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Patriots vs. Rams: Fan Notes from the Super Bowl

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Notes, musings, and observations from the New England Patriots’ 13-3 victory in the Super Bowl!

Super Bowl LIII - New England Patriots v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Wow.

Just...wow.

It’s 11:23 PM right now, and as I sit here, staring at the computer screen in the wake of the New England Patriots’ sixth Super Bowl victory, their third in five years, I’m still not sure this is all happening. I’m like David after the dentist, completely clueless as to where I am and a little worried I’m going to wake up in the middle of a root canal or something. But if that is the case, if I am in fact just dreaming right now, please do me a favor and keep that gas on full throttle, because I never want to wake up from this.

Super Bowl Champs. Again. Let’s get to it.

  • Fun fact about Alec Shane: I’m a huge Gladys Knight fan. My dad used to blast “Midnight Train to Georgia” every year as we made our way north for our family vacation in New Hampshire, and that song, and Ms. Knight, will always hold a very special place in my heart. Gladys Knight, all 74 years of her, absolutely CRUSHED that National Anthem. I legit don’t think I’ve ever heard a better rendition of it any any sporting event in any capacity in all my life.
  • I also love that it took Tony Romo all of two years to get the SB announcing gig. That has to piss off Phil Simms so damn much and I love it.
  • Yikes, Andrew Whitworth is MONSTER. Watching him shake hands with James White was like watching Switowski hug Caretaker.
  • As a whole, this game was an absolute blast to watch if you value defensive strategy and a complete snoozefest if you like to see points. As somebody who is staunchly in the former camp, now that the game is over and I can finally relax I can’t even begin to state what a brilliant plan Brian Flores drew up. Six in the box, linebacker discipline, take away the run, double Robert Woods, and leave Gilmore on an island with Cooks. The Rams are an offense built around stretch runs and playaction, and since they couldn’t get anything going on first down, their playbook got chopped in half almost immediately and they didn’t know what to do.
  • You also have to give a massive amount of credit to Wade Phillips and the defensive game he called last night. From what I can gather, he gave Tommy B a lot of man looks pre-snap, then switched to zone at the last minute. When Brady started to figure that out, the Rams switched it up, showed zone, then switched to man.
  • It wasn’t all the defense, though; as has become something of a tradition around these parts, Tommy B was fairly pedestrian in the first quarter. On his first pass of the day, which ended in a pick, you could tell he realized it was a bad read about one second too late, as the ball came out of his hand a lame duck and ended up an easy pick. He also threw a few in the dirt, missed a few open guys, and overall just couldn’t quite get into a rhythm as the Rams kept things close.
  • But when Tommy B needed a play...
  • I could honestly do an entire Fan Notes on Julian Edelman, to be honest, who is, in my opinion, the greatest Patriots receiver of all time. He was the only player on the field last night who had double digit receptions, and he almost doubled the next most prolific Patriot on the field in Rob Gronkowski. Of Edelman’s 10 grabs, eight - EIGHT- of them went for first downs. With the Rams doing their best to play lockdown D, Edelman was just completely uncoverable, finding holes in the zone or beating his man at the line. Early in the season, I called James White the most important non-Brady Patriot on the team, and I meant that. But when it comes to the best postseason receiver to ever do it, I don’t know how you can really make a case for anyone else.
  • I can also fully admit that, if he didn’t play for my team, I would absolutely despise Julian Edelman. The NFL is peppered with players like him: tough, scrappy, guys who chirp a lot, back up their words with solid play, and aren’t afraid to get in your face if necessary. It’s so, so annoying when it’s not your guy, but when it is your guy, he makes you want to run through a brick wall. Steve Smith immediately comes to mind, as does Brian Cushing. They may be buttheads...but they’re our buttheads, and we love them for it.
  • The Patriots were driving in the first quarter, and I got extremely excited about how well they were running the ball. Then I remembered that it was the first quarter of the Super Bowl, and the Patriots don’t score points in the first quarter. So I leaned over to the fee-ants and said “time for either a fumble or a pick here.” And lo and behold. I’d take the blame for it, but it was inevitable regardless.
  • The NFL needs to examine the hit on a defenseless receiver penalty. The Rams sniffed out and absolutely blew up a Rex Burkhead screen early in the game, and rather than face 2nd and long, New England got 15 yards and a first down. It was the right call, and the replay clearly shows a helmet to helmet hit, but even if he had lowered the shoulder it still would have been a flag. What is the defender supposed to do there? Stand around and wait for the receiver to turn and make a move before going for the tackle? is just the worst.
