It was ugly. It featured a total of 14 punts involving two of the four highest scoring teams this season. Yet in the end the New England Patriots, in their record 11th trip as a franchise to the Super Bowl, won its sixth championship, all of which have been won in the past 18 seasons and with same coach and quarterback combination.
Having lost its first two Super Bowls, New England’s 13-3 win over the L A Rams improved the franchise’s all time record to 6-5. Bill Belichick became the oldest coach to win a Super Bowl as well as the coach with the most victories (6). QB Tom Brady is the sole record holder for Super Bowl wins as a player, also with six.
The win added to the side of the debate that claims the New England Patriots as the greatest sports dynasty of all time as well as giving further support for Belichick as the NFL’s greatest coach and Brady as the greatest QB.
Perhaps the only question remaining unanswered is the likely inevitable question to be addressed in the future as to whether the name of the Super Bowl Trophy should be renamed as the “Lombardi- Belichick Trophy” or the “Belichick-Lombardi Trophy.”
Although the certainty of its origin is unknown, the saying that best describes the result of my prediction for Super Bowl 53 dates back nearly two centuries, to 1829, and is expressed as “the operation was a success but the patient died.” My approach to Super Bowl 53 was the matchup of Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips against the play calling and game plan of New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
Indeed, although the Patriots gained 407 yards (6.0 yards per play) against the Rams defense those yards were converted into just 13 points. Holding the Patriots to just 13 points – 14.3 below their regular season average – would normally result in not just a win but usually a comfortable win.
But the New England defense was even better, limiting the Rams to just 260 yards of offense (4.3 ypp) and made QB Jared Goff totally uncomfortable, if not a bit intimidated, as he was harassed all game. Rams coach Sean McVay accepted a good deal of the blame for the poor performance of the LA offense and with good reason. Known as an innovative and aggressive play caller he rarely used the up-tempo offense that served him well in the regular season and seemed to have some success against the New England defense on the few occasions it was employed.
At the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook the Rams opened in mid January as 6-1 favorites to win Super Bowl 54, followed by Kansas City at 6-1, New Orleans at 8-1 and New England at 10-1. Roughly 12 hours after Super Bowl 53 ended, on Monday morning the Westgate’s revised odds had Kansas City as the 6-1 favorite with the trio of the Rams, Patriots and Saints each held at 8-1 odds.
Several teams that made the playoffs last season, including the aforementioned quartet, will receive much support to win next season’s Super Bowl. Chicago (16-1) in the NFC and Indianapolis (20-1) in the AFC will be very popular picks next summer. Seattle (30-1) and Houston (25-1) will also have their backers.
A pair of long shots that seem poised to make great strides next season would include San Francisco (50-1) and Tennessee (60-1).
Much will occur before the start of next season which, as discussed a few weeks ago, suggests the making of future wagers this early extremely risky.
Super Bowl 54 will be held next February 2 in Miami. In their franchise history in Baltimore and Indianapolis, the Colts have been to four Super Bowls. All have been played in Miami. So perhaps the stars are aligned for Indianapolis to represent the AFC in Super Bowl 54.
If you are not comfortable in picking a team to win Super Bowl 54 you can wager on the game itself right now as the Westgate has the AFC a 2.5-point favorite over the NFC with a Total of 57. And there is even a Money Line of AFC – 140, NFC +120.
I neglected to provide the answers to the two trivia questions I posed in the Super Bowl III Retrospective column I wrote last month. The questions posed were:
1. What record was set in Super Bowl III that can never be equaled or broken? Hint – It would take the reversal of a fundamental change in the game a few years following Super Bowl III (though not related to anything about Super Bowl III).
2. What event occurred during the 1968 season that has earned an iconic place in cultural history to the extent it is oft referred to today when similar, though rare, events occur? Hint – there is a connection, perhaps a stretch, between New York and Las Vegas.
The answer to the first question is kicker Jim Turner’s third field goal of the game that extended the Jets’ lead to 16-0 early in the fourth quarter. There can never be a field goal of a shorter length as the goal posts were on the goal line in those days, moved to the back of the end zone a few years later such that with football on the 1-yard line would now be a 19-yard field goal, rather than a 9-yarder.
The answer to the second is the infamous “Heidi Game.” This game, played in mid-November of the 1968 season, saw the telecast of the game terminated with the Jets leading 32-29 and just over a minute to play – a minute in which the Jets surrendered a 43-yard touchdown pass and a fumble return for a touchdown in what resulted in an exciting 43-32 loss.
The winning team – against which the Jets gained revenge in the AFL title game that sent the Jets to Super Bowl III – was the soon-to-be Las Vegas but then-Oakland Raiders.
Given the Jets’ failure to even return to the Super Bowl in the 50 years since, one might wonder if the Jets made the proverbial deal with the devil a half century ago. Supporting evidence might include this fact.
Only three teams have appeared in three consecutive Super Bowls – Buffalo, Miami and, most recently, New England. All three happen to be the three division rivals of the Jets in the AFC East.
Last week: 0-1
Final 2018 record: 133-138-6
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