The Patriots offense in nine drives had been only able to muster up three points thanks to an amazing game plan from the Rams defense. However, they finally were able to crack the code in the fourth quarter, as they managed to score a touchdown and a field goal on their final two drives to win Super Bowl 53 13-3. On the go-ahead touchdown drive, the Patriots hit the Rams with a different personnel grouping and an unorthodox formation out of it to jumpstart the offense.
New England opened the drive with a play action pass to Rob Gronkowski out of 21 (2 RB, 1 TE) personnel for an 18-yard catch and run, but then hit the Rams with something completely different after that. The Patriots changed to 22 personnel, substituting tight end Dwayne Allen for wide receiver Chris Hogan. With that personnel grouping, you typically see condensed formations with run plays in mind.
The Rams therefore countered with their base defense. However, the Patriots got the match-up they wanted and elected to empty the backfield to stress the Rams linebackers in coverage. The match-up worked out so well for the Patriots that they literally ran the same play three times in a row to gain a combined 49 yards. The routes out of the formation saw slot receiver Julian Edelman running an option, Gronkowski running up the seam, and a running back split out wide (James Develin and Rex Burkhead) left running along the boundary.
On the first play, the Patriots isolated Edelman on linebacker Cory Littleton when the Rams were in quarters coverage (Cover 4). Littleton is a very good football player, but no linebacker in the NFL can stay with Edelman in the middle of the field. Edelman likely had an option route call for this play, as he sold the in-breaking route to get Littleton to take one bad step before pivoting towards the sideline. Brady hit Edelman on the break with room to run and Edelman turned it into a 13-yard gain:
The second play saw the Rams change up their coverage. They clamped down to the middle of the field to prevent the same match-up from happening with Cover 3 with John Johnson helping in that area. Develin and Burkhead switched spots in the formation, with Burkhead out wide left this time. The Patriots receivers ran the same routes as on the previous play, but with the Rams doubling Edelman to the middle Brady turned to Burkhead, who ran a 5-yard curl to take advantage of CB Marcus Peters playing the deep third. Burkhead ended up gaining 7 yards on the play.
On the third and final play with that personnel grouping, Edelman switched sides and lined up on the right inner slot compared to the left on the previous plays. This time, Brady caught Littleton napping and snapped the ball before the linebacker could walk out on Gronk which secures an outside release from the slot. Burkhead was able to occupy Peters long enough thanks to the previous play and John Johnson was unable to get over to help in time because of Gronk securing an outside release at the snap:
#TomBrady's dime to #RobGronkowski was a thing of beauty.— Ryan Michael (@theryanmichael) February 4, 2019
If this ends up being the last pass of his #SuperBowl career, it couldn't have been much better.
Brady finished the game with 1,005 completions in his #postseason career, blowing away 2nd place (#PeytonManning: 649). pic.twitter.com/xzXCOWHPSq
Brady made another great pass and dropped it in perfectly between three defenders while Gronkowski was able to make a diving play on the ball. Gronk caught it at the 4 and rolled ahead to the 2-yard line. The Patriots were able to score the game-winning touchdown on the very next play.