ATLANTA — Super it wasn’t — until the drive that won New England its record-tying sixth Super Bowl.
The projected shootout Sunday with the Los Angeles Rams never developed. Then late in the game, Tom Brady led one classic drive capped by rookie Sony Michel’s 2-yard run with 7 minutes remaining to put New England up 10-3. A late field goal clinched the game 13-3, the lowest-scoring of the 53 Super Bowls.
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 averaged just 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 Rob Gronkowski. The second, on which the star tight end beat two defenders, ended at the Los Angeles 2, the 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 they did it was atypical. It was close, for sure, yet 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 his buddy, 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.
All those suspicions about the Patriots declining this season became moot as a defense with few stars carried it, making the 24-year-old Goff look awful and turning All-Pro running back Todd Gurley into a nonfactor.