(WEEI.com in ATLANTA) — It wasn't the game anyone expected, but the New England Patriots will certainly take it.
After no touchdowns were scored in the first three quarters, Sony Michel had a 2-yard touchdown with exactly seven minutes remaining to give the Patriots a 10-3 lead. On the following drive, Stephon Gilmore picked off Jared Goff inside the 5-yard line, giving the ball back to the Patriots. They added a late field goal to win Super Bowl LIII, 13-3, over the Los Angeles Rams.
The 16 combined points were the fewest in Super Bowl history.
The Patriots defense carried the team, making the Rams, who entered with the No. 2 offense in the league, look like a college team at some points. The unit confused Goff multiple times, and it was the perfect way for de facto defensive coordinator Brian Flores to head to become head coach of the Miami Dolphins.
Here are 10 quick thoughts from Super Bowl LIII.
1. After the first three weeks of the season, when the team was 1-2, no one would have ever thought the defense would lead the Patriots to a Super Bowl win. It came up big in the biggest of moments. The unit was able to pressure Goff and get the coverage it needed on the back end to completely shut down one of the most powerful offenses in the NFL this year. Gilmore made the play of the game with his interception.
2. Tom Brady certainly didn't have his best Super Bowl performance, but he will take the win. He did make the throws when he needed, especially on third down and then on the touchdown drive. Overall, Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips put together a good game plan, but the Patriots did what they needed to do, including running the ball late. The 41-year-old Brady finished 21-for-35 with 262 yards, no touchdowns and an interception. As one would expect, he relied heavily on Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman, who combined for more than 200 yards receiving.
3. Edelman was money. The gritty receiver finished with 10 catches on 12 targets for 141 yards. Whenever the offense needed a play, Edelman was the player Brady looked to first. He also moved into second place all-time in receiving yards in the playoffs, trailing only Jerry Rice.
4. Gronkowski, who may have played his last NFL game, finished with six catches on seven targets for 87 yards. He had two huge catches on the Patriots' touchdown drive, including a 29-yard reception to set up Michel's game-winning touchdown.
5. One of the bigger questions going into the game was how the Patriots would cover Brandin Cooks. It was Gilmore. The All-Pro shadowed him the entire game. Cooks, the former Patriot, didn't do much, and his stat line is inflated because of the final drive.
6. Chris Hogan really struggled for the Patriots. Brady was 0-for-6 targeting him. This is pretty indicative of how his season has gone. He will be a free agent this offseason, and it would be a long shot for him to return.
7. Special teams played a major factor in the game, and the Patriots’ punt team was at the top of the list. It wasn’t just Ryan Allen, either. The coverage players did a great job getting downfield to either down the ball or make tackles. Matthew Slater, Keion Crossen and Albert McClellan all deserve credit. New England had three punts land inside the Rams’ 10-yard line.
8. Stephen Gostkowski continues to struggle in big games. He missed a 46-yard field goal in the first half, which means he’s now missed at least one kick in the last game of the Patriots season the past four years. Gostkowski did make a 41-yarder to seal the game late. He will be a free agent this offseason, and the team will have to make a decision whether or not to bring him back.
9. Starting safety Patrick Chung was injured on the first drive of the third quarter. Chung injured his right arm. After having an air cast placed on him, he declined the medical golf cart and walked to the locker room on his own. Almost the entire team went on the field near him, which showed how well-respected he is. Chung is one of the toughest players on the entire team and returned to the sideline for the remainder of the game with his arm in a sling.
10. The first half was rough. The 3-0 score was the second-lowest scoring first half in the history of the Super Bowl. Only Super Bowl IX in 1975 had fewer points, when Pittsburgh led Minnesota 2-0. The Patriots actually moved the ball — getting into L.A. territory five times, just not coming away with points.
By Ryan Hannable