The Patriots’ old guys
Three standbys of the Patriots’ dynasty carried the New England offense for much of the night. There was MVP Julian Edelman, who had a game-high 10 catches for a game-high 141 yards, many of them coming on third downs. There was Rob Gronkowski, the oft-injured tight end and subject of so many retirement questions, whose slow-motion 29-yard catch led to the game’s only touchdown and was among the night’s most important plays. (Gronkowski finished with 6 catches for 87 yards). And, of course, there was Brady, the 41-year old quarterback, who threw for 262 yards and easily outplayed the Rams’ Goff. Speaking of …
The Rams’ missed chances
It was a miserable night for the Los Angeles offense, which ranked second in the NFL this season in both yards and points. But a few miserable moments stand out as the most miserable. Wide receiver Brandin Cooks had a chance at two touchdown catches, both of which hit his hands, although both of which would have required remarkable efforts. And Goff had one of his worst throws on the game’s most important drive, getting intercepted on a 2nd-and-10 throw from the Patriots’ 27-yard line with a bit more than four minutes remaining.
Yes, a punter. Hekker’s eighth punt of the night was a record-breaker, getting several good bounces and rolling to a stop after 65 yards, which set a new Super Bowl record for distance.
After the Patriots pinned the Rams at their own 6-yard line midway through the third quarter, New England figured to get excellent field position. But Hekker’s record-setting boot instead put the Patriots back on their own 29. Hekker punted on the Rams’ first eight possessions.
(In fact, many of the game’s most memorable moments featured kickers, and Stephen Gostkowski’s 41-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter clinched New England’s win. Plus, there were a lot of jokes about soccer during that points-starved first half.)
That abysmal first half
Ah yes. You’ll remember it if you can’t convince yourself to forget it, anyhow. If there were first-half stars, their names were Bill Belichick and Wade Phillips, the coaches behind those stifling defenses. The Rams punted six times in the first half, one more than the number of completions quarterback Jared Goff had through 30 minutes. Los Angeles had only two first downs at halftime.
The Patriots had more success moving the ball, but one trip to scoring position ended with a missed field goal, and another with a failed 4th-and-1 attempt.
The Patriots led, 3-0, at halftime, making it the second-lowest scoring first half in Super Bowl history. There wasn’t a single snap inside the red zone.
“If you like offensive football, well, too bad,” as CBS analyst Tony Romo put it.
Adam Levine’s shirtless halftime performance
The subject of much speculation and derision coming into the game, the Maroon 5-centered halftime show did not appear to be well received. In fact, the show had some longing for the return of Up With People. Where is Left Shark when you need him?
No entertainer took a knee in support of Colin Kaepernick (the subject of some pregame musing), and the tame show also included tame performances from Big Boi and Travis Scott. At the end, Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine took off his shirt. The move was not universally applauded.
The Todd Gurley questions
The NFL’s highest-paid running back was virtually invisible in the first half, finishing the half with three carries for 10 yards. Gurley missed Los Angeles’s last two games of the regular season with a knee issue, but Coach Sean McVay said in the run-up to the game that Gurley was “feeling good” and expected to “play a big role” in the Rams' game plan.
Instead, C.J. Anderson, who arrived in December, led the Rams in first-half carries with four. The star’s absence became one of the primary discussion topics online, at least for anyone who was alert enough to type.
“Todd Gurley must have the flu, a broken leg, and dengue fever,” read one viral tweet. “The one football player in the history of the sport Sean McVay forgot is Todd Gurley,” read another.
CBS sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson said that the Rams had “nothing to report” about Gurley’s status. He finished with 10 carries for 35 yards.
Complete coverage from The Post:
Patriots win Super Bowl LIII, beat Rams 13-3
After a 60-minute slog that featured a dearth of points and few highlights, the New England Patriots are Super Bowl champions for the sixth time under the leadership of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.
In the end, it was too much Brady, Julian Edelman (141 yards receiving), Rob Gronkowski and rookie Sony Michel. And way, way too much Belichick.
