For most of the night, Super Bowl 53 between the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams was a defensive battle. As a result, the game entered the fourth quarter with both teams sitting at just three points. After punting on each of their first three possessions in the second half, however, the Patriots made a key offensive adjustment to generate some positive momentum after struggling to a certain degree for the game’s first 45 minutes.
“I think the real key breakthrough came when Josh [McDaniels] went to the... McDaniels made a great adjustment,” said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick in the aftermath of his team’s 13-3 victory. “We talked about that on the sideline. We went to a two tight end offense but we spread them out. We were able to complete some passes to Julian Edelman and then to Rob Gronkowski at the goal line to score.”
After the Rams were forced to punt for the ninth time in their first ten possessions, the Patriots implemented the change to get favorable matchups with the defense’s linebacker corps. The result was the game’s first touchdown drive, a five play 69-yard sequence that saw New England generate three chunk plays: two passes to Gronkowski for 18 and 29 yards and a 13-yarder to Edelman helped set the team up on the L.A. 2-yard line.
One play later, rookie running back Sony Michel was able to finish the series by bursting into the end zone to give his team a 10-3 lead and score what would turn out to be the only touchdown of the 53rd Super Bowl. “It was really well executed,” said Belichick about his team’s offense changing on the fly. “Not something we had anticipated doing a lot this game. We did it against Kansas City, but it was kind of right time, right situation.”
How were the Patriots able to pull it off? For Belichick, it all starts with execution. “We had good protection to be able to make those throws. Tom Brady did a great job getting the ball to the open guy — that was a great throw he made to Gronkowski to get it down to the 2-yard line,” said the future Hall of Fame coach. “Josh McDaniels did — as usual — an outstanding job of play calling and eventually finding things that worked and made some big drives for us.”
“Running game at the end, we were able to knock out a couple of big runs when we were backed up and then really got the ball back until we had the 10-point lead,” continued Belichick. Indeed, New England’s next possession after the touchdown also was a positive one: after an interception by Stephon Gilmore set the team up at its own 6-yard line, New England was able to drive 72 yards in nine plays to take 3:05 off the clock.
The Rams received the football down 10 points with only 1:12 left to go — a situation they would not be able to turn into a positive result. Consequently, New England is now able to celebrate another championship and the adjustment made by the team’s offensive staff in the fourth quarter plays a big role in this.