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Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Five biggest reasons why Patriots won Super Bowl LIII

Julian Edelman

For the better part of the last two decades, Super Bowls have been close contests that rarely go according to expectations. Super Bowl LIII was no different as the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams locked into a defensive battle that raged from the opening kickoff to the final play.

In the end, the Patriots won their sixth title — tying them with the Pittsburgh Steelers for most all-time — by downing the Rams, 13-3, in one of the lowest-scoring Super Bowls in recent memory. Certainly the lowest scoring of the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady dynasty era.

But how did the Patriots get there? Who did they ride? And what led to the win? Here are five big reasons why New England is on top of the football world again.

5. Experience of Bill Belichick, Tom Brady

Sean McVay is an extremely intelligent young head coach with a bright future and Jared Goff is an up-and-coming quarterback, but Super Bowl LIII displayed the value of experience — and both Belichick and Brady have that in spades. Beyond just the nerves that come with playing in the Super Bowl, McVay seemed to be out-smarting himself early, while Goff took more than his fair share of untimely sacks. The Patriots also seemed to be ahead of the curve when it came to making in-game adjustments, with several coming even prior to halftime and then again late in the third quarter. The evolution throughout four quarters was a Belichick staple, and no amount of film and preparation could have prepared McVay for it.

4. Lots of new looks, pressure for Jared Goff

Expanding on Belichick out-smarting the Rams defensively, Goff faced a nightmare scenario in Super Bowl LIII as the Patriots threw countless new looks at him. And because of the confusion created by New England’s secondary, it allowed their front seven to repeatedly pressure Goff, force him out of the pocket and make quicker decisions than the play was designed for. Ultimately, he was sacked four times as the Patriots played zone coverage more than 55 percent of the time, which is substantially down from their league-leading average of 62 percent. And even when Goff did have a little time or an open man, he was dealing with happy feet and a lack of confidence due to the consistent pressure.

3. Winning time of possession

Never underestimate the value of winning the time of possession, especially against a potent offensive team like the Rams. No matter how handcuffed they appeared throughout the game, they had definitively proven to be a quick-strike team — even having a few of those moments on Sunday night. However, the Patriots did just enough all game to remain ahead in time of possession, keeping their defense fresh and the Rams’ gassed. That paid dividends late in the fourth quarter as the pounding began to take a toll on Los Angeles, and some of the numbers began to really add up — 3-of-13 on third down, seven penalties for 50 yards and 3.7 yards per play for Los Angeles.

2. Julian Edelman rising to the occasion

In a game that lacked any real offensive explosion, Julian Edelman was the standout player and likely Super Bowl MVP. Not only did he rack up 10 receptions for 141 yards on 12 targets, he routinely came up with big plays in big moments, converting on key third downs and helping to spark and otherwise lackluster offense. Moreover, when the film review of Super Bowl LIII winds down, many will see Edelman making key blocks downfield, running rub routes that opened up other potential plays and coaching up his teammates both on the field and on the sideline. On this night, Edelman refused to be denied, and both he and running back Sony Michel carried the Patriots offense.

1. Grit and determination

Statistics and analytics are golden nuggets in the sports world today, but the human element is still ultimately what determines winners and losers. Never has that been more apparent than in Super Bowl LIII, where the game could have legitimately gone either way at any moment. The Patriots, like the Rams, had their backs up against a wall throughout, knowing full well that even the most simple of mistakes could cost them a Lombardi Trophy. But given the poise and experience of their leaders — Bill Belichick and Tom Brady — New England remained calm, cool and collected. Time and time again the Patriots came up with a big play when they had to, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. It was clear they would not be denied on this Sunday evening, and there’s no amount of statistics or analytics in the world that matter more than that sort of determination and grit.

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