53 things we learned from Patriots' 13-3 win over Rams in Super Bowl LIII
ATLANTA — The 53 things we learned from the New England Patriots' 13-3 Super Bowl LIII win over the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday night:
1. Patriots QB Tom Brady now stands alone with six of his very own Super Bowl rings, most of any player in NFL history. Sorry, Charles Haley, it was fun while it lasted.
1a. Playing in their record 11th Super Bowl — and 10th in Robert Kraft's quarter century of ownership — the Patriots now stand alone with a league record 37 playoff victories.
1b. New England also tied Pittsburgh for the most Lombardi Trophies won (6), now making it a competition for The Stairway to Seven.
1c. Bill Belichick joined George Halas and Curly Lambeau as the only coaches in the NFL's 99-year history to win six titles. His six Super Bowl victories as a head coach are two more than anyone else.
1d. Belichick now needs to rechristen his boat "VIII Rings."
1e. Brady stands with Herb Adderly, Forrest Gregg and Fuzzy Thurston as the only players with six championships to their name. (The others won some titles pre-dating the Super Bowl, first played following the 1966 season.)
1f. Brady now has 237 career wins (regular season and playoffs combined), breaking his tie with former teammate Adam Vinatieri for the most in league annals.
1g. Brady (41) is still the oldest quarterback to win a Super Bowl, and Belichick (66) is still the oldest coach.
2. Keepin' it 100, shoulda been the Saints in this game ... and that almost certainly would have meant a better Bowl.
2a. Patriots fans still abhor Roger Goodell, but New Orleanians are definitely ready to give them a run for their money.
3. The Patriots became the first team (and third overall) since the 1972 Dolphins to win the Super Bowl one year after losing it.
3a. New England is also just the third franchise to play in three consecutive Super Bowls — so did the 1971-73 Miami teams — and can match the 1990-93 Buffalo Bills record of four by reaching Super LIV next year in South Florida.
4. The Patriots' 10-point win over the Rams was the largest margin, win or lose, of any of their nine Super Bowls during the Brady-Belichick era.
5. Maybe it was East Coast proximity, but Mercedes-Benz Stadium was decidedly pro-Patriots. New England TE Rob Gronkowski said, "The game today was a home game basically."
6. If this was Gronkowski's final game — he evaded the retirement question all week, saying at one point he was 51 percent decided (without indicating which way he was leaning) — go ahead and put him in the conversation as greatest tight end in league history. He won't finish with the stats of Tony Gonzalez or Antonio Gates, but good luck finding anyone at his position who had as great an impact on a per-game basis.
6a. Gronk's 23 career Super Sunday catches for 297 yards are both records for a tight end.
6b. Gronkowski's 29-yard catch, which set up Sony Michel's decisive fourth-quarter TD, was the game's longest play from scrimmage.
7. The Rams shut New England out in the first quarter. The Patriots have three points — total — in the opening period of their nine Super Bowls under Brady and Belichick.
8a. Now with 115 career catches for 1,412 yards in postseason, Edelman ranks second only to Jerry Rice all time in both categories.
8b. Brady has only failed to win MVP honors twice during his six Super Bowl wins. Edelman and former WR Deion Branch picked up the hardware the other times.
9. Hated to see Patriots S Patrick Chung wind up in a sling, but how much did it remind of Rodney Harrison's injury against Carolina in Super Bowl XXXVIII? Both players remained in uniform on the field after being injured to exhort their teammates.
10. Bravo to New England's offensive line, which allowed one sack of Brady in the playoffs.
11. After leading the NFL with 20½ sacks in the regular season, two-time league defensive player of the year Aaron Donald had none this postseason.
12. Statistically, this was Brady's worst Super Bowl. It marked the first time he failed to throw a TD pass, and his 71.4 QB rating was easily his lowest.
13. Brady also joined Jim Kelly and Ron Jaworski as the only Super Bowl quarterbacks to have their first pass of the game intercepted.
14. But Jared Goff would take it. The Rams' 24-year-old quarterback was under fire all night and didn't look like a player yet ready to put a team on his back in the most pressure-packed of situations. He finished the playoffs with one TD pass and two INTs along with a 71.7 passer rating.
15. Michel earned the decided nod over Todd Gurley in the battle of former University of Georgia backs on this Atlanta evening. Michel outgained Gurley by 60 total yards (94-34) and extended his rookie record with his sixth TD of these playoffs.
16. Despite his repeated denials, still seems like there's something fishy with Gurley's health.
17. Unsurprisingly, New England special teams captain Matthew Slater, a lifelong Rams fan, had the full rooting support of his father Jackie, a Hall of Fame offensive tackle with the Rams for 20 seasons.
18. Very nice to see Eagles DE Chris Long deservedly win the prestigious Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award on Saturday. Long won a ring with New England in 2016 and with Philly last year.
19. Rams WR Brandin Cooks doesn't have Long's luck. A concussion knocked Cooks from the Patriots' loss in Super Bowl LII to the Eagles, and he was on the wrong side again Sunday despite snaring eight passes for 120 yards.
