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Super Bowl LIII: Patriots' defense stops Rams to earn sixth championship

New England holds Rams' explosive offense to season-low three points in lowest-scoring Super Bowl ever.

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick waves

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick waves after Super Bowl LIII against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday in Atlanta. The Patriots won 13-3. Photo Credit: AP / Patrick Semansky

ATLANTA — Youth will have to wait a bit longer to be served.

Rams coach Sean McVay, 33, and quarterback Jared Goff, 24, took the regular season by storm and became the prevailing narrative in the NFL in 2018. But this is the Super Bowl, kids, and as long as Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are around, it’s still their time of year.

So hold off on those changing-of-the-guard stories. Scratch those end-of-the-Patriots’-reign-of-dominance ideas. And wash from your mind any thoughts about who other than this coach and this quarterback might be the best ever.

Belichick (at 66 the oldest coach to win a Super Bowl) designed a defensive game plan that made the high-powered Rams look feeble and held them without a touchdown. Brady (at 41 the oldest quarterback to win a Super Bowl) came to life in the fourth quarter just when it was needed most. And the Patriots beat the Rams, 13-3, on Sunday night in Super Bowl LIII.

When the confetti flew, the whippersnappers were whipped and the geezers were giddy.

It was the sixth Super Bowl win for the coach-quarterback combo; no franchise has more.

Brady broke a tie with former 49er and Cowboy Charles Haley for Super Bowl titles by a player, the first ever to earn a ring for his other thumb. Belichick tied George Halas and Curly Lambeau for the most NFL championships by a head coach.

The Patriots, who won their first Super Bowl trophy 17 years ago against these Rams, are tied with the Steelers for the most in the history of the big game.

“I wish we had played a little better on offense, but we won and I can’t believe it,” Brady said. “This is a dream come true for all of us.

“It was an unbelievable year. We fought through it. The Rams’ defense played a great game, but we finally got a touchdown, and our defense played its best game of the year.”

It took exactly 53 minutes for the only touchdown to be scored. It came on a 2-yard run by rookie Sony Michel with 7:00 remaining, but it was set up by some very familiar connections.

Starting at their own 32, and with the pro-Patriots crowd chanting the name of their favorite quarterback, Brady hit game MVP Julian Edelman for 17 yards, Rob Gronkowski for 13, Rex Burkhead for 7 and Gronkowski for 29 as he made a tumbling grab among three defenders to get to the 2.

On the first snap of the game in the red zone, Michel took the handoff up the middle for a touchdown as the Patriots went ahead 10-3.

The Rams then drove to the Patriots’ 27 as Goff began to hit receivers he was missing earlier. On first-and-10 from the 27, he lofted a pass for Brandin Cooks in the end zone, but the former Patriots receiver absorbed a hit by safety Duron Harmon and dropped the ball. On the next play, the Rams tried to go in the same area of the field, but Goff’s pass came up short and was picked off by Stephon Gilmore at the 4 with 4:17 left.

Stephen Gostkowski’s 41-yard field goal with 1:12 left iced the game. Greg Zuerlein’s 48-yard attempt for the Rams with five seconds left was wide left.

As the second half began, there had been more Maroon (5) on the field than total points (3).

After a season in which offenses ruled, and a year after the Super Bowl had more total yardage than any other game in NFL history, the first half was dominated by the defenses.

The Patriots’ 3-0 lead made it the lowest-scoring first half since the Steelers led the Vikings 2-0 at halftime of Super Bowl IX.

At least the Patriots were able to move the ball. Edelman had seven first-half catches for 93 yards, but Brady’s first pass of the game was intercepted by Cory Littleton. The Pats had a chance to take the lead in the first quarter, but Gostkowski missed a 46-yard field-goal try. He redeemed himself in the second quarter with a 42-yarder.

The Patriots had a chance to score again in the final minutes of the half when they drove to the 32, but on fourth-and-1, Brady threw incomplete.

The Rams could barely function on offense, managing only 57 yards and two first downs. Todd Gurley, who the Rams insisted was completely healthy, carried three times for 10 yards. And when they got the ball back with 1:13 left in the half after that fourth-down failure by the Pats, they had a three-and-out. It was the first time they had been shut out in the first half since McVay took over two years ago.

The third quarter was mostly as defensively dominated and offensively challenged for both teams, but the Rams did manage to tie it at 3 with 2:11 left in the period on Zuerlein’s 53-yard field goal. The Rams had a great opportunity to take the lead just before the kick. On first-and-10 from the 29, Cooks was wide open in the end zone, standing flat-footed and waiting to be noticed by Goff, but by the time the pass arrived, Jason McCourty had rushed over to break it up.

Three plays later, Zuerlein kicked the second-longest field goal in Super Bowl history to end a streak of eight Rams possessions that ended in a punt.

For the first time in Super Bowl history, no touchdowns were scored in the first three quarters. The third quarter ended with the fewest points through 45 minutes, breaking the record set in Super Bowl IX (Steelers 9, Vikings 0).

“We knew coming in what type of offense they were,” Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers said, “But we put it on ourselves as a defense to execute the game plan.”

Franchises with the most Super Bowl wins:

6 New England

Pittsburgh

5 San Francisco

Dallas

4 Giants

Green Bay

3 Oakland

Washington

Denver

2 Baltimore Ravens

Indianapolis

Miami

The previous lowest-scoring Super Bowl was the 21 total points for the Dolphins and Redskins in Miami’s 14-7 win in Super Bowl VII. The game completed the Dolphins’ unblemished season but is remembered mainly for Miami kicker Garo Yepremian’s misadventures. After Yepremian’s late field-goal attempt was blocked, he recovered the ball and made an awkward attempt at throwing a pass. Redskins cornerback Mike Bass intercepted and ran 49 yards into the end zone for his team’s only touchdown with 2:07 left in the game.

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