With the coach cooking up defensive schemes that thwarted the Rams' high-octane offense, the Patriots finally broke through with a touchdown with just over 7 minutes left. That, coupled with Stephon Gilmore’s interception on the Rams' next drive, gave the Patriots the only real momentum of the game and they went on to win their sixth championship in nine trips to the Super Bowl, beating the Rams 13-3.
The victory came against the Rams on the 17th anniversary of the beginning of the Brady-Belichick dynasty, their victory over the Rams, then of St. Louis.
After the win, Brady shared a long hug with owner Robert Kraft as CBS’s Tracy Wolfson fought for an interview.
“We fought through it more than anything," Brady said. "What an unbelievable year.”
Rams’ desperation field goal flies wide
Patriots 13, Rams 3 - 0:05 fourth quarter
Needing two scores to tie the game, the Rams tried to kick a field goal but Greg Zuerlein’s attempt sailed wide left, giving the ball, and the Super Bowl win, to the Patriots.
Patriots add another field goal to effectively ice the game
Patriots 13, Rams 3 - 1:12 fourth quarter
After a third-down run by Sony Michel came up an inch short of a first down that would have clinched the game, a 41-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski with 1:12 left more or less sealed the Patriots’ sixth title by giving them a two-possession cushion over the Rams.
Interception derails Rams' attempt to tie
Patriots 10, Rams 3 - 4:17 fourth quarter
Jared Goff nearly connected with Brandin Cooks for a touchdown, but a play later was intercepted by the Patriots' Stephon Gilmore at the four yard line.
Goff was under pressure on the play and under threw it when he heaved the ball off his back foot.
Patriots find the end zone (finally)
Patriots 10, Rams 3 - 7:00 fourth quarter
The Patriots finally scored a six-pointer, as Sony Michel ran into the end zone from the 2-yard line for a 10-3 lead. It came after a drive punctuated by passes to Julian Edelman (this game’s one-man offensive machine) and Rob Gronkowski. In fact, the Rams had no answer for three consecutive plays over the middle to Gronk on the drive.
Finally, there’s a breakthrough in the rope-a-dope game and it figures that Edelman, Gronkowski and Michel would be the guys Brady relied on.
With the score, Michel becomes just the second rookie in three decades with a Super Bowl touchdown. The Baltimore Ravens' Jamal Lewis was the other.
If the Patriots come out of this with a victory, credit Edelman, who now has caught 10 passes for 141 yards and Gronkowski, who has caught six passes for 87 yards.
To the fourth quarter we go
Patriots 3, Rams 3 - end of third quarter
Stagnant offenses have marked (or marred) the first 45 minutes of Super Bowl LIII. What’s in store for the fourth? The Rams broke through with a game-tying field goal and the Patriots were in a familiar spot, with their season coming down to one quarter.
In case you were wondering, six points is the fewest scored through the first three quarters in Super Bowl history.
‘We got points!’ Rams tie up Patriots
Patriots 3, Rams 3 - 8:36 third quarter
A 53-yard field goal by the Rams' Greg Zuerlein has tied the game at 3 apiece and Tony Romo speaks, once again, for all America, after Zuerlein’s game-tying field goal: “We’ve got points! It feels like we’ve got a scoring spree going on!”
The Rams nearly took the lead on a would-be touchdown pass from Jared Goff to Brandin Cooks that was broken up in the end zone by Jason McCourty.
Excitement!!! A new Super Bowl record ... for a punt
Patriots 3, Rams 0 - 8:36 third quarter
If you like punting, boy, have we got a Super Bowl for you. This punt-a-palooza is a snoozefest, unless you’re related to the Rams' Johnny Hekker or the Patriots' Ryan Allen. For instance, the Rams' first eight possessions ended in a punt. It was, as Tony Romo noted at one point, “hard to watch.” And Damien Woody noted, “This McVay playcalling looking like Jeff Fisher.”
