One year after the Patriots lost the ultimate Super Bowl shootout, they emerged victorious in an inelegant 13-3 slogfest.
It’s doubtful that anyone associated with the Patriots is disappointed in the lack of aesthetic value in the franchise’s sixth championship. Still, there’s something fascinating about a landmark victory, one achieved in the lowest-scoring Super Bowl in history (16 combined points), with the fewest points ever by a winning team (13, surpassing the 14-7 win by the Dolphins in Super Bowl VII in January 1973), and the losing team tying the record for fewest points scored in the Super Bowl (3, joining the Dolphins in their loss in Super Bowl VI in January 1972).
Here’s a look at some of the elements that made Super Bowl LIII startling:
■ The 3 points allowed by the Patriots tied for the fewest they’ve ever given up in a playoff game.
■ The Rams had averaged 32.9 points per game during the regular season. They scored 29.9 fewer points in the Super Bowl, matching the 2013 Broncos for the biggest gap between a team’s average regular-season scoring output and its point total in a Super Bowl.
■ After cruising up and down the field for 421 yards per game in the regular season, the Rams managed just 260 yards Sunday, fourth-fewest in a Super Bowl this century.
■ The Rams did not run a single play in the red zone, joining the 1999 Giants and 1967 Raiders as the only teams to spend every play outside of the opponent’s 20-yard line. The Patriots and Rams combined for just one red zone trip all game, the fewest combined visits in Super Bowl history.
■ In the 18 games the Rams played this season before the Super Bowl, Johnny Hekker punted four or fewer times in 17 of them. He’d surpassed that total before halftime, punting on each of the Rams’ first five possessions, and he finished with nine punts, tied for the third most in a Super Bowl. Only Super Bowl XXXV in January 2001, when the Giants (11) and Ravens (10) combined to boot the ball 21 times, saw more action for a punter.
■ In 12 of their 16 regular-season games, the Rams had no more than one three-and-out, and they never had more than three in a game. On Sunday, they had five such possessions.
■ One year ago, the Patriots were torched by the Eagles for 41 points, with Philadelphia converting 10 of 16 third downs — a 62.5 percent rate that was the highest in a Super Bowl since 1980. On Sunday, New England’s defense transformed that struggle into dominance, with the Rams converting just 3 of 13 (23.1 percent) of third downs. Of course, that mark would have looked worse but for the fact that the Patriots converted just 3 of 12 (25 percent) of their own third-down opportunities, ninth-worst in Super Bowl history.
■ Rams quarterback Jared Goff’s 57.9 passer rating was the sixth-lowest both of his career and in a Super Bowl game (minimum 20 pass attempts) this century.
■ Goff’s poor rating was in no small part a product of a ferocious New England pass rush. The Patriots were credited with 12 quarterback hits, tied for the second-most in a Super Bowl since 2006 (the earliest year for which such statistics are available in the Pro-Football-Reference.com database).
Ultimately, the Patriots claimed their sixth Super Bowl triumph much as they did their first one: by physically mauling the Rams in a way that completely disrupted an offense that was one of the most explosive in the NFL during the regular season.