ATLANTA – It wasn’t Tom Brady’ best game, nor was it his best Super Bowl. But he won it.
And you know something? I wish he'd call it there and make it his last Super Bowl.
Not because he couldn’t make the big throws in New England’s defeat of the L.A. Rams . Because he could. And not because he’s “showing his age,” as Rams’ defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman foolishly said last week. Because he's not. But because he’ll be 42 next season, and I don’t care a flip what he says.
It can’t get better than this.
“I’m beyond blessed,” Brady said after the Patriots' 13-3 victory. “I relish this.”
He should. Prior to Super Bowl LIII Brady said he wanted to win this Super Bowl more than any of the other eight he started. In fact, he said he’d ask God for one more. Well, guess what? Wish granted.
So take it, Tom, and do the smart thing … and not the emotional thing. Listen to your wife … and history … and actuary tables … and do what Patriots' Haters everywhere wish and what Patriots' Nation fear.
Because … and stop if you heard this before … it can’t get better than this.
This is Ted Williams’ homering in his last at-bat. No, this is John Elway and Peyton Manning winning Super Bowls in their last games. No, this is Rocky Marciano capping a 49-0 career in his last fight with a ninth-round knockout of Archie Moore.
But, frankly, it’s better than all of the above. It’s Tom Brady winning his sixth Lombardi Trophy, tying the Pittsburgh Steelers for the most in NFL history. And it’s Tom Brady doing it when virtually every quarterback his age is making tee times or Nationwide commercials.
Brady has made it clear he has no intention of leaving, saying there’s “zero” chance he’ll go and that he’ll turn his back on the game “when I suck.” Well, he didn’t suck Sunday …. though he was hardly Tom Terrific … and he's said he wants to stick around until he’s 45.
Fine. But please don’t.
It not only can’t get better than this. It can get a whole lot worse. Forty-two year-old quarterbacks don’t get better, they get older. And that’s not good. Injuries happen. Concussions happen. Forced retirements happen. And your family awaits.
So don't go out as Mays with the Mets … or Unitas with the Chargers … or Ali in the ring. Go out with people everywhere remembering how you left at the top of your game. Not at the bottom.
And what a smart move it was.
YEP, DEFENSE DOES MATTER AFTER ALL
OK, time to strike up the band: Defense won a championship.
You hear it every year, and you just found out why in the New England Patriots’ improbable defeat of the Rams. They held the league’s second-highest scoring team – a club that 12 times this season exceeded 30 points and twice made it past 40 – to a season-low three points, blanked it in the first half and basically shut it down in every facet of its game.
That wasn’t supposed to happen here, and not just because the Rams could put up points faster than the Lakers. But because they were up against a defense that ranked 21st overall and next-to-last in sacks.
Well, so much for that.
Because Tom Brady didn’t win this game. Neither did game MVP Julian Edelman. The Patriots’ defense did, and consider that a lesson underscored. Because with the Rams’ loss, the 11 highest-scoring teams in NFL history haven’t won a league championship.
You heard me. Zippety-do-dah.
"Some of you counted us out," said Patriots' linebacker Kyle Van Noy, "and we're here again as the champions. And it feels good … Like I've been saying all week: We don't have stars. We have elite football players."
No need to remind the Rams.
"They had us completely guessing," said quarterback Jared Goff.
The Rams punted on their first eight possessions, a Super Bowl record. They failed to score in the first half, the only time that’s happened on the Sean McVay watch. They had no more than five plays of 23 yards on each of their first eight series. Goff took four sacks and committed a killer of a turnover with an interception late in the game when it appeared L.A. would score a tying T. D.
In short, it was the Silence of the Rams.
“The defense was unreal holding that offense to three points,” said Edelman. “It’s pretty crazy. They should be the MVP.”
Agreed. It never wavered and made the game’s biggest play – the one it couldn’t make one year earlier in Super Bowl LII – when All-Pro cornerback Stephon Gilmore intercepted Goff at the Patriots’ 4 with 4:17 left.
Yes, defense matters, and what’s new? The Patriots allowed a total … total … of seven first-half points in playoff defeats of the L.A. Chargers, Kansas City and the Rams. And where they produced 30 sacks all season – fewer than everyone but Oakland (13) – they had 12 in three playoff wins.
"Defense set the tone," said Brady.
Until Sunday, I didn’t understand why Miami wanted to hire New England linebackers’ coach Brian Flores – the Patriots’ de facto defensive coordinator. But I do now. And so does Goff and everyone in the huddle with him.
“There was no God that did it all,” said New England defensive back Devin McCourty. “It was eleven guys.”
Does this mean everyone starts looking now for the next Brian Flores?
You can’t say enough about the work that New England’s 70-year-old Dante Scarnecchia did with his offensive line. Brady was sacked once in three playoff games and six times in his last nine. Moreover, the Chargers, Chiefs and Rams all had their lowest pressure percentages this season in their playoff games vs. New England. But most important of all, Brady wasn’t sacked by either Aaron Donald or Ndamukong Suh Sunday.
In a season where quarterback Patrick Mahomes threw 50 touchdowns and was the league MVP and NFL Offensive Player of the Year, running still matters. While Brady threw 2 touchdown passes in three playoff games, rookie Sony Michel scored six times – including the only TD Sunday. But that's not all. The Patriots turned into the 1962 Green Bay Packers, burying opponents with the run … and the envelope, please. In three playoff games, they ran for 176, 154 and 155 yards, with nine TDs. Better yet, they clinched their sixth Super Bowl with a magnificent nine-play, 72-yard series that were all runs, with eight by Michel (including a 26-yader) and one by unheralded Rex Burkhead (a 26-yarder).
