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Super Bowl LIII Review
Gary Jordan asks – did the Super Bowl hit the heights of its hype?
By Gary Jordan
Some sporting events don’t live up to their billed hype. They don’t quite deliver on the promises made in the build-up. In the past many Super Bowls have done that. A period in the late 1980s to early '90s it was a one-sided affair, a team would dominate the other on the day and albeit a worthy champion was named it left a bittersweet taste. A feeling that you were robbed of a showdown of equality. This led to changes within the National Football League. Salary cap rules being the most important, to guard against lopsided score lines and dynasty type domination. This isn’t to take away the achievements of those that had their multiple successes, they were after all playing by the rules set in front of them.
This is what makes the tale of the New England Patriots even more impressive. In an age of parity in the NFL they just keep coming, year after year. You think they are broken only for them to come back. Other teams rise and think they are worthy of the challenge only to be beaten back, put in their place, by the team that just doesn’t know when it’s done. This season the Patriots were fighting not just their on-field opponent but large portions of the media, they were never the favourites to win it all, only when they reached the title game were the odds slightly in their direction, this largely due to their big game experience.
Super Bowl 53 in Atlanta had the Patriots defeat, and all but silence, the second highest scoring team in the league this year. This coming off a two week break after beating the highest scoring team, Kansas City, in the conference championship game. Tom Brady, the quarterback who defies all logic to play in his record ninth title game, now winning six of them, didn’t have to be spectacular this time. He played with his usual nous, knowing when to pass and when not to - his first attempt was picked off and this only seemed to result in a gathering of his mind. Any nerves that could have been in his stomach were evaporated in that moment. The reason for him playing within himself? His teammates. Notably his defensive ones. They nullified the threat of the Los Angeles Rams early on, stifling them time and again, to the point that by halftime with the score just 3-0 the Rams had only managed two first downs.
Even with the extended half time period to adjust, young head coach Sean McVay just couldn’t find a way to penetrate the Patriots defense and gain any kind of momentum. Even when they managed to tie the game late in the third quarter, they couldn’t push on. Instead it was Brady who managed to take advantage of a Rams defense that had been on the field far too long, their fatigue showing as the run game started to take hold, opening better, longer passing lanes for the QB to exploit. The drive which seemingly put the game out of reach was capped when veteran tight end Rob Gronkowski hauled in a delightful pass at the two-yard line, then rookie sensation Sony Michel ran in untouched for the game's only touchdown. Even with seven minutes left on the clock it was hard to see Los Angeles coming back. They did threaten though but Jared Goff, who although not running scared all evening was not reading the game well at all, had his pass intercepted on a deep pass inside the five-yard line of New England. It was the closest they got all night to the Patriots end zone.
New England tacked on another three points at the end to put the game to bed, and at 13-3 the final score was the lowest one of all time. This though didn’t matter one bit to the franchise that now has another Vince Lombardi trophy to polish up. They now tie the Pittsburgh Steelers with six in their cabinet. As the game ended the media rushed around Brady like this would be the final time they would see him suit up. He had already dismissed any talk of this before the game, and in his podium speech afterwards. This time he wasn’t the game MVP. Instead that honour went to his go to guy, and his “little bro” Julian Edelman. The diminutive wide receiver always seemed to be open on a night where defense ruled and ended with 10 catches for 141 yards, “I’m getting to live out a dream. It’s pretty surreal right now.” He said after.
With owner Robert Kraft clutching the trophy and proclaiming “we’re all Patriots now”, where does this leave the rest of the NFL? Well the odds have been set already and the Chiefs have been installed as early favourites to go all the way next year. Sitting just behind them are the Patriots.
Underdogs again? Surely not.