Cash's Corner

Patriots win sixth title

On the wings of their defense
Thu, 02/07/2019 - 6:45pm

What a difference a year makes. That was the first thing that came to mind following the Patriots 13-3 victory over the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII on Sunday.

The Patriots survived a lackluster performance by Tom Brady, and beat the Rams with stellar defensive play to notch the franchise’s sixth Super Bowl title. That means Brady will place a ring on his other hand this time around. The Patriots are now tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers for the most Super Bowl titles.

Just a year ago the Patriots were seemingly in shambles having lost a 41-33 stunner to the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl. Wide receiver Julian Edelman was on injured reserve with a torn ACL, Malcolm Butler was benched, setting a negative defensive tone, Doug Pederson out-coached Bill Belichick, and the future of Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski looked uncertain.

Flash forward to a year later, and an unlikely Patriots team bonded together to play the no-respect card to perfection, defeating the surging Chargers and number one-seeded Chiefs in the playoffs, before besting the high-flying Rams on Sunday. This time around, everyone for the Patriots played, and Belichick out-coached 33-year-old Sean McVay, the youngest coach to appear in a Super Bowl game. Brady said he plans on playing until he’s 45, while Gronkowski is pondering his future.

As for this version of the Rams, they were not The Greatest Show on Turf, like the 2001 incarnation, but they did tout a top-flight defense, and talent on offense. None of that mattered on Sunday, as the Rams stars were neutralized, and the Patriots controlled the game, for the most part, from start to finish, persevering yet again.

If you were looking for style points this victory had none of that. It wasn’t a thrilling football game. In fact, some might say Super Bowl LIII was one of the most boring games in the sport’s history. It is distinguished as the lowest scoring Super Bowl ever. Others might say it was an exciting battle between two defensive juggernauts.

Neither team’s offense could get into a rhythm, leading to numerous failures on third down, with punts, lots of punts, as well as missed field goals by both teams’ kickers. Both special teams played solid football, challenging each other for field position. The Patriots’ teams succeeded in downing three of Ryan Allen’s punts inside the Rams’ 10-yard line. 

Despite winning those field position battles, the Patriots’ 3-0 lead at halftime seemed tenuous, as the offense couldn’t finish its drives. Brady wasn’t as focused as usual, but he did lead a game winning drive late in the fourth quarter, with Gronkowski and Edelman coming up big, and making some clutch catches. Rookie Sony Michel, who ran for 94 total yards on 18 carries, capped off the drive with the game-winning touchdown.

Edelman earned Most Valuable Player honors by snagging 10 passes for 141 yards, frustrating the Rams secondary. The pesky receiver made some outstanding catches in traffic, where he was belted by Rams defenders, but held onto the football to keep the chains moving.

This Super Bowl victory for the Patriots was won by the defense, which played one of the greatest games in the team’s storied history. The Patriots secondary blanketed the Rams receivers, and the frontline applied pressure on QB Jared Goff, making him look like a deer in headlights. Linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Dont’a Hightower, who both registered sacks, looked like they were shot out of a cannon, rushing Goff relentlessly.

“Fortunately our defense played the best game they have all season,” said Brady during the postgame press conference. “They played really well on defense. It was just an incredible win.”

After the game, Belichick was modest, deflecting praise for masterminding another gem of a defensive game plan. “It was a great performance by our football team. We did what we had to do: we scored enough points; we played good enough defense; and we controlled field position in the kicking game. We’ve got a team that finds a way to win.”