ATLANTA — Take those old records off the shelf. The Patriots on Sunday night joined the Steelers as the winningest team in Super Bowl history, securing their sixth Lombardi Trophy with a 13-3 victory over the Los Angeles Rams at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
This one will not go into the vault as an instant classic. It was a punt-filled rock fight that will best be remembered for New England’s staunch defense and a Rams offense that set records for futility. It was 3-3 after three quarters and the Patriots “broke it open” when Tom Brady came to life and directed a 69-yard touchdown drive to give the Patriots a 10-3 lead with seven minutes left.
It looked as if the Rams might tie it after the five-minute mark, but quarterback Jared Goff — a Ram in the headlights all night long — threw up a wounded duck that was easily picked off by Stephon Gilmore at the 4-yard line (I think Gilmore called for a fair catch on the ball) with 4:17 left. That effectively ended it. Julian Edelman caught 10 passes for 141 yards and was named MVP of the lowest-scoring Super Bowl in history.
Fortunately for the Patriots, there are no style points in these wins. Everyone knows that this was not one of the stronger Patriots editions of the Bill Belichick-Brady era. They lost five road games and were underdogs for the AFC Championship game in Kansas City. But they overcame all the obstacles. They were smarter than the other guys at every turn. And in the end, the Hoodie earned his eighth Super Bowl ring (two as an assistant with the Giants), and 41-year-old Brady became the most decorated player in football history with his sixth championship.
The tractor-pull victory nicely bookends the Patriots’ stunning upset of the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI — a seismic event that triggered our ongoing New England pro sports High Renaissance. Since young Brady stunned the Rams in 2002, the Patriots (six), Red Sox (four), Celtics and Bruins (one apiece) have won 12 championships, worn the tread on local duck boats, and made Boylston Street the Hub’s 21st century Canyon of Heroes. No American four-team sports city has experienced anything like this. Ever.
“It’s sweet,’’ said Belichick. “Everyone counted us out. We’re still here.’’
New England fans were the coveted “12th man” in the season finale. Almost 1,100 miles from Foxborough, the Super Bowl turned into a virtual home game for the Sons of Bob Kraft. It was as if the crowd was culled from extras who auditioned for “Mystic River” and “The Departed.’’ It’s safe to assert that more than half the fans at Sunday’s game have eaten at a Wahlburgers at one time or another. The Patriots fans’ takeover of a supposedly neutral site speaks volumes about what Belichick and Brady have built. As they did in Houston two years ago, Patriots fans shouted down NFL commissioner Roger Goodell during the trophy presentation.
And so the New England Patriots are champions. Again.
To paraphrase Brady, “They’re still here!’’ You cannot beat them. You can only be envious of them.
Let’s face it: “No days off,’’ “Do your job,’’ and “The Patriot Way’’ are woven into the fabric of New England, no less than Dunkin’ Donuts, traffic rotaries, and the Pops on the Esplanade on the Fourth of July.
You can make a case that back home in New England the Patriots have transcended cult and become a regional religion.
Blasphemy? Probably not.
Consider the church marquee sign in front of St. Mary’s in Foxborough Sunday morning, which read, “And you shall slaughter the Rams Exodus 29:11 Go Pats’’
Oh, and let’s not forget the book of Daniel, where it is written, “No one could rescue the ram from the goat’s power.’’
That’s GOAT. Greatest Of All Time, a.k.a. Tom Brady.
Brady was not at his MVP best in this one. He completed 21 of 35 passes for 262 yards. He did not throw a touchdown pass and had one interception. His quarterback rating was 71.4. But he led the Patriots to a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter — as he has done in each of the Patriots’ six Super Bowl wins.
“It was like a home game here,’’ said Brady, holding his daughter in his arms on the victory platform. “It was an unbelievable year. We fought through everything.’’
“We love you guys,’’ Edelman told the crowd while endless confetti fell onto his bearded head.
Poor Goff. Hearing Gladys Knight sing the anthem was too much for the man. LA was too much for the man. The Super Bowl was too much for the man. He was 19 of 38 for 229 yards and never got his team into the red zone. His quarterback rating was 57.9. The Rams punted on their first eight possessions. It was a defensive tour de force by Belichick and defensive play-caller Brian Flores, who is scheduled to be named head coach of the Miami Dolphins at any minute.
In his pregame interview with Jim Gray, Brady said, “We came up short last year and I think that stuck with me all year and I know how badly I want this one . . . I asked God this week, ‘One more, and I’ll never ask for one more.’ ’’
Clearly, God hates the Rams.
Brady’s winning drive was masterful. Taking over a 3-3 game with 9:49 left, he moved the Patriots 69 yards in five plays. He completed four straight passes, feathering the last one over the coverage and into the arms of a diving Rob Gronkowski at the 2-yard line. It might have been the last catch of mighty Gronk’s career (he would not answer the retirement question after the game).
Sony Michel ran it across the goal line on the next play.
“I knew it was going to come to me and I had to make that play,’’ said Gronk. “ . . . This is unbelievable. This is amazing. This is surreal. Everything we’ve been through this season . . . just unreal.’’
The parade is Tuesday. Moments after victory was secure, Boston’s mayor, Marty Walsh, tweeted, “Fire up the duck boats. @CityOfBoston! We will see you at the #SBLIII parade Tuesday at 11:00 am!’’
These are certainly the good old days of Boston sports. On a Sunday night last October, the Red Sox won the 2018 World Series, beating the Dodgers in Game 5 as thousands of New Englanders took over Chavez Ravine.
Exactly 14 weeks later, the Patriots were crowned champs on another Sunday night while their raucous, righteous fans took over somebody else’s stadium.
Maybe they can all go to the White House together.