By Peter Gleason
In case you, like me, fell asleep twice during last night’s boring-because-there-was-no-scoring Super Bowl:
The Patriots claimed their sixth title in 18 seasons by edging the Los Angeles Rams, 13-3, in a slog of a Super Bowl LIII.
Like their previous five Super Bowl victories under Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, this one was not decided until late, on Sony Michel’s 2-yard touchdown run with seven minutes left.
One final stop — Stephon Gilmore’s interception near the goal line with 4 minutes 17 seconds remaining (above) — punctuated a defensive effort that evoked Belichick’s first masterpiece against the Rams, when he sapped their potency by erasing the versatile back Marshall Faulk. Against this Rams team, the league’s second-ranked offense, New England forced punts on nine of 12 possessions and five three-and-outs.
The Patriots’ performance will ricochet around their empire as Belichick’s magnum opus, but it will be remembered outside New England as a grind, lacking the offensive artistry that defined this record-setting season.
It was as if after all the marks shattered — the most touchdowns scored, the most touchdown passes thrown — the ball decided, in the 267th and final game, that it was just too exhausted to breach the end zone anymore. It did so only once.
These Rams and Patriots will be forever linked in Super Bowl ignominy: the fewest combined points, the lowest-scoring first half in 44 years (3 points), the most time elapsed without a touchdown. That stretch ended at the time when Brady asserts his primacy.
All of Brady’s other championships have come after the score was tied, or the Patriots were trailing, in the fourth quarter. In those situations, Brady was 45 for 59 with 503 yards and three touchdowns and no interceptions. Taking over at his 31-yard line with 9:49 left, Brady connected on four straight passes for 67 yards, including a 29-yard beauty to Rob Gronkowski down the left side that preceded Michel’s touchdown, his sixth of the playoffs.
“I’ll tell you this,” Gronkowski said, “it was the most satisfying year I’ve ever been a part of. How we came together, the obstacles we had to overcome, the grind from the beginning of training camp to now, it’s just surreal.”
Brady, at age 41, finished 21 of 35 for 262 yards, with more than half of that total — 141 — going to Julian Edelman. A year after missing the Patriots’ Super Bowl loss to Philadelphia with a knee injury and being suspended for the first four games of this season for violating the N.F.L.’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs, Edelman was selected as the game’s most valuable player.
“He just played the best game he has all year,” Brady said.
In a league designed for parity, Brady and Belichick have destroyed it. Together, they have made nine Super Bowls, including the last three. The Miami Dolphins, from 1972-74, and Buffalo Bills, from 1991-94, accomplished that feat before the Patriots, but neither had New England’s staying power.
Only one other franchise has won six Super Bowls, and it took the Pittsburgh Steelers 34 years to collect their Lombardi Trophies. The Patriots needed half as long.
“We’ve never seen the likes of it; we’ll never see it again — ever,” the Super Bowl-winning coach Brian Billick said last week. “The league’s just not structured that way.”