We have certainly been here before; this is not uncharted territory. Congratulations to the New England Patriots for their sixth Super Bowl victory. By Patriots’ standards, this game was a blowout; this game was decided by 10 points; in previous Pats’ championships, the margin of victory had been 6,4,3 and 3 points. And that is the problem with drawing conclusions based only on the score of a game. This was not a blowout by any means; this was a “one-possession game” for the first 58 minutes and 48 seconds.
Wade Phillips had an excellent game plan for the Rams’ defense. In the 2018 season, the Pats were held to 10 points by the Lions, Titans and Steelers; the Pats lost all three of those games. What the Rams did on defense yesterday was exactly in line with a proven winning formula against the Pats. There was only one little problem…
Bill Belichick and Brian Flores devised an even more effective defensive game plan for the day. Save for a loss to the Bears where the Rams only scored 6 points, their minimum scoring output for the season was 23 points; often, they went north of 30 points in a game. Yesterday, they managed 3 points and no more. The reason for that meager output was not the youth of their coach or their QB; the reason was that the Pats’ defense throttled them down in a way no other defense had been able to do all year long.
A defensive game is not boring; a defensive game is low-scoring. In baseball, if you watch a game that ends up 1-0 where each team gets 4 hits for the day, that is not boring because every pitch could be critical in deciding the outcome. Too many people equate “defense” and “low-scoring” with “dull”; I do not.
In the first half of the game, the Rams had 2 first downs, 5 completed passes and 6 punts. Obviously, that was not the Rams’ game plan; the Pats’ defense thwarted them and did not allow them to do what they normally did and/or what they wanted to do. It is a mistake to discount that as “boring” or “dull”; it represents excellence by the defense.
Bard Dickson had this Tweet regarding the Rams’ first-half offense:
“Fact: when Adam Levine tossed his jacket and then his shirt into the crowd those were actually better than any two passes Jared Goff threw in the first half.”
The Pats moved the ball well in the game; they amassed 425 yards of offense but until the 4th quarter, they did not have a snap inside the red zone. Don’t call that dull; recognize that the Rams’ defense did what it was out there to do. The Pats’ defense was even better holding the Rams’ offense under 300 yards for the game and yielding only a long field goal over the course of 4 quarters. Instead of lamenting the lack of offensive fireworks and scoring plays, it is appropriate this morning to recognize the accomplishments of the defensive units.
Think about it this way … If there were no defense – or only token resistance from the defense – and the score was 55-45 (same 10-point differential), people would be ecstatic about the dynamism of the game. Why? If I were to seek to denigrate that game with 100 total points, I could say that it was only half a game because neither defense bothered to get off the team bus. Players and coaches always talk about the “three phases of the game”. They are correct to do so; yesterday showed that there is a way to win a game when one’s offensive unit is not dominating; the way to do that is for one’s defense to dominate the other offense even more potently.
I think Tony Romo summed all this up perfectly when he said:
“If you like offensive football, well, too bad.”
Let me list here some short takeaways from the entirety of yesterday’s spectacle in no particular order:
- Overall, I think the Super Bowl ads were bland as could be. Remember, it cost the advertisers about $5M to buy the time slot(s) and some other amount of money to come up with the ad concept and more money to produce the ad. I’m not sure there were a lot of those ads that came close to being worth the investment.
- [Aside: I can’t decide which was the dumber ad. The ones emphasizing that some light beers use corn syrup as an ingredient or the one with Bob Dylan singing “Blowin in the wind” as the Clydesdales parade through a wind farm.]
- After the Washington Post ad in the 4th quarter, I mentioned to my Super Bowl party host that Jeff Bezos’ impending divorce action may influence the Post to the degree that their new slogan “Democracy dies in darkness” may need to be altered to “Democracy dies in divorce.”
- Granted that I had no idea who any of the performers for the half-time show were. After glimpsing pieces of their acts, I can say with certainty that I need not expend an erg of energy to find out the next time any of them will be in concert near to where I live. The ad slogan for Camel cigarettes used to be, “I’d walk a mile for a Camel.” Well, I would not walk across the room to hear any of those folks perform.
- I am not a physician but given the way Todd Gurley played yesterday and the week before, I have to believe that he is injured to a much larger extent than anyone with the Rams has acknowledged. He had only one run yesterday where he looked like “the Todd Gurley I have become accustomed to seeing”.
- Where was that fearsome pass rush by the Pats all season long?
George Allen reportedly once said, “Losing the Super Bowl is worse than death because you have to get up the next morning.” Obviously, that is hyperbolic coach-speak. However, I would imagine that for football players/coaches, winning the Super Bowl is about the most fun you can have with your clothes on.
Finally, since I mentioned the dumb beer ads from yesterday, let me close here with a comment from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:
“Some beer deliveries in the upper Midwest had to be canceled last week because kegs were freezing en route.
“Coupled with the Packers missing the playoffs, flummoxed locals are claiming it’s the first two signs of the apocalypse.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………