Final, Patriots 13-3: For the sixth time since 2001, the New England Patriots are Super Bowl champions.
With most expecting a shootout between two of the NFL’s most prolific offenses, the Patriots instead relied on a suffocating defensive performance to smother the Los Angeles Rams at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Super Bowl LIII.
A fourth-quarter rushing touchdown by rookie Sony Michel — the only six-pointer either team managed in the lowest-scoring Super Bowl in NFL history — proved to be the difference in a 13-3 Patriots victory.
The Rams threatened on the possession after Michel’s score, but Duron Harmon’s goal-line pass breakup and Stephon Gilmore’s ensuing interception thwarted their bid to tie the game.
Regaining possession inside their own 5-yard line, the Patriots proceeded to run the ball on nine consecutive plays — including 26-yard dashes by Michel and Rex Burkhead — to set up Stephen Gostkowski for a game-sealing 41-yard field goal.
Julian Edelman, who was named Super Bowl MVP, caught 10 passes on 12 targets for 141 yards to cap an incredible postseason for the veteran wide receiver. Rob Gronkowski added six catches on seven targets for 87 yards, including two big gains on the game’s lone touchdown drive.
New England’s defense forced nine LA punts and five three-and-outs. Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy consistently pressured quarterback Jared Goff, whom the Patriots sacked four times and hit 12 times.
Fourth quarter, 4:14, Patriots 10-3: The Rams nearly tied the game up on the very next drive. Then Stephon Gilmore happened.
The All-Pro cornerback intercepted an underthrown Jared Goff pass inside the Patriots’ 5-yard line to give New England its first takeaway of the game.
Safety Duron Harmon also broke up a potential touchdown one play earlier by nailing Brandin Cooks as the ball arrived.
Fourth quarter, 7:00, Patriots 10-3: It took 53 minutes, but Super Bowl LIII finally has its first touchdown.
Sony Michel did the honors for New England, plunging over the goal line from 2 yards out after two big-time receptions by Rob Gronkowski.
Gronkowski, who’d been held without a catch since early in the second quarter, hauled one in for 18 yards down the sideline and another for 29 in heavy traffic to set up Michel’s score.
Fourth quarter, 9:49, 3-3: The Rams moved the chains on third down thanks to a defensive holding call on Stephon Gilmore, but they were moved right back two plays later when center John Sullivan was flagged for holding Danny Shelton.
The next two plays went nowhere, and the Rams punted for the ninth time.
Gilmore also forced a C.J. Anderson fumble earlier in the drive, but the ball rolled out of bounds before any Patriots player could recover.
Fourth quarter, 14:57, 3-3: Tom Brady fired incomplete to James White on third down on the opening play of the fourth quarter, bringing Ryan Allen on for his fifth punt of the game.
He delivered another beauty, pinning the Rams inside their own 10-yard line for the third time.
Third quarter, 2:11, 3-3: The Rams finally generated some offensive momentum on their latest drive — including their first third-down conversion in nine attempts — and tied the game on a 53-yard field goal by Greg Zuerlein.
They easily could have taken the lead, though, as a coverage breakdown by the Patriots left Brandin Cooks wide open in the end zone. Jared Goff waited a hair too long and put too much air under his throw, however, giving Jason McCourty the time necessary to sprint over and make a highlight-reel pass breakup.
One play later, Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy teamed up to smother Goff and force the field-goal try. Hightower was credited with the sack, his second of the night.
Third quarter, 10:06, Patriots 3-0: Pinned inside their own 5-yard line, the Rams went three-and-out for the fifth time, with Dont’a Hightower nearly sacking Jared Goff in the end zone on third down.
Johnny Hekker appeared to shank the ensuing punt, but he again benefited from a favorable roll. The ball finally came to rest at the Patriots’ 29-yard line, making the 65-yard punt the longest in Super Bowl history.
Third quarter, 12:58, Patriots 3-0: The Rams’ defense continues to have no answer for Julian Edelman, who’s now up to 120 yards after hauling in a 27-yarder against Marcus Peters.
Despite this, the Patriots still have yet to find the end zone and have not gotten on the scoreboard in any fashion since early in the second quarter. Peters broke up a third-down pass to Edelman to end New England’s latest drive.
Third quarter, 12:58, Patriots 3-0: Less than a minute into the second half, the Patriots lost one of their most important defensive players to what appeared to be a broken forearm.
