SuperBowl LIII ended up being the lowest scoring Super Bowl of all time, surprising many of the experts and contradicting the data. Two of the highest powered offenses squared off against each other, with the story narrative of QB / Coach combinations exemplifying the Old Guard versus New Guard.
Predicting results is a healthy blend of art and science, and we see there was a lot more art influence when the coaches were given two full weeks to prepare. Looks like they spent too much time planning defensive strategies and not enough on offensive strategies. Let’s take a look at where the analytics came up short.
LOCK of the WEEK – PAG took the “Over”
- Actual – Under wins 16
Pick #2 – PAG took the Pats minus the points.
- Actual – Pats cover winning by 10
- Actual – Pats Victory 13-3
Final Score – PAG sees a Pats victory 35- 31
PAG Super Bowl Picks Record 1-1
The Pats started well, running the ball successfully on their opening possession. However, that drive came to a quick end on Brady’s first pass of the game when Rams linebacker Cory Littleton intercepted the deflected pass.
Great start for the Rams, unfortunately for the Rams, that’s where the momentum started and ended for the young head coach and QB combo. They were unable to do anything with the turnover and proceeded to punt on their first 8 possessions.
One of the NFL’s best offenses during the regular season had no answer for what the Pats were throwing at them defensively. The Patriots held the Rams normally potent rushing attack, typically the catalyst for the team’s success, to only 62 yards rushing on 18 carries for the entire game. That’s an average of 3.4 yards per attempt.
What’s wrong with Todd Gurley? Maybe nothing, the Rams could never get their offense in a rhythm. Gurley arguably the main reason the Rams were successful on offense all year and one of the top running backs in the NFL was held to 35 yards on 10 carries and 1 catch for -1 yard. During the regular season Gurley was averaging 22 touches per game (18 Carries and 4 Receptions).
The Pats put a stop to Gurley and the Rams running game early and made the Rams offense one dimensional. Belichick and the Pats defense kept Goff and the Rams high powered offense off balance and uncomfortable the entire game, keeping them off the scoreboard until late in the 3rd quarter when the Rams kicked a field goal, surprisingly tying the score at 3.
With the Pats dominating on defense one would expect the score at this point to be a runaway in the Pats favor. Not the case. The Pats were able to move the ball on most of their possessions but the Rams defense seemed to stiffen and make the one play they needed to stall the drive and keep Brady’s offense off the scoreboard.
Consistent pressure up the middle from the Aaron Donald and the Rams defensive line forced Brady to get the ball out of his hands quickly and for the most part effectively hitting his favorite target Julian Edelman (Super Bowl LIII MVP) 10 times for 141 yards and Gronkowski 6 times for 87 yards.
The last of Gronk’s receptions with 7 minutes remaining in the 4th quarter took the Pats to the 2-yard line for the game’s first and only red zone play for either team during the entire game. Pats ultimately score the go-ahead TD and never look back. Tacking on a late field goal to put the game out of reach for a struggling Rams offense.
Where did all the offense go for these two teams. The Over seemed like the safe play with the line hovering around 56.5 most of the week. Even though the Pats ended up with 407 yards of total offense the Rams were able to keep them between the 20’s for every drive except 1. Neither team was able to get into a consistent rhythm on offense and both defenses stood strong. But in the end the experience of Belichick and the Pats proved too much for young McVay and the Rams to overcome. Just goes to show that DEFENSE still wins championships, even in today’s offensively minded NFL.