Super Bowl LIII has was a historically low-scoring affair. The New England Patriots defeated the Los Angeles Rams, 13-3, and those 16 points were the fewest scored in an NFL title game in the Super Bowl era.
The Patriots led 3-0 at halftime, then scored the game-winning touchdown with seven minutes remaining in the game. The Rams weren’t able to get their prolific offense rolling and didn’t run a single play inside the New England 26-yard line. They had a chance to tie the game with just more than four minutes remaining when Jared Goff found Brandon Cooks at the right corner of the end zone, but Patriots defensive back Duron Harmon broke up the play.
Goff threw an interception on his next attempt, and New England marched 72 yards in nine plays to seal the win.
Super Bowl VII held the previous record with 21 total points. The Miami Dolphins defeated the Washington Redskins, 14-7, at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in 1973. Miami scored both its touchdowns in the first half, and Washington was held scoreless until Bill Brundige blocked a field goal and it was returned 49 yards for a touchdown by Mike Bass.
The teams combined for five turnovers, making for lively, if sloppy, play.
The 1948 NFL championship still holds the record for the fewest points in the league’s title game, though. The Philadelphia Eagles defeated the Chicago Cardinals, 7-0. Played in the middle of blizzard, Steve Van Buren scored the only touchdown in the fourth quarter. The game lasted a tidy 2 hours 2 minutes.
The Rams and Patriots game may have been even less exciting. Goff struggled mightily from the pocket, and the Rams only run 62 yards. The Patriots, despite putting up some numbers in the final box score, were largely ineffective on offense. There were a combined 14 punts.
The result is a major outlier in the NFL’s offense-first era. The Patriots and Eagles combined to score 74 points in Super Bowl LII, and the Patriots and Falcons combined for 62 in Super Bowl LI. Even recently lower-scoring games, between the Panthers and Broncos in 2016 and the Giants and Patriots in 2008, cracked 30 points.
In games where losing teams haven’t broken single-digit scoring, the winning team has more than made up for it. The Seahawks score 43 points to the Broncos’ eight in 2014. In 1984, the Raiders outscored the Redskins, 38-9. Not since 1975, when the Steelers defeated the Vikings, 16-6, was there a close Super Bowl in which the losing team didn’t eclipse 10 points.
It’s not as though Super Bowl LIII’s offenses were too inept to put points on the board, either. The Rams were the No. 2 scoring offense in the league during the regular seasons, scoring an average of 32.9 points per game. The Patriots were fourth overall, with an average of 27.3 points per game. The Patriots hadn’t scored below 20 points in a win all season, and they won their previous playoff games by putting up totals of 41 and 37.
The Rams, meanwhile, had scored in the single digits just once this season before Sunday: a 15-6 loss to the Chicago Bears.
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