On a Todd Gurley carry, safety Patrick Chung inadvertently was nailed by teammate Jonathan Jones, who’s been lining up as a safety for much of the night rather than his natural cornerback spot.
Chung remained down for several minutes, during which he had his arm placed in an air cast. He refused to board the cart that had been brought onto the field for him, instead choosing to walk himself into the locker room.
Minutes later, the Patriots officially ruled Chung out for the rest of the game with an arm injury.
We’ll likely see Devin McCourty moving into the box to take over Chung’s position moving forward, with Duron Harmon coming on as a deep safety.
Stephon Gilmore broke up a pass intended for Brandin Cooks two plays later to force another Rams punt.
Halftime, Patriots 3-0: The lowest-scoring first half in a Super Bowl since Super Bowl IX came to an end after the Patriots came up empty on fourth-and-1, forced yet another three-and-out and then took a knee after Johnny Hekker pinned them inside their own 5-yard line.
The stories of the game thus far have been New England’s defense flat-out dominating the second-highest scoring offense in the NFL and the Patriots’ offense continuously squandering opportunities.
All but one Patriots’ possession (excluding the final kneeldown) has reached Rams territory, but a series of miscues (a Tom Brady interception, a Brady fumble, a missed field goal, that failed fourth-down conversion) have prevented them from capitalizing.
Julian Edelman has been the Patriots’ offensive standout thus far, catching seven passes on eight targets for 93 yards and six first downs. Rob Gronkowski also has been productive, catching four passes on five targets for 40 yards.
Defensively, Kyle Van Noy and Dont’a Hightower each have one sack, four players have QB hits, three have pass breakups and Danny Shelton has a big-time run stuff.
The Rams, who have just two first downs, 57 yards and are 0-for-6 on third down, will receive the second-half kickoff.
Second quarter, 3:57, Patriots 3-0: The Patriots’ defense has been phenomenal in this first half. Kyle Van Noy just sacked Jared Goff on third-and-2 to force yet another Rams punt.
Credit the Patriots’ secondary for holding up its coverage for close to eight seconds and Van Noy for chasing down the scrambling Goff and spinning him down.
LA is 0-for-5 on third down and has just two first downs.
Second quarter, 6:14, Patriots 3-0: A drop by Sony Michel contributed to the Patriots’ first three-and-out of the night.
Michel is a talented rusher, but he still isn’t there as a pass-catcher. That’ll be a big priority for the rookie as he enters his first full NFL offseason.
Second quarter, 7:50, Patriots 3-0: The Rams moved the chains on an 18-yard completion to Robert Woods — which the Patriots might have challenged had they not already burned two of their timeouts — but again were forced to punt after Jason McCourty broke up a deep ball to Josh Reynolds on third down.
The Patriots have broken up or deflected passes on three of LA’s four third downs, and the Rams are 0-for-4 in that area thus far.
Second quarter, 10:29, Patriots 3-0: The Patriots are on the board.
Julian Edelman (five catches, 74 yards) and Rob Gronkowski (four catches, 40 yards) continued their strong evenings to move New England into field goal range, and Stephen Gostkowski didn’t miss this time, booting one through from 42 yards out.
Gronkowski appeared to be limping slightly after taking a low hit on a 4-yard reception, but he didn’t receive medical attention on the sideline. That situation obviously is worth monitoring.
On another note, Tom Brady and Chris Hogan are having trouble connecting. Brady is 0-for-4 when targeting Hogan and 10-for-12 when targeting anyone else.
Second quarter, 13:58, 0-0: Another three-and-out for the Patriots’ defense, which certainly has been up to the challenge thus far. The Rams have just 32 yards of total offense and one first down.
First quarter, 0:12, 0-0: The Patriots’ third possession played out similarly to their first two: They were able to generate yardage but couldn’t manufacture points.
This time, they picked up 25 yards on a completion to Julian Edelman and 14 on one to Rob Gronkowski, but a coverage strip-sack and an Aaron Donald QB hit on third down forced them to punt for the first time tonight.
First quarter, 3:25, 0-0: New England’s offense is having some issues tonight, but its defense has been dialed in thus far.
The Rams have just picked up one first down through their first two possessions. Patrick Chung broke up a pass intended for Robert Woods on third-and-3, and after a Rams delay of game wiped away a Patriots neutral zone infraction, Johnny Hekker uncharacteristically shanked his second punt of the night.
