By Bryan Daehling
Where was the offense? That is the question many fans are asking as Super Bowl LIII wrapped up the 2018-19 NFL season. Nevertheless, a new champion is crowned, as the New England Patriots defeated the Los Angeles Rams 13-3 to win a record tying sixth Super Bowl. So, what happened? Here is an in depth look into, what was supposed to be, the biggest game of the year.
The Patriots offense was effective on Super Bowl Sunday. Quarterback Tom Brady went 21-35 for 262 yards and an interception. Of his 21 completions, 16 of them went to either Tight End Rob Gronkowski or, the Super Bowl MVP, Wide Receiver Julian Edelman. Gronkowski had six catches for 87 yards and Edelman had 10 catches for 141 yards. The only touchdown of the game belonged to Running Back Sony Michel, who carried the ball 18 times for 94 yards and a touchdown.
The Rams struggled mightily on the offensive side of the ball. Of their 12 drives, they punted the ball nine times, which includes eight consecutive drives ending in a punt. Quarterback Jared Goff was hit and hit often. He was sacked four times and was knocked down 12 times. This impacted the way he threw the football as he went 19-38 for 229 yards and an interception. The running game was not a factor either as the team ran for just 62 total yards, which was 77 yards under their team average of 139, the third best in the league. The only bright side was Wide Receivers Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods, who combined for 13 catches and 190 yards, although Cooks dropped two potential touchdowns that would have put the Rams back in the game.
The Patriots defense stymied the second-ranked offense in the NFL. They allowed 260 yards of total offense and allowed a Super Bowl low three points. One big reason why was because of their pass rush. Three huge factors were Linebackers Kevin Van Noy and Dont’a Hightower, and Cornerback Jonathan Jones. Van Noy had four tackles and one sack, Hightower had two tackles and two sacks, and Jones had eight tackles to go along with one sack. These three made it very uncomfortable for Goff to throw the football. Another big reason was the coverage in the secondary. Cornerbacks Stephen Gilmore and Jason McCourty really locked down on the dangerous receivers for the Rams. Gilmore had three pass deflections and recorded the only turnover for the defense with an interception, while McCourty had two pass breakups. They made it difficult for the receivers to get open and thus forced Goff to beat them.
Even though the Rams gave up 407 total yards of offense, the defense did not look as bad as the stats show. On the Patriots first three drives, there was an interception, a missed field goal, and a punt. The defense did not even allow the Patriots into the red zone until there was seven minutes left in the game, which resulted in the game’s only touchdown. They allowed 13 points, which is the lowest score for a winning team in a Super Bowl ever. The Defensive Player of the Year, Defensive Tackle Aaron Donald, was very quiet in the box score but made a clear impact on the game. He had five tackles and one quarterback hit. He pressured Brady and made him feel uncomfortable in the pocket. The other Rams defensive star, Defensive Tackle Ndamukong Suh, was also relatively quiet as he recorded two tackles and one quarterback hit. The biggest bright spot was Linebacker Cory Littleton, who was all over the field as he recorded 10 tackles, two pass deflections, and an interception.
Even though the Patriots punted only five times, their special teams played very well in not giving Los Angeles any good field position. They also were responsible for seven of the team’s 13 total points as Kicker Stephen Gostkowski went 2/3 on field goals and 1/1 on extra points.
The Special Teams of Los Angeles was a very big bright spot. Despite the fact that they punted nine times and were 1/2 of field goals from Greg Zuerlein, the team did very well in not giving the Patriots great field position. Of their nine punts, five of them went inside the Patriots 20-yard line and the shortest starting field position was the 37-yard line. Punter Johnny Hekker broke a record for the longest punt in the Super Bowl with a 65-yard punt.
In a Super Bowl that was supposed to be a high scoring affair, the defenses reigned supreme. The defenses were so good that the Super Bowl was the lowest scoring one in NFL history. The Patriots had a record low 13 points for the winning team and the Rams tied the record for lowest points scored in a Super Bowl with three. Even though it was a close game, many fans found the game to be very boring and were disappointed by the lack of an offensive attack by either team. I was extraordinarily impressed with how the Patriots defense completely stopped the Rams. Even though I was disappointed in the offensive showing by both teams, the defenses played so well that I felt it redeemed the game. Overall, I believe that it was an average Super Bowl with amazing defensive performances. According to the addage, “Defense win championships.”