Super Bowl 53 Review: Guess Who’s Back – Back Again?

In the minds of the Patriots and their fans, this was a team playing the role of the underdog throughout the season. Every loss this year, all five of them, was viewed as one step closer to the cliff and the end of the dynasty. Yet, if we review the year that was, we can see that the best online sportsbooks like Heritage Sports only tagged the Patriots as underdogs once in the 19 games they played this season. That came in their road tilt against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium as three-point underdogs. The bookies had the wrong favorite and the Patriots drew away to a thrilling 37-31 overtime victory over Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs to win the AFC Championship and advance to their Super Bowl date with the LA Rams.

Tom Brady did not deliver an MVP performance but his chief target throughout that game, Julian Edelman, certainly did. Despite the fact that Brady went early and often to his slot receiver extraordinaire, the Rams had no answer in their secondary to cover the elusive, fleet-footed phantom gobbling up virtually every pass thrown his way. When it was all said and done, Edelman had caught 10 passes for 141 yards in Super Bowl 53, eight of which resulted in first downs. In addition, he now trails only the great Jerry Rice for all-time playoff receiving yards with 1,412 and must now be considered a worthy candidate for Canton when his playing days are through.

There were many celebratory moments for the Patriots but one that tugged at the heartstrings had to be when Tom Brady’s six-year-old daughter Vivian spotted Edelman and said “Jul”! She then embraced the diminutive receiver, looked into his eyes, and out of the mouths of babes came, “Are you happy?” To which a delighted Edelman replied, “I am happy.” Some might roll their eyes but coming from a child, there was no pretense, no manufactured moment for the cameras to catch, just a simple question to which a simple answer was returned. Perfect.

The whole Patriots Way is just a bit too cornball for most of us, but it works. New England’s discipline comes directly from their head coach, Bill Belichick, and if a player doesn’t toe the line, maintain his humility, and follow the blueprint, he’s not a Patriot for long. We’ve seen burgeoning stars being shipped at odd moments like Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins. You either fit in or you move out. There is a definite method to Belichick’s madness and his game plan is predicated on the team directly in front of him. Belichick explained the defensive blueprint he enacted to limit the Rams.

“Obviously [we wanted to stop] [C.J.] Anderson and [Todd] Gurley in the running game …” said Belichick. “We just felt like we had to put something together that would neutralize the running game and their big-play play-action passes on early downs. That’s really where they’ve killed people all year, is the 120-something explosive plays they’ve had.”

“We basically put Gilmore on [Brandin Cooks] the whole game,” Belichick told ESPN. “It was a mix of man and zone coverage. We doubled Woods. Those are really the two guys we were most concerned about.”

The Patriots defense executed his orders perfectly and limited the Rams to only a field goal. The plan worked, the Patriots won again, and the season is now complete. Time for the Packers to shine but we will have to wait until September to see them sparkle.

 

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