NFL: Super Bowl LIII Disappoints



New England quarterbac Tom Brady receives a hug from head coach Bill Belichick following the New England Patriots 32-29 victory over the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl XXXVIII at Reliant Stadium, Sunday, February 1, 2004 in Houston, Texas. (George Bridges/MCT)

Daniel Pachino

Those who anticipated a high-scoring shootout between two of the league’s premier offenses were wildly disappointed following Sunday’s Super Bowl. After what has been undeniably the most exciting NFL season in recent memory, Super Bowl LIII delivered an absolute dud. It truly was a shame that a championship game that pits two of the league’s most exciting and interesting teams against each other wound up being as unexciting and uneventful as any Super Bowl this century. Due to the absolute lack of offensive output in a game that only saw a player reach the end zone once, many are calling it the worst Super Bowl ever.

Much to the chagrin of CBS, who had the broadcast on the game, the first half was about as uneventful as possible. Perhaps the most exciting thing to occur came on the opening drive, when Tom Brady had his first pass of the game intercepted by Rams linebacker Chris Littleton. The Rams quickly followed up the interception with a three-and-out — which became a fairly common theme on Sunday. On New England’s ensuing drive, they marched down the field, but Stephen Gostkowksi missed a 46-yard field goal and gave the Rams the ball back with excellent field position. After exchanging three punts, the Patriots marched down the field again, and Gostkowski converted to give New England the first three points of the game early in the second quarter.

Each LA drive throughout the rest of the first half resulted in a punt — they began the game with nine consecutive drives ending in a punt — and the Patriots went into the locker room with a 3-0 lead. A game that most suspected would be high-flying offensive affair was quickly becoming a defensive and field positioning battle. After each team punted on its first two drives of the half, the Rams finally gaining momentum and moving the ball offensively. A 10-play LA drive resulted in a 53-yard Greg Zuerlein field goal to tie the game at 3-3.

After that, the pace of the game returned to its slow-moving ways. Two drives later, the Patriots got the ball back with about 10 minutes remaining and the score still tied at three. Brady and the Patriots marched straight down the field and completed the first and only touchdown drive of the Super Bowl. The big play of the drive — and the game — came when Brady threw a perfect deep pass up the left seem to a diving Rob Gronkowski for 29 yards down to the Rams 2-yard-line. On the very next play, running back Sony Michel punched in the game’s lone touchdown.

The Rams, however, showed some life and appeared to actually have some offensive punch on their ensuing drive in which they knew they needed to put points on the board. Jared Goff and LA put together the making of a strong drive with multiple big pass plays to Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks and Josh Reynolds. On 2nd and 10 from the Patriots’ 27, however, Bill Belichick and the Patriots sent an all-out blitz at Goff that he clearly was unprepared for. With the pass rush in his face, Goff attempted a deep back-foot pass for Cooks, which New England’s star corner Stephon Gilmore intercepted at the Pats’ four-yard-line.

Even though there were more than four minutes remaining, this interception seemed to all-but seal the Rams’ fate, but New England added insult to injury by converting multiple third-downs on their ensuing drive and kicked a field goal to ice the game 13-3.

In a game many expected to be an offensive showdown much like last year’s Super Bowl between the Patriots and Eagles, neither team was able to get anything going offensively. In a battle between two of the league’s premier coaches, Belichick greatly out-maneuvered Sean McVay and drew up a masterful defensive game plan to smother the Rams and their elite running game and play-action attack. One of the big stories of the game was undoubtedly the disappearance of Todd Gurley, who touched the ball just 10 times on Sunday after coming third in the league in rushing yards this season. While the Rams offense played horribly Sunday night, it seems inevitable they will be back in this game soon and competing for plenty more championships in the near future. The Patriots, meanwhile, will celebrate their third championship in five years, and their fans will get to enjoy their tremendous success as long as Brady keeps playing and Belichick keeps coaching.