As refreshing as Sunday’s Super Bowl LIII was for football purists — defenses dominated, with 16 quarterback hits, with both teams combining for 12 pass breakups — for the offensively-obsessed set, the game was a frustrating procession of not-quite.
The Los Angeles Rams and the New England Patriots — the NFL’s two highest-scoring teams — had more punts (13) than points (6) through three quarters. Bay Area-native quarterbacks Jared Goff and Tom Brady had combined for 322 yards, but no touchdowns.
Then, with 7:33 left, Brady — out of San Mateo-Serra — hit a 29-yard fade to Rob Gronkowski up the seam, over the shoulder of Dante Fowler Jr., setting up a two-yard Sony Michel touchdown run. That score with seven minutes t0 go touched off an eventual 13-3 win for Brady’s New England Patriots, giving Brady his sixth Super Bowl title in 10 tries after the lowest-scoring game in Super Bowl history.
Super Bowl VII had held the title of the lowest-scoring title game in NFL history, with the Miami Dolphins beating the Washington Redskins 14–7. In addition to that 1973 game, seven of the first 10 Super Bowls now rank among the lowest-scoring in the game’s history.
The 41-year old Brady, born in San Mateo, out-dueled Novato native Jared Goff to extend his all-time record for Super Bowl wins by a quarterback. He is now two rings ahead of Goff’s childhood hero Joe Montana, as well as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Terry Bradshaw.
While the story going into the game was about the third-year Los Angeles QB — the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft — and Brady — the No. 199 pick in the 2000 draft — it was defense that defined the day in Atlanta.
The Rams held the Patriots to 154 yards on the ground — well below their season averages of 165 rushing yards per game — but Brady got what he usually gets through the air, with 7.5 yards per attempt (his season-long average was 7.8). That was in large part thanks to Julian Edelman. The veteran wide receiver — a Redwood City native who attended the College of San Mateo before he starred as a quarterback at Kent State — caught 10 passes on 12 targets for a game-high 141 yards en route to his first Super Bowl MVP award.
Goff, 24, was molested much of the evening by Dante Hightower (three quarterback hits) and Kyle Van Noy (three QB hits), and took three hits as he tried to go down field into a salty Patriots secondary.
The Patriots bottled up the Rams’ run game with seven tackles for loss, holding Los Angeles to just 62 yards on the ground, and 3.4 yards per carry. That allowed them to tee off on Goff, tallying four sacks — two by Hightower — and 12 QB hits.
Despite that, Goff nearly tied things up less than three minutes after Brady’s strike. With 4:24 to go, he went up to Brandin Cooks on the right side, dropping the ball over Cook’s left shoulder and into his hands, but Cook’s arms were hooked by Duron Harmon and Stephon Gillmore, and the ball fell incomplete with no flag thrown.
Goff then looked to Cooks on the next play on the same side, under pressure from a blitz, but his pass fell into the hands of a leaping Gillmore for the game-defining interception.
The Patriots ground the clock down to 1:16, and then, having just come up inches short on third-and-one at Los Angeles’s 24, drove home a 41-yard field goal to seal the game.
Brady finished 21-of-35 for 262 yards and one interception, while Goff, who matriculated from Marin Catholic in Kentfield, before re-writing the record book at nearby Cal, went 19-of-38 for 229 yards and one interception in his first Super Bowl.