB12 & Co. to score twice and take a 3 point lead. When JuJu Smith-Schuster was able to take a simple crossing route 69 yards to the 10 yard line, it seemed as if the Patriots’ luck had simply run out. This belief was exemplified when Jesse James appeared to score the game-winning touchdown. Even though the Patriots were aided by the reversed call, they did not become complacent, as they had key stops on both second and third down. On second down, they were able to tackle Darrius Heyward-Bey inbounds, and their stop on third down was even more remarkable. After the Heyward-Bey catch, it appeared as if Big Ben would simply spike the ball to allow for either a last ditch effort at the end zone, or a field goal to tie the game. Instead, he did a fake spike, and tried to force a ball to Eli Rogers in the end zone, which was deflected by Eric Rowe, and intercepted by the Patriots’ closer, Duron Harmon. The Patriots were able to win yesterday, but need to work on stopping the run, and getting off the field on third down, as it will make it much easier for them to win games in the future.

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(Photo by Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY SPORTS)