Last Sunday, The National Football League season reached its zenith as the New England Patriots played the Los Angeles Rams in the fifty-third annual Super Bowl. The Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta was the stage for the lowest-scoring Super Bowl in history, as the Patriots ground out a 13-3 victory.
This season’s finale was notable for the coaches leading their teams from the side-lines. Either Bill Belichick, coach of the Patriots for his 19th season, would become the oldest coach to ever lift the Lombardi trophy at 66, or LA Ram’s Sean McVay the youngest, at just 33. Belichick’s ruthless stoicism also contrasted with McVay’s more free-flowing zeal. It was a generational battle of coaching philosophy.
The Patriots appeared in their third Super Bowl in as many seasons, and had to labour to get there. Early struggles brought two losses in their first three games, and questions regarding the end of New England’s dominance began to be asked. However, these questions were assertively answered as the Pat’s won ten of their remaining 13 regular season games, before defeating the Los Angeles Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs to book their place in Atlanta.
Conversely, the Rams took the league by storm, winning their first eight games, averaging a tantalising thirty-three points per game. In the playoffs, they bested the Dallas Cowboys before squeaking by the New Orleans Saints thanks to controversial refereeing late in the game.
The unforgiving nature of the Patriots, the expansive playstyle of the Rams and refereeing, which increasingly encouraged offense, led many to believe a free-scoring shootout would commence on Sunday, but what transpired was just the opposite. In an extremely defensive first half, just a solitary field goal was scored, by Stephen Gostkowski, and the Patriots led just 3-0 at half-time. As this defensive dominance persisted in the second half, the Rams managed to eventually level the scores through a Greg Zuerlein field goal. It wasn’t until halfway through the fourth quarter that the Patriots managed to break down a Ram’s defence led by Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald, as veteran quarterback Tom Brady connected with tight-end Rob Gronkowski, completing a twenty-nine-yard pass down to the Ram’s two-yard line. Running-back Sonny Michel battered his way through the goal line a play later, pulling the Patriots into a 10-3 lead. Stephon Gilmore intercepted a pass from Ram’s quarterback Jared Goff moments later, setting up another field goal for the Patriots which put the game out of reach and secured the championship title for the Patriots.
The Super Bowl is always a global event, watched not only by fans of American football but also many others. Yet as an advert for the sport, this Super Bowl was a tough sell.
There was little scoring, and the few ‘big’ moments were shows of defensive brilliance, generally considered less exciting and less marketable. The game was, however, a perfect advert for the way the NFL tends to unfold, and that’s with Tom Brady and the Patriots victorious.
Their ninth Super Bowl appearance in eighteen years, and sixth which ended in victory. In a league with a salary cap and a draft system designed for parity and competition, this is obscene. Quarterback and talisman Tom Brady has been present for all this success and has now undoubtedly confirmed that he is the greatest player to ever play the game. Selected 199th in the 2000 NFL draft, Brady boasts almost two decades amongst the league’s elite and moved ahead as the only player to ever win six Super Bowls last Sunday night.
Brady’s exceptional quality is matched only by his endurance. He will be 42 by the time the 2019 season begins, and shows no signs of slowing down, vowing to play until he is 45. If it were anybody else, you’d simply laugh. But with Tom Brady, you wouldn’t dare.
Brady has quashed his critics and he, alongside the Patriots, will go down in history as the greatest to grace the turf.
Image: Keith Allison via Flickr