The ninth Super Bowl performance of Tom Brady’s illustrious career was hardly his best, but with Patriots fans chanting his last name in the fourth against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday night in Atlanta, the 41-year-old quarterback engineered a pair of crucial drives that helped New England secure a 13-3 win and a sixth Lombardi Trophy.
Ultimately it was Patriots place kicker Stephen Gostkowski who sealed the victory with a 41-yard field goal with just over a minute to play.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick was faced with a gut-wrenching decision with 1:16 remaining in the fourth when he decided to kick a field goal on forth-and-inches, rather than attempting to convert the first down and run out the clock.
Gostkowski had previously missed from 46-yards in the first quarter, but Belichick was rewarded for his faith as the game-clinching kick narrowly snuck in around the left upright.
Brady stumbled out of the gate, throwing an interception on the Patriots’ opening drive, but later redeemed himself in the fourth quarter with a five-play, 69 yard drive that ended with a rushing touchdown by rookie running back Sony Michel.
Rams quarterback Jared Goff had a chance to respond on the ensuing drive, but was picked off by Patriots cornerback Stephen Gilmore at New England’s four-yard line with 4:17 remaining.
The dynasty continues: New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady won his sixth Super Bowl title on Sunday in Atlanta
The Patriots celebrate rookie Sony Michel’s go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter
The Patriots defense deserves much of the credit for the close score after holding the Rams to just 78 first-half yards.
The first half was certainly a departure from the regular season, when the Rams and Patriots ranked second and fifth, respectively, in offensive yards. On Sunday the two teams combined for nine punts on the first ten drives of the game.
In fact, the Rams had never gone scoreless in a first half under coach Sean McVay until Sunday against the Patriots. Los Angeles actually entered halftime with only 78 yards, compared to 195 for New England.
Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman had 93 receiving yards in the first half, outgaining the Rams’ offense by himself.
Gladys Knight sings the national anthem before Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta
Tom Brady’s wife Gisele Bundchen watches Super Bowl LIII from a luxury box
Tom Brady was intercepted on the Patriots’ opening drive in Super Bowl LIII
Adam Levine of Maroon 5 performs during the Pepsi Super Bowl LIII Halftime Show at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on February 3, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia
The six combined points were the fewest scored by two teams through the first three quarters of Super Bowl history.
The Rams appeared to be driving for a touchdown in the third quarter, when Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower’s sack of Goff left Greg Zuerlein with a 53-yard field goal attempt, which he converted to tie the game.
Brady’s pick was nearly caught by Patriots receiver Chris Hogan at the Rams’ 27-yard line, but the ball deflected into the waiting hands of Los Angeles linebacker Cory Littleton.
The Patriots took a 3-0 lead in into halftime thanks to a 41-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski in the second quarter. He previously missed a 46-yard attempt in the first quarter, which was the first missed kick by any NFL kicker this season in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the home of the Atlanta Falcons.
The Patriots registered five first downs in the first quarter compared to just one for the Rams, but Brady and New England’s offense still failed to score a point despite driving into Los Angeles territory on their first three possessions.
Brady also has a fumble in the first quarter, which was recovered by the Patriots.
At one point Patriots fans booed as as a replay from the team’s Super Bowl LII loss to the Philadelphia Eagles was shown on the scoreboard in Atlanta.
View of the Mercedes-Benz Stadium prior to the Super Bowl LIII between the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams in Atlanta on Sunday
Tom Brady is is tackled by Aaron Donald during the first quarter of Sunday’s Super Bowl LIII
Rams quarterback Jared Goff is sacked in the first half during Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta
The pass was nearly caught by Patriots receiver Chris Hogan at the Rams’ 27-yard line, but the ball deflected into the waiting hands of Los Angeles linebacker Cory Littleton
Brady arrived for opening warmups by sprinting out onto the field alongside backup Brian Hoyer before screaming in the direction of some Patriots fans. He even took time to bump fists with referee John Parry.
Currently Brady and the Patriots have five Super Bowl titles. A sixth ring for Brady would break a tie with former Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers pass rusher Charles Haley for the most Super Bowl wins by a single player.
Brady is hit as he attempts a pass in the first quarter of Sunday’s Super Bowl in Atlanta
Prior to the game, soul singer Gladys Knight sang the Star-Spangled Banner and Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Chris Long was given the NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year award for his work with clean-water initiatives homeless and educational charities.
If experience is indeed a factor in Sunday’s Super Bowl, the overwhelming edge is with the 2½-point favorites from Foxborough who are 5-3 in NFL title games with Tom Brady at quarterback and Bill Belichick in the hoodie on the sideline.
The Rams, whose past two Super trips were representing St. Louis in 2000 and ’02, have four players who have gotten this far. New England has four on its defensive line alone.
‘Probably, throughout the week, it gives them an advantage,’ Rams tackle Andrew Whitworth says – and he’s finishing up his 13th NFL season, though it’s his first that ends in February.
‘They kind of know this week. They know when things are a little anxious, when to kind of, ‘Hey, turn it on and get ready to play.’ They probably have a process and plan for the week.’
