Super Bowl LIII
New England Patriots (11-5) v Los Angeles Rams (13-3)
Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, GA
February 3, 2019 – 6:30pm EST (CBS)
Line: Patriots (-2.5); O/U 56.5
It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost two weeks since we’ve seen meaningful football. And the two championship games we saw were probably some of the best non-Super Bowl games that we have seen in quite some time. The first had a controversial finish after a blatant penalty wasn’t called, leading to the second straight season of heartbreak for the home team. The second featured a bunch of points in the second half, and an overtime period that may cause the NFL to re-examine how it breaks ties (again).
I went 1-1 in picking winners last week, and 1-1 in picking against the spread and 0-2 on the over/unders:
The Saints loss was felt across Louisiana, with billboards being purchased and lawsuits being filed. The blown call on what should have been a pass interference penalty that would have sealed the game for the Saints instead allowed the Rams to come back and tie to force overtime. The Rams then won after the Saints’ Drew Brees threw an interception on his first pass in the extra period, and Greg Zuerlein’s 57-yard field goal sent the Rams back to Atlanta, the site (though the game itself was played at the Georgia Dome) of their lone Super Bowl victory back in 2000 .
The Patriots, on the other hand, looked like their usual selves in the first half against the Chiefs, heading into the break with a 14-0 lead. After an uneventful thrid quarter, the Patriots still led 17-7, and the expected fireworks from either side had yet to occur. Then the teams combined for 38 points in the fourth quarter, with the Chiefs pulling even on a last second field goal to force overtime.
The Chiefs never saw the ball again, with Tom Brady leading the Patriots on a game-winning drive after winning the coin toss and taking the ball. Patrick Mahomes, for all the firepower he showed just 20 minutes prior, was left to stand watching on the sidelines. The passing of the AFC torch would be delayed for at least one more year.
So we have ourselves a Super Bowl rematch, albeit one from nearly two decades ago.
Seventeen years ago to the day of this year’s Super Bowl, the New England Patriots met the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI. The Pats were led by a rookie quarterback who had some on for the injured star, while the Rams were in the midst of “The Greatest Show on Turf” era, led by quarterback Kurt Warner and running back Marshall Faulk. The Rams were big favorites (favored by 14! points) in the game against the upstart Patriots, who had lost their two previous visits to the Super Bowl, while the Rams were looking for their second Super Bowl in three seasons.
The Patriots led 14-3 at halftime, and after perhaps the greatest Super Bowl halftime performances ever – U2 memorialized the victims of 9/11 in a touching tribute – action went back and forth in the third quarter, with an Adam Vinatieri field goal as the only score in the quarter. The Rams were able to pull even in the fourth quarter, with two Warner touchdowns (a 2-yard rush and 26-yard pass to Ricky Proehl) and the Rams defense shutting down the Patriots offense.
With 1:30 left in the game, the Patriots received a Rams kickoff and had no touchdowns remaining, prompting John Madden to wonder aloud if they were going to run out the clock and try to win in overtime. Instead, Bill Belichick put his trust into Tom Brady, who managed to drive 53 yards to get the team in position to attempt the game-winning field goal. Adam Vinatieri came through with a 48-yard field goal as time expired, launching the current Patriots’ dynasty while simultaneously ending the Rams’ fledgling one. In the 17 seasons since, the Patriots have won four more Super Bowls (and losing three more), while the Rams have waited until this season to reach the big game again.
At this point, it is hard to bet against the Patriots. Not only do they have a nearly two decades run as one of the best teams in the league, they are also helmed by two men whose legacies will be entwined long after either of them retire. I entered the season thinking this would be the last season for one of them, with a victory prompting one (or both) to walk away at the top of their game. However, with Brady reiterating that he wants to keep playing, and Bill Belichick sowing no signs of losing his mojo, maybe that doesn’t happen.
The Rams, on the other hand, probably represent the future of the league, with the young head coach and team led by younger players. If they are the future of the league, people might see this game as the hand-off, much like the unexpected Eagles victory last year was supposed to be. Instead, the Patriots defeated their own upstart team in the Chiefs, and will probably end up doing the same thing again to these Rams.
If it is the final Super Bowl for Brady and Belichick, it would be a nice ending to their dynastic run. Six Super Bowl victories in 17 years, with bookend victories against the Rams franchise in two different eras of NFL football. Maybe this isn’t the game that causes it to end, but I’m sticking with the Patriots, just as I have all season.
Until next time…