Super Bowl LIII Highlights

On a partly cloudy Sunday with mild temperatures in downtown Atlanta, the upstart Los Angeles Rams prepared to challenge the perennial favorites, the New England Patriots. Super Bowl LII would be played inside the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the brand-new home of the Atlanta Falcons. New England prepared for its ninth title game under the legendary quarterback-coach duo of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.  The Rams geared up for the big game just two years after a disastrous 4-12 season in St. Louis, before the team revamped its roster and moved to L.A. Both teams had difficulties reaching Atlanta; the Patriots had faced off against the red-hot Chiefs in the AFC Championship and won the game with some Brady magic in overtime while the Rams were only able to close out the championship game against the Drew-Brees-led Saints due to some luckily missed pass-interference call by the officials. Thus, one would assume that two crazy overtime thrillers in the semi-final matches would surely lead to an exciting Super Bowl! Instead, audiences were treated to what might be the worst Super Bowl in NFL history.

The game began with an electric moment, when Rams linebacker Cory Littleton intercepted Tom Brady’s first pass off a tipped ball. However, from that point on, the game spiraled downhill into pure boredom. Instead of the offensive spectacle most were expecting, Super Bowl LII was undeniably a defensive affair. True, the defenses for both teams played terrific football, stopping the opposing offenses in their tracks drive after drive. At halftime, the MVP leaders of the 3-0 scoreline were Ryan Allen and Johnny Hekker, who continued to pin the opposing team within the ten-yard line on every punt. CBS’ play-by-play announcer Jim Nantz’ reaction to one of Hekker’s punts summed up the first three quarters: “That’s the highlight of the game right there!” While the 65-yard boot was a Super Bowl record, the fact that the most exciting part of three-quarters of play was a punt is unbelievable. As every drive passed by, fans waited for the tempo to pick up, but it never truly did.

Even Brady’s methodical, late touchdown drive in the fourth quarter to break the 3-3 tie was routine.  It lacked the quintessential Brady touchdown pass to cap it off, with rookie Sony Michel scoring the game’s only touchdown on a two-yard rush. It did seem as though we would see an entertaining back-and-forth to finish off the low-scoring affair, as Los Angeles easily drove deep into Patriot territory. But it was not to be, as Brandin Cooks dropped (for all intents and purposes) his second TD of the game, and on the very next play, All-Pro cornerback Stephon Gilmore intercepted Goff’s errant deep throw, capping off the what may be the worst performance we have ever seen out of the third-year player from L.A. This mistake from the Rams would mark their doom, as the Patriots ran out the clock and won, 13-3. New England definitely outplayed the Rams, but it seemed less a question of which team was better and more a question of which team was less bad?

Yes, the defenses played their hearts out, holding two formidable offenses to minimal yards and even fewer points. However, even the defense lacked the explosive plays that fans hope for, as the only two turnovers of the game were simple interceptions. The kickers accounted for ten of the sixteen total points scored by both teams, and both Stephen Gostkowski and Greg Zuerlein missed crucial field goals. Patriots receiver Julian Edelman seemed to be the only offensive player who could do anything at all. For that, he received the MVP award after the game, for what was a pretty regular performance out of the bearded pass-catcher.

Thus if you are a fan of watching defensive linemen pummel offensive skill players or are a huge supporter of punters, Super Bowl LIII was a dream come true. And of course, Patriots fans got to witness a sixth NFL title come to Boston (yes, I’m aware it’s really Foxborough) just three months after the Red Sox paraded down the Freedom Trail in the wake of their World Series victory. However, for the other 100 million viewers or so who tuned in on Sunday, disappointment was likely the true MVP of the game.