The New England Patriots joined the Pittsburgh Steelers as the franchise with the most Super Bowl wins in NFL history after winning a tight, tense tussle with the Los Angeles Rams 13-3 at Super Bowl LIII.
The Patriots took the lead through Stephen Gostkowski’s 42-yard field goal and held on to their slender lead until late in the third quarter when Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein replied in kind from 53 yards to level the scores and set up a tense finale.
A huge third-quarter play inside his end zone by Jason McCourty denied Brandin Cooks a sure touchdown as the Patriots prevented a stuttering Rams offense from getting a late foothold in the game.
But on a night that saw defenses dominate the play, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady mustered up one crucial drive, as he called the same play three times in a row, targeting three different receiver options on each occasion as passes to Julian Edelman, Rex Burkhead and Rob Gronkowski took the Patriots down to the Rams’ two-yard line.
And when running back Sony Michel – who played the NCAA National Championship game at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium just two years earlier – charged through to score the game’s touchdown, the Patriots took control.
It meant the Rams had to open up and attack through the air, and when Stephon Gilmour followed up a touchdown-saving play in his end zone with an interception of Rams quarterback Jared Goff in the very next play, the Patriots effectively killed off any chance of a Rams comeback.
And when the Patriots drove down the field and gave Gostkowski the chance to fire home his second field goal of the game from 41 yards to put the Rams two scores adrift, the game was effectively over.
The Rams did try a dramatic late charge, but Zuerlein’s field goal attempt flew wide left to secure the win for Bill Belichick’s men.
It gave Belichick and Brady the sixth Super Bowl titles of their glittering careers and put the Patriots on level terms with the Pittsburgh Steelers as the most successful NFL franchise of the Super Bowl era.
“It was an unbelievable year,” Brady said after the game.
“We just fought through it more so than anything. It’s unbelievable to win this game.
“We’ve been this far and lost, which is tough. I wish we had played a little better on offense, but we won, and it’s unbelievable.
“I’m so happy for my teammates. Brady said, this is a dream come true for all of us.
“I can’t believe it; we are Super Bowl champs.”
The emotion was a stark contrast to that shown by defeated Rams coach Sean McVay, who was bidding to become the youngest head coach to win a Super Bowl.
After the game, he told the press that Patriots’ coach Belichick had outcoached him, and explained that he was still feeling numb from the finality of the result.
“They did a great job,” he admitted.
“It was a great game plan and [there’s] no other way to say it, but I got outcoached tonight.”
Winning coach Belichick said proving the doubters wrong was a motivation for his team and admitted that victory was “sweet.”
“Everybody counted us out from the beginning of the season, the mid-season, but we’re still here,” he said.
Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman was named the game’s Most Valuable Player for after a superb game that saw him register ten receptions for 141 yards, plus one rush for eight yards.
“I wasn’t focused on that [winning the MVP],” Edelman told the NFL Network after his performance.
“I was just trying to have a good week or practice and do my job, and sometimes the cookie crumbles that way.”
Influential tight end Gronkowski had been the subject of pre-game speculation surrounding his playing future, with rumors of retirement being floated should the Patriots capture the Super Bowl.
But after “Gronk” helped New England to victory, he refused to be drawn on his future, instead of saying that he would go away and consider his decision after the dust had settled following his team’s Super Bowl victory.
“It’s not about that tonight, it’s about celebrating with my team tonight,” he told NFL Network.
“I’m going to take a few weeks, a week or two, see where I’m at, make a decision from there.
“But tonight, it’s about celebrating with the team, celebrating with everyone. We were grinding, what, seven months since training camp, putting the work on. It paid off, and now it’s time to celebrate.”Bill [Belichick] said he’s partying tonight, and I ain’t going to let him out-party me!”