Dynasty Enhanced: Super Bowl LIII
The bar continues to climb.
For the spectacle and pageantry of the Super Bowl, including an elegant rendition of the national anthem by the legendary Gladys Knight, the game itself became a throwback to another era. Where explosive offense was anticipated, a defensive struggle would ensue. A duel between the greatest quarterback on the Super Bowl stage and a young prodigy turned into a battle of attrition, with their leadership mettle tested in front of a global audience. When the smoke cleared, it would be the New England Patriots who would stand tall over the Los Angeles Rams, winning Super Bowl LIII by the score of 13-3. The records set in this installment of the modern NFL championship game would be thought unheard of in today's environment. The 3-3 tie after three quarters would be a Super Bowl first, both as the lowest number of points scored by both teams after such time, and the first to go without a touchdown until the Pats' Sony Michel punched in a 2 yard run after 53 minutes of game time. Ironically, the game's Most Valuable Player would be a wide receiver, as Julian Edelman would turn in a yeoman's performance (10 catches for 141 yards) to keep New England's offense on the field to finally tip the scales in their favor. For the franchise that will go down in NFL history as its greatest dynasty, one that has relished its lunch pail mentality and largely eschewed the approach of collecting stars to maintain their dominance, their exploits are becoming so expansive that all others in future generations can only strive to achieve. The Patriots have matched the Pittsburgh Steelers with their sixth Lombardi Trophy, but achieved it in far less time (New England took 18 years, where Pittsburgh took 34). Head coach Bill Belichick and QB Tom Brady have reached the Super Bowl nine times with the Patriots. No other franchise through their history have made more than eight appearances. Belichick and Brady have more rings with one team than other legends in their respective positions, the Steelers' Chuck Noll and the San Francisco 49ers' Joe Montana (4 apiece). In the immediate now, fans outside of those New England states have grown weary of the Patriots' ubiquitous presence in the championship levels of the NFL playoffs, while those who reside in the American Northeast revel in such excessive riches. But as the years will begin to pass, appreciation of this team of this era will be ultimately remembered and respected, even if begrudgingly. The people of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont will regale their progeny with the tales of the past glories of these Patriots, with the legend growing even when their time has concluded. Congratulations to Belichick, Brady, owner Robert Kraft, and the rest of the New England Patriots organization.
The Rams did reach their goal of a Super Bowl with the aggressive method of acquiring veteran free agents last spring, while signing their young core of talented players to long term contracts in the summer to keep that nucleus intact for future postseason runs. But on this day, LA would fall short, no sin in losing to one of the best in NFL history. After such a defeat, the question is can they return? The short answer is yes. Quarterback Jared Goff, running back Todd Gurley, and WR Brandin Cooks are set to keep improving and whose chemistry will improve as they play together. Defensive tackle Aaron Donald has been a force of nature, and will continue to be a disruptive influence on opposing offenses barring unforeseen debilitating injury. The long term health of this team is great. However, expecting a repeat as NFC champion next year is very uncertain. Many of those veteran players that were brought in were signed to one year deals. Defenders like tackle Ndamukong Suh and cornerback Aqib Talib are once again free agents this spring, and other clubs will be bidding for that experienced talent. Head coach Sean McVay, a mere 33 years old, has experience that belie his years. His focus on developing both Goff and the Rams offense has been a successful formula thus far, and that should continue for the foreseeable future. The state of the NFL is always in flux, so anointing the Rams as the next perennial power may be premature at this point. But they have also earned the right to be in the conversation. The coming seasons look bright, but nothing is assured.