19a. Cooks wasn't able to make a pair of potential TD catches, either — one he should've had, and one Goff underthrew — that likely would've produced a far more competitive game.
20. The Patriots ran one play in the red zone (Michel's TD run) ... which was one more than the Rams had.
21. Super Bowl LIII was only the second to enter the fourth quarter tied (3-3). The other was Super Bowl XXXIX, when the Patriots overcame the Eagles following the 2004 season.
22. The Rams tied the 1971 Dolphins for fewest points in a Super Bowl.
23. The Rams' three points were also their fewest in 36 games under Sean McVay.
23a. L.A. had also never suffered a first-half shutout under McVay.
24. With 16 combined points, Super Bowl LIII set a record for the fewest scored, breaking the previous mark of Super Bowl VII (Miami beat Washington 14-7).
25. There were only two fewer total punts (14) than points scored.
25a. Last year, New England and Philadelphia combined for one punt in Super Bowl LII.
26. L.A.'s Johnny Hekker set a Super Bowl record with a 65-yard punt, breaking the record (by 1 yard) of New England's Ryan Allen ... who happened to be Hekker's teammate at Oregon State.
27. Patriots LB Kyle Van Noy had three sacks in the playoffs after collecting 3½ in the regular season.
28. Whether you want to say New England's defense won this game or the Los Angeles offense lost it, take your pick. The Rams' second-ranked offense gained just 260 yards (4.3 per play), their second-lowest total of the season and finished 3-for-13 on third downs.
29. The defensive play of the game was probably Patriots CB Stephon Gilmore's fourth-quarter interception of Goff. Gilmore and Brady were New England's only Pro Bowlers in 2018.
30. Congratulations, St. Louis.
31. The paid attendance of 70,081 was the eighth lowest in Super Bowl history, but that's more a capacity issue of Mercedes-Benz Stadium than an indicator of waning NFL interest.
32. The Patriots also picked up a Hall of Famer when CB Ty Law — he played 10 years in New England — was selected over the weekend.
33. So did the University of Georgia — Champ Bailey also got the Hall call.
34. The Rams did not as WR Isaac Bruce failed to make the Canton cut once again.
35. In his final pre-game press conference Thursday, Brady was serenaded by a "journalist" singing Queen's We Are the Champions while playing a ukulele. Apropos as it turns out.
36. New England should largely be able to keep the band together for another title run in 2019. DE Trey Flowers and K Stephen Gostkowski are the key free agents.
37. Meanwhile, the Rams have decisions to make on DL Ndamukong Suh, S Lamarcus Joyner, G Rodger Saffold and OLB Dante Fowler Jr., who all have expiring contracts.
38. Starting Monday, Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores will begin his transition into head coach of the Miami Dolphins. Good luck with that, dude. At least you worked for the real genius Sunday.
39. Starting Monday, Rams quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor will begin his transition into head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals. Good luck with that, dude. Too bad your genius boss lost a touch of his luster Sunday.
40. Maroon 5. Meh.
41. Gladys Knight. Yay.
42. Despite his shameless (but humorous) self-promotion, we agree Steve Harvey needs to return as host of NFL Honors. Well done, sir ... though you could've made just one joke about the Saints' plight in the NFC Championship Game.
43. Now that so many NFL cities have been rewarded with Super Bowls in the wake of constructing new stadiums, let's hope Atlanta settles in as a regular part of the rotation. Mercedes-Benz Stadium is a first-class facility for such a marquee event, and the city did a great job hosting the mid-week madness and making so many of the league's exhibitions and events accessible and walk-able.
44. And it was pretty cool seeing the yard's oculus open for the pre-game festivities.
45. But nice insurgency by Pepsi, the NFL's official beverage sponsor, buying up all kinds of billboard space and being a constant presence — for a week — in Coca-Cola's hometown.
46. And security was not an issue in the ATL. Many of the legions of law enforcement were decked out like Navy SEALs, and you've never seen so many bomb dogs.
47. Bird scooters — best way to traverse Atlanta. Just ask former NFL WR Eric Decker, who could constantly be seen hovering around the Patriots team hotel during the week. Decker spent last August with New England before deciding to conclude his eight-year career.
48. Kudos to the Patriots' McCourty brothers. DBs Devin and Jason became the first set of twins to play in a Super Bowl.
49. Suspended Patriots WR Josh Gordon remained on the minds of many of his teammates during the week.
50. Backup QBs Brian Hoyer (Patriots) and Sean Mannion (Rams) were the only players in uniform Sunday who didn't get to play.
51. Belichick is a massive fan of Jerry Kramer's book, Instant Replay.
52. When your boss tells you to have just one post-game beverage before you've filed your last story ... don't listen. Readers shouldn't wait for 53 things ...
53. Dearest mother — @CaptAndrewLuck is overjoyed by the regimental award celebrating his crackling return to the ranks in recent months. Though he was not directly involved in Sunday's engagement between the erstwhile Colonial Patriots and the Ram Men of the West, he reports all is quiet now and that Atlanta has been spared any calamitous conflagration in the wake of this decisive battle.
Follow Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis
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