Los Angeles Rams’ Marcus Peters (22), left, breaks up a pass intended for New England Patriots’ Chris Hogan during the first half
Stephen Gostkowski (3) reacts after missing a field goal in the first quarter of Super Bowl LIII
Rams head coach Sean McVay, left, and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick speak before kickoff
UFC fighter Conor McGregor and his son Conor McGregor jr. on the field prior to kickoff
Referee John Parry, left, bumps fists with New England Patriots’ Tom Brady before kickoff
Athletes in every sport talk about how helpful a comfort zone can be. It’s even more pronounced when it accompanies events such as the Super Bowl, which, for better or worse, transcends football.
Brady and most of his teammates, in their third straight visit, barely flinch at all the attention, media demands and alterations to the norm they encounter during Super Bowl week – although they were taken aback somewhat by the cacophony and circus atmosphere of opening night on Monday. Aside from Aqib Talib, C.J. Anderson, Brandin Cooks and Sam Shields, for the Rams this is uncharted territory.
Rams coach Sean McVay tends to dismiss that theory, however. Using quarterback Jared Goff as an example, McVay could have been speaking for his entire squad, which has made a sensational turnaround in his two seasons in charge.
‘He’s an unfazed quarterback,’ McVay says. ‘I think his way to have success and handle adversity the same demonstrates that poise and confidence you want from your quarterback.’
Fans react while watching the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 53 football game in Atlanta between the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams at a bar in Boston on Sunday
Frank Luh, left, and Luis Merida, second from right, react during a viewing party for the Super Bowl 53 football game between the New England Patriots and the Rams in Los Angeles
Tom Brady screams as he runs out onto the field ahead of Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta
View of the flyover by the Air Force Thunderbirds before Super Bowl LIII between the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams at Mercedes-Benz Stadium
Referee John Parry (132) displays the coin before the coin toss ahead of Super Bowl LIII
Fans of the New England Patriots await the start of Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta
Actress Ellie Kemper shows off her Tom Brady Jersey prior the Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta
Nowhere is the experience matchup more uneven than at QB. At 41, Brady already is the oldest quarterback to start a Super Bowl. Goff is 24 and one of the youngest.
Well, maybe nowhere is an exaggeration, because Belichick, at 66, could become the oldest coach to win a Super Bowl. He has worked 41 postseason games, with 30 victories, most among head coaches in NFL history. He’s the only head coach with five Super Bowl rings.
McVay is half his age and in his first NFL title game, the youngest Super Bowl head man.
Rams President Kevin Demoff hears all of that so-called evidence, then cites so many positives about McVay that he sounds like the next dominant coach.
Sunday will be a powerful acid test for McVay and his team.
Some other things to look for in Super Bowl 53:
Nowhere is the experience matchup more uneven than at QB. At 41, Brady already is the oldest quarterback to start a Super Bowl. Rams quarterback Jared Goff is 24 and one of the youngest
There’s widespread speculation that Patriots star tight end Rob Gronkowski could be playing his final NFL game. The four-time All-Pro has been plagued by injuries for much of his career, and only in his first two pro seasons did he play a full 16-game schedule
There’s widespread speculation that Patriots star tight end Rob Gronkowski could be playing his final NFL game. The four-time All-Pro has been plagued by injuries for much of his career, and only in his first two pro seasons did he play a full 16-game schedule. In 2018, he made it into 13 games.
Gronkowski has battled through back, knee, ankle and arm injuries throughout his nine pro seasons, and thought about retirement after last year’s Super Bowl loss to the Eagles. If this will be it for the big-play tight end with superb blocking skills, he isn’t letting on.
‘As of right now, those are the last things I’m thinking about,’ Gronkowski says. ‘I love playing the game. After a long season, after the (Super Bowl), a few weeks down the road, you sit back, you relax, you get some downtime, enjoyment time. And you just see where you want to go with it.
‘That’s a tricky question. You’re trying to get around me. You’re just trying to get you some answers over there, baby. But like I said, I don’t know. I haven’t done that sit-down yet. I’ve got to do that sit-down. About two weeks after (the Super Bowl), then I’ll know.’
Conor McGregor and Jon Bon Jovi exchange a few words before Super Bowl LIII
Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, the only unanimous All-Pro this season, led the NFL with 20½ sacks.
Considering that Brady barely has been touched or pressured in two playoff games – both against teams with strong pass rushers – it is incumbent upon Donald to be a factor Sunday.
Make that a major factor.
‘We’ll get to him, but we have to stay patient and don’t get frustrated,’ Donald says. ‘We’ve got a great secondary that will do its job and make sure he doesn’t have easy throws. If he has to hold onto the ball, we’ll have our chances. We just have to go get him.’
Otherwise, the most accomplished quarterback in Super Bowl history might tear them apart.
The Rams’ past two trips to the big game were tight affairs in which they beat Tennessee and lost to New England. In all of the Patriots’ eight previous trips in the Brady-Belichick era, the result was in doubt until the final moments.
So to expect a romp at Mercedes-Benz Stadium seems foolhardy.
‘It would be nice to get one of those,’ Patriots receiver Chris Hogan. ‘But the idea is to win, no matter how you do it.’
The largest margin in a Patriots Super Bowl under this regime has been the eight points the Eagles beat them by a year ago.
Los Angeles Rams’ Aaron Donald warms up before Super Bowl LII in Atlanta