One word to describe the first half of Super Bowl LIII: underwhelming. The New England Patriots controlled the pace early in what ended up being the lowest scoring Super Bowl in history, 13-3. In the first quarter, the Patriots held on to the ball for 11:47 compared to 3:13 for the Rams.
While defense certainly spent a lot of time on the field, they limited the Patriots to just 3 points at the half after a missed field goal in the first quarter. The high-octane Rams offense we are used to seeing was missing in action, only amassing 57 in the first half as quarterback Jared Goff could not get into a groove. He completed only 5 passes in the first half.
After the game, Goff said he felt great and was excited coming into the game but definitely did not expect the outcome to be a loss.
“I think we, obviously, expected to score a lot more points than that, and it sucks the way it turned out. I’m going to use it as a learning experience and be better because of it.”
For the Rams to have their best chance at winning, they needed Todd Gurley but the 2017 Offensive MVP just could not get it going and was limited to just 35 rushing yards on 10 carries. Speaking to the media after the game, Gurley insisted that his knee is fine and gave credit to the New England defense. A sentiment that Goff echoed as well, “We know what kind of offense we are and for them to do what they did to us tonight was impressive.”
Now six-time Super Bowl winning quarterback Tom Brady also expected to put more points on the board but was fine with getting the win instead. “We moved the ball decent, just couldn’t get the points on the board for one reason or another. But in the end, it feels a lot better than last year when we did get some points on the board (in the loss to the Philadelphia Eagles).” Brady threw a rare interception on the Patriots first drive of the game and was sacked for the first time this postseason.
While it was not a lights out game, Patriots rookie running back Sony Michel had a solid game, rushing for 94 yards and the game’s only touchdown on 18 carries. In doing so, Michel set a new NFL record for single-season rushing touchdowns in the playoffs. Prior to Sunday’s score, Michel shared the record with Hall of Famer Terrell Davis; also a UGA alum. On putting his rookie season into words, Michel said, “I can’t (put it into words). God is good. That’s all I can say is God is good.”
While both teams struggled to find a stride at points in the game, Pats receiver Julian Edelman was steady and consistent. Edelman racked up 141 receiving yards en route to winning Super Bowl MVP. Teammate Rob Gronkowski said after the game:
“Julian had an unbelievable game. He’s an unbelievable player. Julian played his ass off tonight, like he always does. He was MVP, it was well deserved, and he was like that all year. He grinned everything out, and he’s a heck of a football player.”
While victory was not the outcome, credit has to be given to the Rams defense as well. Holding the Patriots to 3 points through 3 quarters is not an easy feat. Goff said, “It hurts me so much just knowing how well our defense played against that team and against Tom (Brady).” The Pats were limited to one touchdown and two field goals.
Rams head coach Sean McVay said the game left him “numb” and said that he was simply outcoached. He was asked about if Todd Gurley was healthy to which he responded:
“Yeah Mike (reporter), he is. I never enabled us to get into a rhythm offensively. We didn’t really have any third down conversions really the whole first half and you know they did a good job. It seemed like every time we got a positive play then we’d end up having a penalty or move ourselves back. I think a lot of it was the result of some of the things they did but then also the play selection. I was not pleased at all with my feel for the flow of the game and kinda making some adjustments as the game unfolded and giving ourselves the chance to have some success and put some points on the board. Credit to them, they did a good job, and I certainly didn’t do good enough for us.”
All in all, the Rams were still in contention all the way up to a fourth quarter interception by Pats cornerback Stephon Gilmore. Of the interception, Gilmore said, “It was clutch. I mean, I knew he was going to throw it up and I knew I had to make a play,”
The Pats finished with 407 yards of total offense with Brady finishing 21/35 for 262 yards and one interception. Goff finished 19/38 for 229 yards and one interception. Brandin Cooks led the Rams with 120 yards on 8 receptions.