However, for those football purists, it was a masterpiece of blocking and tackling, filled with big hits and tight defensive coverage. The Patriots, with a late touchdown from running back Sony Michel, prevailed 13-3 over the Rams before 70,081 fans Sunday in Atlanta.
The victory gave New England its sixth Super Bowl title in the franchise’s 11th appearance in the championship game.
It was the first Super Bowl played in Atlanta since Super Bowl XXXIV in Jan. 30, 2000, and the first in the sparkling $1.5 billion stadium.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, 41, led the way as he completed 21 of 35 passes for 263 yards. Michel, who played at Georgia, finished with 94 yards rushing on 18 carries.
Here are five things we learned:
1. Gronkowski makes clutch catch. New England wide receiver Julian Edelman, who was named the Most Valuable Player, did most of the damage. But when the Patriots needed a big play they went to tight end Rob Gronkowski, who got open for 29-yard gain up the left sideline to set up the winning touchdown.
Michel slammed into the end zone from two yards out on the next play for the games only touchdown.
Edelman finished with 10 catches for 141 yards.
Wide receiver Josh Gordon, who led the Patriots in receiving yards and the NFL is yards per catch, was suspended this season. The Patriots missed him as a deep threat against the Rams.
Edelman did most of his damage underneath, especially on third downs. The Rams had a defensive end, usually Dante Fowler, peel off and covered running back James White, who is normally Brady’s third-down security blanket.
Running behind the line of Trent Brown, Joe Thuney, David Andrews (Georgia), Shaq Mason (Georgia Tech) and Marcus Cannon, Michel ran strong.
Michel’s touchdown put the Patriots up 10-3 with 7:00 to play.
2. Goff struggled mightily. Brady became the third starting quarterback to throw an interception on his first pass of the Super Bowl. He joined Buffalo’s Jim Kelly (XXVI) and Philadelphia’s Ron Jaworski (XV).
His first pass was intercepted by Rams linebacker Cory Littleton.
Rams quarterback Jared Goff struggled and was ineffective on third downs. He threw incomplete passes on six of the first seven third-down attempts. The Rams didn’t convert on their first eight third-down attempts.
The defenses dominated. The Rams were 3 of 13 (23 percent) and the Patriots were 3 of 12 (25 percent) on third down.
The Rams picked up their first third-down conversion late in the third quarter when Goff connected with wide receiver Robert Woods for an 18-yard gain on third-and-6 from New England’s 47.
Goff threw the ball late to a wide open Brandin Cooks in the end zone in the third quarter. New England cornerback Jason McCourty raced over and broke up the pass to prevent the touchdown.
The Rams had to settle for a field goal after Goff was sacked on third down.
Goff had another deep pass to Cooks broken up in the fourth quarter and finally cornerback Stephon Gilmore intercepted another errant pass intended with 4:17 to play.
The Patriots, who dominated the time of possession, started to wear down the Rams defense. Michel busted loose for a key 26-yard run to help jump start a drive that help the Patriots get the clock under two minutes.
Stephen Gostowkski added a 41-yard field goal with 1:12 left.
3. Slow start. Both teams struggled early.
The Patriots’ first drive ended with Littleton’s interception of a Brady pass that was intended for wide receiver Chris Hogan. The weak pass was tipped by Nickell Robey-Coleman.
Their second drive ended with a missed 46-yard field goal by Gostkowski. It was wide left. Gostkowski made 27 of 32 field goals during the regular season. He was 3 for 3 in the postseason before the miss.
The Patriots opened a 3-0 lead when Gostkowski made a 42-yard field goal on their fourth possession.
The Rams punted on their first five possessions.
Johnny Hekker had a 65-yard punt in the third quarter, which was the longest in Super Bowl history. New England punter Ryan Allen had the previous longest punt, a 64-yarder in Super Bowl XLIX.
Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein added a 53-yard field goad with 4:22 left in the third quarter to tie the game, 3-3.
The game became the lowest scoring game through three quarters in Super Bowl history.
4. Offensive genius. The Rams scored 583 points in their previous 18 games this season. They finished the regular season as the league’s second-highest scoring team at 32.9 points a game.
The Rams were 0 of 6 on third downs in the first half and mustered only 57 yards in the first half.
It was the second-lowest Super Bowl halftime score ever, 3-0. In Super Bowl IX, the Steelers led the Vikings 2-0 and went on to win 16-6.
5. Where’s Gurley. Rams running back Todd Gurley was not a factor in the game. He had 10 carries for 35 yards. Rams running back C.J. Anderson had seven rushes for 22 yards. Gurley had four carries for 10 yards in the NFC Championship game.
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