There was some excitement from the kicking game however, as Hekker’s eighth punt of the night was a record-breaker, getting several good bounces and rolling to a stop after 65-yards, which is a new Super Bowl record for distance.
After the Patriots pinned the Rams at their own 6-yard line, they had threatened to get the ball with a short field. The Hekker record put New England back on their own 29.
Patriots lose Patrick Chung as second half begins
Patriots 3, Rams 0 - 14:04 third quarter
Patriots safety Patrick Chung was hurt on the Rams' opening drive of the second half and went off the field with an air cast encasing his right forearm. Duron Harmon replaced Chung for the Patriots. Chung was ruled out for the remainder of the game.
The Rams, who received the kickoff to start the second half, could not put any points on the board as Jared Goff’s third-down pass attempt to Brandin Cooks fell incomplete.
Some poor numbers from the Rams thus far: Goff has yet to complete a pass on third-down. Punter Johnny Hekker has more punts (7) than Todd Gurley has carries (6).
The game remains a bore.
Despite fireworks, Maroon 5 offers little spark
The subject of much speculation and derision coming into the game, the Maroon 5-centered halftime show did not appear to be well received by the NFL’s viewership. In fact, it had one of my colleagues longing for the return of Up With People and, really, could you blame him? Or, as Russell Reimer tweeted, “Maroon 5 is America’s Nickelback.” Where is Left Shark when you need him?
While no entertainer took a knee in support of Colin Kaepernick (the subject of some pregame musing and a prop bet), there was some controversy in an otherwise tame show that also included Big Boi and Travis Scott. At the end, Adam Levine took off his shirt and the move was not universally applauded.
Patriots lead at halftime of a surprisingly defense-heavy Super Bowl
If there were first-half stars, their names were Bill Belichick and Wade Phillips as the Patriots and Rams defenses held the offenses to all of three points. The problem for the Rams, with the Patriots leading 3-0 at the half, was that the Rams defense had no answer for Julian Edelman. They got a big boost at the end of the half, though, when the Patriots were stopped on a fourth-down play and they’ll get another when the second half starts and they get the ball first. They’ll have plenty to think about, with two first downs and 57 yards in the first half.
This is the second-lowest scoring Super Bowl in history after the first 30 minutes.
“If you like offensive football, too bad,” as Tony Romo put it.
Rams hold strong, halt Patriots' 4th-down conversion attempt
Patriots 3, Rams 0 - 1:13 second quarter
The Patriots nearly padded their 3-point lead, but on a 4th-and-1 from the Rams' 32 yard line a pass from Tom Brady scraped off the fingertips of a diving Rob Gronkowski, giving the ball back to Los Angeles. The Rams, however, again could not do much before punting away to the Patriots with 16 seconds left in the half.
The Rams have just two first downs in the game.
Gronkowski back after injury scare, but Gurley MIA for Rams
Patriots 3, Rams 0 - 7:50 second quarter
Although Rob Gronkowski limped off after the Patriots' previous possession, he was back on the field when New England got the ball back. Meanwhile, C.J. Anderson and not Todd Gurley continued to get the bulk of the carries for the Rams, as was the case in the NFC championship game two weeks ago.
Midway through the second quarter, Anderson had four carries for 10 yards, Gurley one carry for two yards.
The early commercial highlights
The commercials haven’t exactly been memorable so far (Steve Carrell and Jason Bateman are funnier than this), but then Game of Thrones, as Alan Sepinwall put it, rickrolled Bud Light and we were amused.
HBO, according to the Wall Street Journal, wanted to surprise the game’s roughly 100 million viewers with an ad for another brand and considered car makers and Coke. WSJ added that it “envisioned pitching a script that involved having Coke’s iconic polar bear turn into a ‘white walker,’ a zombielike creature from the show.”
Other highlights included Marvel’s Captain Marvel, though it needed some Bud Light.
We weren’t sure what to make of “Hobbs &Shaw,” but it had Idris Elba, so what more, really, is needed?