  • Courtesy of some commercial, The Backstreet Boys “I Want it That Way” has been stuck in my head since the about 7PM last night. As if sweating through a Super Bowl wasn’t bad enough.
  • Even worse: the fee-ants couldn’t stop chanting “Avocados from Mexico!” Even said it a few times in her sleep last night, no lie.
  • That said, she has now sat through three Patriots Super Bowls with me, a fate I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. And she’s sticking around. So I know she’s ride or die - even though she likes the Cowboys.
  • I never thought I’d ever hear myself say “Dammit Tom, stop throwing to Chris Hogan!”, but those words 100% came out of my mouth last night.
  • Anybody who thought that Ghost was actually going to make that first kick has never watched a Patriots Super Bowl before, especially when they mentioned that no kicker had missed an attempt in Atlanta this season.
  • New rule, applicable to all NBA games and Patriots Super Bowls: let’s all just skip straight to the fourth quarter.
  • It’s very easy to forget how little flow Super Bowls have these days. Any possible opportunity to go to a commercial break, they will. I’m absolutely stunned they didn’t go to commercial after the Patriots punted with 12 seconds left in the first quarter, only for the Rams to run a single play before going to commercial again.
  • Speaking of commercials...
  • Has there ever been a Jason Statham movie where a sports car doesn’t slide under a jacknifing semi-truck?
  • Can somebody tell me the difference between America’s Got Talent and The World’s Best?
  • It would appear that 2019 is the year of the robot. I lost track of how many times a robot showed up in some form or other. The only one I really remember was some robot baby that wanted to be an accountant or something. I don’t know.
  • One thing I do wish I’d learned, though, is whether or not Bud Light uses corn syrup in their beer. It has been keeping me up nights and it’s the not knowing that’s killing me most. Anybody have any idea?
  • I’d also love to know if your average Bud Light drinker gives a single shake of a dead rat’s patoot about corn syrup in beer.
  • I forgot which company it was, but somebody took a shot at a vegan dinner party. Very bold move in 2019.
  • I don’t think I’ve given enough shine to the defense last night, and throughout the postseason in general. The 2018 Rams were the 11th highest scoring offense in NFL history. The best running game in the league only went for 62 yards (Gurley has to be way more hurt than he lets on). The Rams were held to a single field goal. I can’t figure out why LA didn’t audible into more screens or try some dump off passes to get the ball into the hands of their playmakers, but I think a large part of it is because Jared Goff just never got a chance to settle.
  • Debate time: Kyle van Noy or Dont’a Hightower. Who had a bigger game? And is there a bigger postseason defensive player than Hightower? I lost count of the number of LB stunts Flores called, but they were so effective all postseason.
  • Edelman got the MVP, and he 100% deserves it...but it really would have been something, and not completely far-fetched, if Matthew Slater had gotten the nod instead. Slater was all over the field on special teams, downing punts inside the 10 like it was his job. Which..um...it is. But you know what I’m saying. The Patriots completely dominated the field position game, courtesy of Allen and Slater (good name for a law firm, by the way), and they are no small part of why this team now has six rings this morning.
  • I don’t know what the future holds for Rob Gronkowski...but if he has caught his last ever NFL pass, he caught a 29 yarder in triple coverage at the goal-line to set up the go-ahead score that got him his third ring. There are way worse ways to go out.
  • Not only that...but that TD drive was 69 yards. Heh.
  • Sony Michel - the rookie Sony Michel that left a lot of people scratching their heads this past April - just finished up the single greatest postseason by a rookie running back in NFL history. 71 carries, 336 yards, and six touchdowns, which puts him in company with the following players, none of whom were rookies when they had their moment: Terrell Davis, Emmit Smith, Larry Czonka, Franco Harris, Ricky Watters, John Riggins, and Gerald Riggs. The Super Bowl was his 16th full game as a pro, bringing his totals up to 280 carries for 1,267 yards and 12 touchdowns, averaging 4.5 yards per carry. Took the rock for the game winner on the world’s biggest stage.
  • And it couldn’t be more fitting that, as Michel took the ball and ran into the end zone virtually untouched, he followed James Develin once again. While the world oohed and ahhed over high flying offenses and over/unders that approached triple digits, the Patriots built a team of tough, grind-it-out runners and a defense that gelled at the right time to keep the game low scoring.
  • Isn’t it nuts that the Patriots won the Super bowl by two scores? That has literally never happened in the history of Patriots Super Bowls.
  • The most remarkable thing about this Super Bowl might actually be the Tom Brady #17YearChallenge. How do you get that much better looking 17 years later?
  • I’ll never understand how the Patriots use Rex Burkhead, and why he’s such a dud when he’s a dud and why he’s so successful when he’s successful.
