ATLANTA (AP) — Defenses dominated what was supposed to be a super shootout, until Tom Brady led one classic drive to win the New England Patriots their record-tying sixth Super Bowl.
Brady threw two perfect passes to Rob Gronkowski to set up rookie Sony Michel’s 2-yard score — the only touchdown in the lowest-scoring Super Bowl ever. That put New England up 10-3. A late field goal clinched the game 13-3.
In a season when all sorts of offensive records were set, this Super Bowl rewrote the defensive record book.
No Super Bowl had gone into the fourth quarter without a touchdown. This one did, tied 3-3 — even though these teams combined to average over 60 points a game.
When the Patriots needed a score, Brady, the oldest winning quarterback in a Super Bowl at 41, completed four straight passes, including a pair covering 47 yards to Gronkowski. The second, on which the star tight end beat two defenders, ended at the Los Angeles 2, the only time either team was inside the 20-yard line. Michel ran off left tackle for his sixth postseason touchdown.
With 4:17 left, All-Pro Stephon Gilmore picked off an ill-advised pass by Rams quarterback Jared Goff, who seemed overwhelmed by the big stage all night, at the New England 2.
Stephen Gostkowski made a 41-yard field goal with 1:12 remaining, completing a 72-yard march that took more than three minutes off the clock and included 26-yard runs by Michel and Rex Burkhead.
It was a workmanlike conclusion for the Patriots (14-5), whose losses all came away from New England. They beat the top two offenses in the Chiefs and Rams (15-4) in the postseason, and tied Pittsburgh for most Super Bowl titles.
The Patriots were terrific all game on defense, allowing the fewest points in a Super Bowl (tied with Dallas in 1972 against Miami).
The Rams, who reached the NFL championship game with the aid of a major officiating error in the conference title victory at New Orleans, never really threatened to reach the end zone.
At 66, Bill Belichick became the oldest winning Super Bowl coach. The Patriots beat the Rams, then representing St. Louis, to begin their dynastic run in the 2002 game. They also have beaten Carolina and Philadelphia (2004 and ’05, the last repeater); the Seahawks in 2015; and the Falcons in 2017 in the only overtime in Super Bowl history.
They have lost three times, including to Philadelphia a year ago. New England is the first team since the 1972 Dolphins to win a Super Bowl the year after losing one.
How the Patriots accomplished it was atypical. The 10-point margin was their biggest in winning a championship.
Brady, who has won four Super Bowl MVP trophies, wasn’t particularly sharp — except when throwing to Julian Edelman, the game’s MVP. Edelman, who was injured and didn’t play the 2017 season, was the steadiest offensive player on the field, finishing with 10 catches for 141 yards.
Brady passes Charles Haley to become the only player with six Super Bowl titles.
All those suspicions about the Patriots declining this season became moot as the defense made the 24-year-old Goff look awful and turned All-Pro running back Todd Gurley into a nonfactor.
While it was anything but odd to see New England celebrate a championship, the manner it earned this one was startling. The 2 1/2-point favorite Patriots moved the ball well, ran down the clock, but made uncharacteristic gaffes on offense. Goff and the Rams made more.
LA’s second-ranked offense managed just 57 total yards for the half. The Rams were completely overmatched on the line and were particularly unable to handle the elusive Edelman, who had seven receptions for 93 yards.
Coach Sean McVay, whose Rams never had been blanked in a first half, let out a long, deep sigh just before halftime, recognizing how badly his team was manhandled, even though it trailed just 3-0.
It was the lowest score at halftime since Super Bowl 9, which Pittsburgh led 2-0 over Minnesota.
McVay, the youngest Super Bowl head coach at 34, had no answers as Gurley, coming off knee issues, managed 35 yards rushing, Goff went 19 for 38 for 229 yards and was sacked four times. Brandin Cooks, a Patriots receiver last season, did have eight receptions for 120 yards.