For football fans though, this may be the best commercial of the night. At the least, it had more action that the first half.
Also, you may have heard or seen The Post’s own commercial, which aired during the fourth quarter.
Patriots take the lead on Gostkowski field goal
Patriots 3, Rams 0 - 10:29 second quarter
The Patriots took the first lead of the game on a 42-yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski who earlier missed a 46-yard attempt.
What was thought would be a high-scoring bonanza of a Super Bowl has been pretty tame so far. The Rams have just one first down in the game.
Game remains scoreless at end of the first quarter
Patriots 0, Rams 0 - End first quarter
At the end of the first quarter, the matchup of defensive masterminds goes to the Rams' Wade Phillips. His bend but don’t break defense has stopped the Patriots and has begun to pressure Tom Brady, who has already been sacked once, hit twice and forced to throw an interception.
First quarter stats give the Patriots the edge in both rushing (38 yards to 12) and passing (75 yards to 17).
Surprise! Brady sacked
Patriots 0, Rams 0 - 0:18 first quarter
The Rams did something neither the Los Angeles Chargers nor Kansas City Chiefs could managed against the Patriots -- sack Tom Brady. The Rams' defense continued to press and hit Brady on 3rd-and-5 to end another drive for New England without any points.
Patriots miss field goal attempt
Patriots 0, Rams 0 - 5:35 first quarter
A Stephen Gostkowski hooked a 46-yard field goal attempt to the left, keeping the game scoreless. The Patriots have outgained the Rams 72-2 and have zero points. So far, they’ve burned two time outs as well.
One fun fact, the Patriots have never had a first-quarter touchdown in a Super Bowl. The only time they’ve scored in a Super Bowl was last year’s when they converted a field goal.
Penalty call helps Patriots out of a big hole
Patriots 0, Rams 0 - 8:56 first quarter
With just under 9 minutes left in the first quarter, we had the first officiating issue of the game. The Rams' Nickell Robey-Coleman was called for a personal foul, a hit on a defenseless runner, which changed what would have been a 3rd-and-20 for the Patriots to a first down. The reason for the call? As Tony Romo and former NFL referee Gene Steratore explained it, the runner didn’t have time to establish himself as a runner before he was hit around the neck and head.
There was general confusion from the broadcast team and the Rams' sideline as to why the flag was thrown. Additionally, there was confusion about who the penalty was on.
It was just two weeks ago when the officiating came under scrutiny in the NFC Championship game when a clear defensive pass interference penalty was not called on the Rams in their win over the New Orleans Saints.
Patriots' first drive halted by a Tom Brady interception
Patriots 0, Rams 0 - 12:06 first quarter
And we have our first turning point of the game with 12:06 left in the first quarter. After four straight running plays, Brady targeted wide receiver Chris Hogan, the ball was tapped into the air by Nickell Robey-Coleman and into the arms of Corey Littleton at the Rams' 32-yard line.
The Rams could do nothing with it, though, going four and out.
Rams win the coin toss
Matt Slater handled the coin toss call for the Patriots and, as is his habit in honor of his father, called “heads.” It’s tails and the Rams elected to defer, giving the ball to the Patriots.
“This is risky," CBS analyst Tony Romo said. "It tells your defense you believe in them but the last two times Tom Brady went out and almost won the game with opening drives.”
The anthem goes over: Gladys Knight, Atlanta legend, belted out a moving rendition of the national anthem, one that came in at 2 minutes, 1 second (by the Post’s count). The coin toss is up next. Also for those wondering, the temperature is 59 degrees at kickoff, though the game will be played indoors under a closed roof.
Nearly underway: Seventeen years after they met in the Super Bowl, the rematch is set to begin in Atlanta with the New England Patriots and the Rams, now of Los Angeles.
This time, Jared Goff and not Tom Brady is the newbie quarterback and if Brady, now 41, has learned anything, it’s this: Nothing against Goff, but, as he told CBS’s Tony Romo, “You don’t know what you don’t know. You’re just young.”