It traveled just 28 yards, giving the Patriots possession at their own 19.
First quarter, 5:35, 0-0: The Patriots held the ball for 5:40 on their second possession, traveling 60 yards in 11 plays.
Julian Edelman, one of the overtime heroes in the AFC Championship, converted on third-and-9, and Tom Brady later hit Rob Gronkowski for 19 yards off a play fake to Sony Michel.
The Patriots were forced to expend two timeouts during the series, however, and after an inside handoff to James White on third-and-8 picked up just 3, Stephen Gostkowski shanked a 46-yard field goal wide left.
Gostkowski has missed a kick in the Patriots’ final game in each of the last four seasons (three Super Bowls, one AFC title game).
First quarter, 11:15, 0-0: We expected the Patriots to look to pound the ball with heavy personnel packages against the Rams’ light front seven, and that’s exactly what they did to open the game.
After Cordarrelle Patterson opened the game with a 38-yard kickoff return, New England ran the ball on each of their first four plays — three handoffs to Sony Michel, one jet sweep to Patterson — picking up 27 yards in the process.
Tom Brady first throw, however, brought an end to that promising opening drive. Looking to target Chris Hogan, Brady had his pass broken up by Nickell Robey-Coleman — who made headlines by taking a swipe at the QB’s age early this week — and intercepted by linebacker Corey Littleton.
The Patriots’ defense responded with a three-and-out, allowing just 2 yards before forcing a Rams punt. Of note: cornerback J.C. Jackson wasn’t among the Patriots’ defensive starters. Jason McCourty and Jonathan Jones got the nod along with Stephon Gilmore to start the drive.
First quarter, 15:00, 0-0: The Rams won the opening coin toss — tails, for all you prop bet fanatics out there — and chose to defer. LA’s Greg Zuerlein will kick off to Cordarrelle Patterson as we get underway here in Atlanta.
6:12 p.m.: It became abundantly clear during pregame introductions that this is a heavily pro-Patriots crowd. Based on crowd reaction, it seems like 70 percent of this building or more is supporting New England.
We’re less than 20 minutes from game time.
3:35 p.m.: No surprises on the Patriots’ inactive list:
Defensive ends Deatrich Wise and Adrian Clayborn and defensive tackle Danny Shelton all are active.
3:50 p.m.: Quarterback Danny Etling has been the only practice squad player to travel on Patriots road trips this season. But, as is tradition, the team brought the entire practice squad with them to Atlanta. Players currently on injured reserve or the non-football injury list made the trip, as well.
Etling currently is playing catch with fellow scout teamers Dan Skipper and Calvin Munson down on the field.
Defensive ends Derek Rivers, Keionta Davis and Ufomba Kamalu, tight end Stephen Anderson and safety Obi Melifonwu also are out here early with the practice squad. Though that’s not definitive proof of anything, it suggests all five will be healthy scratches.
Because they currently have no injured players, all seven Patriots inactives tonight will be healthy scratches. Cornerback Duke Dawson, who has yet to make his NFL debut, and offensive lineman James Ferentz, who’s played sparingly since being promoted from the practice squad, are the likely candidates to fill the final two inactive slots.
Inactives will officially be announced at 4:30 p.m. ET.
3 p.m.: Miss today’s Pregame Chat, presented by Skybook? Fear not. You can watch the full episode in the player below.
2:40 p.m.: Welcome inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which soon will be filled by what’s likely to be a largely pro-Patriots crowd.
8 a.m. ET: Good morning, football fans, and welcome to Super Bowl Sunday.
We’re just 10 1/2 hours from kickoff at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium, where the AFC champion New England Patriots and NFC champion Los Angeles Rams will square off in Super Bowl LIII.
The Patriots, who are back in this game for the third consecutive year, are seeking their sixth Super Bowl title since Tom Brady and Bill Belichick arrived on the scene in 2000.
The Rams haven’t appeared in a Super Bowl since Kurt Warner and the “Greatest Show on Turf” lost to a young Brady and Co. exactly 17 years ago today. They’re led by 24-year-old quarterback Jared Goff, 33-year-old head coach Sean McVay and a slew of stars on both sides of the ball, including defensive tackles Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh, running back Todd Gurley, wide receiver Brandin Cooks and cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters.
Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m.
Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images