The only people who feel worse than Rams’ fans are Saints’ fans. Somehow, I think Drew Brees would have put up more than three points.
Consider that a lesson for Goff. Now the Rams better hope it’s a lesson learned. He looked frazzled, was erratic, couldn’t produce on third downs, committed a fatal turnover and held the ball too long in a … yes, deflating Super Bowl debut. People say experience isn’t a big deal in Super Bowls. Don’t believe them.
Congratulations to Johnny Hekker. He was the Rams’ most effective weapon, with one less punt (9) Sunday than in his last four games combined and twice as many as the most (4) in each of his previous 10 contests.
Brady is right. The support at Mercedes-Benz Stadium was so strong that “it seemed like Gillette Stadium.” Note to Rams’ fans: Start traveling. Fans make a difference.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Gotta believe Rob Gronkowski retires. And if you don’t think that will make a difference to Brady, rewind the videotape to the Patriots’ only touchdown drive. The two biggest catches were by Gronk … and no tight end makes that 29-yard catch at the 2 that drove a dagger in the Rams. “When it comes to crunch time,” said Gronk. “I always find a way. I knew the ball was coming. I just knew it was going to come to me.”
Hey, Gronk, better here than Detroit, right?
I don’t like what Josh McDaniel did to Indianapolis, either. But it sure looks like a smart move for him and a smarter move for New England.
Former New England assistant Charlie Weis predicted the Patriots were going to “stomp” on the Rams. And they did. But with their defense. Not their offense.
Memo to the Rams' Nickell Robey-Coleman: Stop trying to critique quarterbacks and start trying to solve them.
Yes, Edelman deserved to be the MVP. No one else made as many plays, and the Rams didn’t seem to have an answer for the guy. But, please, let’s not resume Hall-of-Fame calls for the guy. He’s the perfect go-to guy for Brady, but he's not Jerry Rice.
Don’t tell me there was nothing wrong with Rams’ running back Todd Gurley. He touched the ball on offense as many times (11) as Edelman. Throw in Edelman’s two punt returns, and Gurley takes home the silver medal. Moreover, in his last two games, Gurley carried 14 times for 45 yards. Period. So don't tell me he was OK … because he wasn't.
Yeah, sure, Patriot Haters, Tom Brady is a “cheater.” Since beating Indianapolis in the 2014 AFC title game, leading to that sham of a league investigation and subsequent four-game suspension … otherwise known as Deflategate … Brady is 57-15, going to four Super Bowls in five years and winning three.
Speaking of ‘Deflategate” … if “general awareness” of air pressure in football is such a big deal, care to tell me what the PSI (pounds per square inch) are of the footballs in playoff games since? No? That’s because you can’t. Nobody knows.
And in other games, Team Ruff outlasted Team Fluff 59-51 in Puppy Bowl XV.
Believe it or not, this was the first of nine Belichick/Brady Super Bowls decided by more than eight points each. Prior to Sunday, their average margin of victory was 4.3 points. The average of all others is 15.8.
For everyone outside L.A., Saturday was Groundhog Day. But for La La Land, it’s Feb. 3. That’s the second time in 17 years Brady and the Patriots beat the Rams on that date in a Super Bowl.
So much for referee John Parry as the Rams’ good luck charm. That was their first loss since 2008 in eight games with Parry – whose crew, by the way, called a franchise-high 14 fouls on New England this season. It walked off three on the Pats Sunday.
FIVE THINGS YOU MAY HAVE MISSED
That was the second lowest combined point total in Super Bowl history, behind only Super Bowl IX when the Steelers led the Vikings, 2-0.
It was also the first time the Rams were shut out in the first half in 36 games under Sean McVay.
Brady becomes the first player to win six Super Bowl rings. He had been tied with Hall-of-Famer Charles Haley.
The Rams are the first Super Bowl team to punt on their first eight possessions.
In nine Super Bowls, the Patriots have been outscored 78-3 in the first quarter.
Tom Brady has six game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime of Super Bowls. No other quarterback has more than six game-winning drives in the playoffs since 1970.
SUNDAY’S BEST QUOTE
"I’m pretty numb right now. But definitely I got out-coached. I didn’t do nearly enough for our football team. This one is going to stick with you.” – Rams’ Coach Sean McVay.
SUNDAY’S BIGGEST WINNER
BOSTON. L.A. has the beaches, Laker Girls and Sunset Blvd. Boston has the Commons, snow and the Charles. So where do you want to bel? Easy: Beantown, baby! There’s a party and parade there this week, and if that sounds familiar … it should. This is the third time in the past five years and the sixth time in the past 17 the Patriots have held a Super Bowl parade. But it’s the second time in the last 100 days that Boston celebrated … with the Red Sox throwing a party downtown in late October. And here's the clincher: Both victories? Yep, they came at the expense of Los Angeles -- with the Red Sox hammering the Dodgers and the Pats shutting down the Rams.
SUNDAY’S BIGGEST LOSER
YOUTH. George Bernard Shaw is supposed to have said that “youth is wasted on the young,” and he wasn’t talking about today’s NFL … though he could have. Because at 66, Bill Belichick is twice as old as the Rams’ Sean McVay, and 41-year-old Tom Brady has 17 years on Rams’ quarterback Jared Goff. So what? So old guys rule.