The date was February 3. The New England Patriots shared the gridiron with a Rams team that many felt to be superior to them. Leading up to the game, a prevailing national narrative seemed to indicate that New England quarterback Tom Brady just might not have what it takes to lead his team to a Super Bowl title.
However, the Patriots were not to be denied a victory. When the national spotlight was at its brightest, the defense performed at its highest level. Brady led his offense on a late-game drive that would all but secure victory. Much like icing on a cake, their kicker delivered the final points of the night.
That is how the New England Patriots dynasty began. On February 3, 2002, in the Louisiana Superdome, the Patriots defeated the St. Louis Rams 20-17
Seventeen years later, that scenario once again played out, in similar fashion. On February 3, 2019, the New England Patriots won their sixth Super Bowl championship, defeating the Los Angeles Rams 13-3 at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia.
History repeated itself…and history is still being written.
Despite an ‘un-Tom Brady-like’ performance, the 41 year-old signal caller led a classic drive; capped by rookie Sony Michel’s 2-yard run with 7 minutes remaining. Brady, now the oldest starting quarterback to win a Super Bowl, completed four straight passes, including two to Rob Gronkowski totaling 47 yards. The second, on which the star tight end beat two defenders, ended at the Los Angeles 2. Michel would find the endzone for his sixth postseason touchdown.
Super Bowl LIII was the lowest-scoring in the history of the ‘big game.’ The reason for that is simple. Both the Patriots and Rams employed impressive defensive game plans, thus stifling two normally prolific offenses for the majority of the game. No Super Bowl had ever gone into the fourth quarter without a touchdown. However, Super Bowl LIII did, with a score of 3-3.
The Rams were able to keep Brady and the Patriots offense off balance for a large part of the night. Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips devised a plan that allowed his team to disguise their coverages.Throughout the game, Brady and the Patriots has difficulty determining whether the Rams were playing man or zone coverage. This allowed them to put pressure on Brady, who faced his toughest challenge of the playoffs. As a result, they held him to 21-35 passing, for a total of 262 yards.
The Patriots were also terrific on defense for the length of the game. Head coach Bill Belichick and de-facto defensive coordinator, Brian Flores enacted a scheme that proved to be more formidable than that of the Rams. Los Angeles quarterback Jared Goff seemed overwhelmed by the Patriots coverage for the entire night, Suffering key sacks from linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Dont’a Hightower, Goff was never able to find an offensive rhythm. New England cornerback Jason McCourty was in perfect position to break up a would-be touchdown pass to wide receiver (and former Patriot) Brandin Cooks. Finally, with 4:17 left, All-Pro cornerback Stephon Gilmore picked off an ill-advised pass by at the New England 2. In effect, this sealed the game for New England.
Tough it might have been in atypical fashion, the Patriots still managed to find victory by making key plays when most needed. Perhaps no Patriot did that better on Sunday than wide receiver Julian Edelman. In a performance that earned him Super Bowl MVP honors, he finished with 10 catches for 141 yards.
With their victory in Super Bowl LIII, the New England Patriots have tied the Pittsburgh Steelers atop all NFL franchises with six Super Bowl Championships.
–Mike D’Abate is a Managing Editor and National Columnist for Full Press Coverage Sports Media. He covers the New England Patriots and the NFL. Follow him on Twitter @mdabateFPC