As for his coach, Bill Belichick, he was typically loquacious when asked what he’d told the team as it took the field for its ninth Super Bowl appearance in his tenure. “Just go out there and play our best," he said. "This is what we’ve been waiting for all year.”
The first few minutes of the broadcast belonged to Tony Romo and Peyton Manning. Romo kicked it off with a sly, self-deprecating, “I’ve been waiting to hear ‘Welcome to the Super Bowl’ my whole life.” As for Manning, a Super Bowl can’t really take place without a John Malkovich introduction and this one was over the top, with gladiators and the Roman coliseum part of the former quarterback’s grand vision for the CBS intro. Best line from Manning? “I know I don’t get my mail at the Super Bowl like Brady does, but I won two.”
As far as the game itself, the network’s analysts believe the Patriots will come away with their sixth title under Brady and Bill Belichick. CBS’s pregame crew, save for Nate Burleson, all picked the Patriots, for what that’s worth.
Trump’s take on the anthem: In a wide-ranging, pre-Super Bowl conversation with Margaret Brennan of CBS’s “Face the Nation,” President Trump maintained that he wanted to see players “respect our flag and our country,” addressing the controversial issue that roiled the 2017 NFL season as players demonstrated to raise awareness of social injustice.
“You have to respect our flag and our country. I want that as president and I’d want that as a citizen. And I have a very good relationship [with Commissioner Roger Goodell]. I did them [the NFL] a big favor in negotiating the USMCA, which is basically the replacement to NAFTA, which is one of the worst trade deals ever made,” Trump told Brennan. “And I said to Canada, look, we have a great American company known as the NFL, and they were being hurt and treated unfairly, the NFL, by Canada for a long time.
“And I said to Prime Minister Trudeau, who was very nice about it and really understood it, I hope you can settle the difference immediately and fast. And they did. So I did the NFL a big favor, as a great American company and they appreciated it. And Roger Goodell, this is a dispute that has gone on for years. Roger Goodell called me and he thanked me. And I appreciated that. But they haven’t been kneeling and they have been respecting the flag and their ratings have been terrific ever since. And a lot of good things happened.”
On Saturday, the NFL honored two of the leaders of the players’ demonstrations. The Miami Dolphins' Kenny Stills was named his team’s Walter Payton Man of the Year and said he’d be donating the $50,000 award to Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights Camp, which is, according to the Associated Press, ''a free campaign for youth founded by Kaepernick to raise awareness on higher education, self-empowerment, and instruction to properly interact with law enforcement in various scenarios.'' The Philadelphia Eagles' Chris Long was named the league’s Man of the Year for his efforts to improve literacy.
Asked if players “had a point” about kneeling, given that a majority of the victims of police violence are black, Trump pointed to the criminal justice reform bill he recently signed.
“And if you look at what I did, criminal judicial reform, and what I’ve done — President Obama tried. They all tried. Everybody wanted to do it. And I got it done and I’ve been, you know, really, a lot of people in the NFL have been calling and thanking me for it,” he said.
A Super Bowl entertainer arrested by ICE: Three days after rapper 21 Savage entertained fans at a pre-Super Bowl show, he was arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. Sha Yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph was taken into custody in a “targeted operation,” an ICE spokesman said. The organization contends that he is from the United Kingdom, not Atlanta, and has overstayed his visa. He performed Thursday in the Super Bowl Music Fest at State Farm Arena.
Clothes make the men: Wade Phillips and the McCourtys offered family tributes as they arrived for the game. Phillips, the Rams defensive coordinator, sported the coat and cowboy hat made famous by his late father, Bum Phillips.
The Patriots' defensive twins, Devin and Jason McCourty, paid tribute to their mom with T-shirts that read, “Mama, we made it.” They’re the first twins to play in a Super Bowl, by the way.
Star search: Among the celebrities making an appearance was comedian Kevin Hart.
MMA fighter Conor McGregor was sporting a lavender look on the field before the game with his young son.