This was the Super Bowl final that nobody expected

Washington Post commercial is an important reminder on Super Bowl Sunday

New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore after making an interception during Super Bowl LIII. Photograph: Doug Mills/The New York Times

New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore after making an interception during Super Bowl LIII. Photograph: Doug Mills/The New York Times

 

Super Bowl Sunday’s biggest takeaway: In a season defined by offence, defence takes centre stage at Super Bowl LIII

It would not be an understatement to say no one expected the final score of Sunday’s Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta to be 13-3, with the Patriots and Rams combining for one total touchdown on the evening.

Before the match, Vegas bookkeepers set the over/under at 56 points, and analysts throughout American sports media were predicting a shootout between the historically great Rams attack and an always-effective Patriots squad led by legendary quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick.

Through three quarters of play on Sunday evening, the score stood tied at three, making it the first time in Super Bowl history that the beginning of the fourth quarter preceded the match’s first touchdown.

The lone touchdown finally came during a vintage late-match Brady-led touchdown drive, in which the ageless quarterback completed all four of his passes for 67 yards.

Starting from the New England 31-yard line, Brady completed his first pass to star tight end Rob Gronkowski for 18 yards, then tossed another 13-yard strike to eventual-match MVP Julian Edelman, who finished with 10 receptions and 141 receiving yards.

Arguably the most important play of the night came two plays later, as a 29-yard reception by Gronkowski in triple coverage placed New England at the Rams’ 2-yard line.

A play later, rookie running back Sony Michel rushed for the evening’s only touchdown to give the Patriots a 10-3 lead with seven minutes left in the match.

On the ensuing drive, Rams quarterback Jared Goff appeared to have captured a passing rhythm for the first time in what had to that point been an anemic showing for the LA attack.

After three quarters of consistent pressure levied by the Patriots’ defence resulted in mistimed and errant throws by the young quarterback, Goff began the drive with a 19-yard pass to wide receiver Brandin Cooks and followed it up with an 11-yard toss to wide receiver Josh Reynolds two plays later.

Momentum appeared to be shifting in LA’s favour after Goff completed a 17-yard pass to Robert Woods on a 3rd and 9 to give the Rams a first down on the New England 27 with 4:24 to play.

After an incomplete pass to Cooks on first down, Goff went back to the well on second, tossing a looping pass intended for Cooks into the air down the right side of the field.

Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore jumped up to snatch the under-thrown pass in what appeared to be a match-ending turnover.

Perhaps the most anticlimactic Super Bowl in league history then ended in the most anticlimactic way, as the Patriots drove down the field and kicked a field goal to go up two scores with 1:12 remaining.

It was all but over for LA, whose fate was officially sealed moments later on a missed Greg Zuerlein 48-yard field goal that gave the Patriots the ball with five seconds to play.

Tom Brady kneeled out the clock and for the sixth time in the past 18 years, the Lombardi Trophy was heading back to New England.

New England held Sean McVay’s LA squad - which averaged 32.9 points during the regular season - to a season-low three points on the night.

Star Rams running back Todd Gurley finished with an underwhelming 35 yards rushing on 10 carries, and although Goff was sacked only four times, he was seemingly hit on every play, never appearing comfortable in the pocket throughout the match.

In a season defined by elite attacks and renegade quarterback play, somehow the Super Bowl featured few notable scoring plays for audiences, leaving front offices and fans everywhere with one final takeaway from the 2018-2019 NFL season.

No matter how dynamic a team’s attack is, how clever a young head coach is, how many rules are changed to encourage high-scoring or how “elite” a team’s quarterback is, defence still wins championships.

Best Super Bowl Stat: Record-low scoring output

The teams’ 16 combined points ranked as the lowest in Super Bowl history, edging out the 1973 Super Bowl - a 14-7 Dolphins win over the Redskins - for the dubious distinction.

Best Halftime Performance: Big Boi embraces Atlanta homecoming

The much-maligned Super Bowl halftime show was rescued by the enigmatic, smooth-rapping Georgia native Big Boi, who graced the stage in a fur coat better suited for the Midwest’s polar vortex than a climate-controlled Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Performing “Kryptonite” and “The Way You Move”, the Outkast rap legend brought the swagger of the host city into a halftime show that several critics on my Twitter feed described as “gentrification in the form of a halftime show”.

As a native ATLien, I loved his performance, but would be lying if I said I wasn’t holding out hope for an on-stage Outkast reunion with Andre 3000 that never came to fruition.

Best Commercial: The Washington Post

In an American political climate wrought with media mistrust and a misguided hatred for journalists, The Washington Post hit back with a gripping ad emphasising the importance of a free press.

Rejecting customary Super Bowl levity in favour of making a much-needed statement, the ad honoured and immortalised slain journalists killed during the line of duty.

“Because knowing empowers us. Knowing helps us decide. Knowing keeps us free.”

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