  • Wow. That note made zero sense. I better wrap this up and go to bed soon.
  • At first, I had to admit I was disappointed with decibel level of the booing of Goodell as he stood there, once again forced to hand Bob Kraft another Lombardi. But then I realized that the NFL had clearly planned for him getting booed no matter what, so they adjusted the TV audio accordingly. If you go to the field, though, it becomes immediately obvious that the Patriots fans did their job well - you can’t hear a single word Goodell is saying up there.
  • This was a slow, offensively boring Super Bowl with few legit powerhouse highlights in which the New England Patriots won. I can’t think of a bigger nightmare scenario for the NFL than that and that just makes it all so, so much sweeter.
  • If I’m a Jets fan that had to watch Joe Namath hand the Patriots their sixth Lombardi, I’m making a beeline for oncoming traffic this morning.
  • And if I’m a Saints fan this morning, all I’d be thinking about is how many points Drew Brees might have been able to put up against this team. More than three, that’s for sure.
  • So...do the Red Sox invite the Patriots to their home opener? I know it’s tradition, but the Six have their own trophy to worry about this year. #BostonProblems.
  • Speaking of...you’re next, Celtics.
  • Where should Tommy B put his sixth ring? I have a pretty good idea.
  • There’s so much more to talk about - Duron Harom, in relief of the injured Patrick Chung, coming in on the Cover 0 blitz that led to the Gilmore pick. Gilmore in general. The job the line did holding Aaron Donald to zero sacks on the day. But I guess there’s time for all of that. We have the whole offseason to enjoy this - until the NFl manufacytures another scandal, that is.
  • I think my favorite part of this game is that, once again, the way it shook out allows the few remaining holdouts who are going to die on the anti-Patriots hill to grasp at a few more straws. Brady threw for 262 yards and a pick. His defense won him this game. The Rams blew it. This win isn’t on Brady. Never mind that these EXACT same people were screaming from the rooftops that winning is all that really matters last year when Tommy B threw for 500 yards, because once again it’s time to shift the goalposts and alter the narrative to suit your own bias. It’s going to be a sad day when the haters are all gone.
  • Speaking of...I’ve been way too busy enjoying the win to see what opposing fans are saying this morning, and to be honest I probably won’t be heading to any of the message boards for a while - too much reveling to do. But if there are those of you who wouldn’t consider it a Patriots victory without a trip over to Stampede Blue or Behind the Steel Curtain to smugly read the comments over there while you chuckle to yourself obnoxiously, I’d like to hope you’re seeing any combination of the following:
  • God dammit Brady and Belicheat just retire already!
  • Man the Rams offense was putrid. Goff and McVay choked, Pats gifted another ring.
  • When will this end? New England* cheated their way to the first three and now have three because their opponents completely wet the bed.
  • Is it me, or did the Patriots seem to know all of the Rams plays? Something seems fishy to me.
  • Hey weird, the refs make up a phantom holding call and don’t call DPI for their darlings.
  • I’m done with football.
  • It’s going to take a while for it to set in, and I’ll need to go back on reflect this spring/summer, but I have a feeling that I’m going to look back on the 2018 Patriots as one of my favorite teams of the Brady/Belichick era. This was a team without all-world talent all over the place. A team that I- just like everybody else - doubted on occasion. A team that had a lot of trouble figuring out their identity. There were also a team that won a game 43-40 via massive amounts of offense. They won games via a punishing running game. They won games with strategy and grit. And on the biggest stage, special teams and defense led the way when the offense sputtered. This was a group of castoffs from other teams - Kyle van Noy, Trent Brown, Jason McCourty - who had monster games when it mattered the most. If you want to know what a Bill Belichick team looks like, look no further than this one.
  • As always, as I finish out my last Fan Notes of the year on the highest of highs, I’ll extend a massive thank you to all of you here at Pats Pulpit. My fellow staff are class personified, tremendously talented football writers who have forgotten more about the game than I’ll ever know. Our readers are loyal knowledgeable, and as passionate a fan base as you’ll ever see. It consistently blows me away that there are people out there who enjoy what I write about, that listen to me talk too fast on the Pats Pulpit Podcast, and who occasionally email me to tell me that these Fan Notes make their Monday mornings a little more bearable. This remarkable run wouldn’t be nearly as enjoyable without all of you, and that I get to celebrate history here at the Pulpit is beyond a privilege. Thank You.

We’re on to the offseason. Time to start building that Stairway to Seven.

I’m sure somebody else has already come up with that catch phrase. But it’s new to me, dammit, and I’m very impressed with myself there. That’s how you go out on a high note.