The New England Patriots are Super Bowl champions for the sixth time. A year after losing the big game in heartbreaking fashion, Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and company returned to the pinnacle of the sport with a 13-3 victory over the Los Angeles Rams.
New England’s defense was dominant all night, holding the NFL’s second-highest scoring team to just a single field goal. Los Angeles coach Sean McVay’s offense was frustrated throughout the evening by the Patriots’ relentless pressure and immaculate coverage, and it turned out that all the Pats offense needed to do was not get in the way. They did little more than that, but it was ultimately enough to climb back to the top of the mountain at Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta.
New England bookended its 17-year run of constant Super Bowl appearances by taking down the very team it beat to win its first Lombardi Trophy. For Los Angeles, this is a difficult end to a stellar season, particularly considering its dynamic offense was basically non-existent in the game.
Super Bowl 2019 quarter-by-quarter recap
First quarter | Patriots 0, Rams 0: A whole lot of action, not many points. The Patriots moved Rams territory on each of their first two possessions but could not punch the ball in. The opening drive ended suddenly when Tom Brady’s first pass of the game was picked off by Corey Littleton on a tipped ball by Nickell Robey-Coleman, who had himself a busy first quarter with a controversial unnecessary roughness call. (Coincidentally, Robey-Coleman found himself in the middle of a controversy at the end of the NFC title game when he committed an obvious pass interference that went uncalled.) After a quick three-and-out from the Rams, New England drove the ball right back into Los Angeles’ end of the field. Facing a third-and-8, though, the Patriots elected to call a running play, which didn’t come close to achieving a first down. Stephen Gostkowski then missed his fourth kick in the last three Super Bowls, preserving the scoreless tie.
The Rams finally got some movement on their second possession of the game, but their drive ultimately ended when Patrick Chung made a great play on a third-and-4 in Patriots territory. L.A. tried to shift out of punt formation to draw a penalty on the Pats but ended up being called for one themselves. After a short punt from Johnny Hekker, the Patriots moved down the field again, but their drive ultimately stalled out.
Second quarter | Patriots 3, Rams 0: The first score came on New England’s opening drive of the second quarter. Gostkowski atoned for his early-game miss by nailing a 42-yard field goal to put New England up 3-0, which where the score remained entering halftime. The Rams appeared like they might get some momentum on the ensuing drive after they got away with a toe-tapping sideline catch by Robert Woods by hurrying to the line for the next snap before the Pats could challenge the play, but that drive stalled out before coach Sean McVay’s bunch could get into scoring position. L.A.’s biggest break came on a late-quarter fourth down attempt from the Pats. Corey Littleton tipped a pass intended for Rob Gronkowski over the middle, and John Johnson III had excellent coverage on the play to force an incompletion. But even then, the Rams failed to take advantage and ended up punting once again.
Just about the only player making any plays of note during the second quarter was Julian Edelman (seven catches, 93 yards at halftime). The Rams continued to struggle moving the ball, punting on all four of their second quarter drives, while the Patriots did not get much of anything going except when Brady was targeting Edelman, whether to the perimeter or down the middle of the field. As the half unfolded, most of the drama surrounded the Rams’ usage of Todd Gurley. The Rams’ star running back carried the ball on the team’s first snap of the game but spent most of the rest of the half on the sideline and went into halftime with only three total touches.
Third quarter | Patriots 3, Rams 3: If you thought the second half would bring a whole new ballgame, think again. Each team continued to struggling moving the ball thanks to the combination of hounding opposing pass rushers and quality coverage in the defensive backfield. Things were so bleak offensively that the punters (Ryan Allen and Johnny Hekker) looked like the best players on the field for much of the running time.
The lone score of the quarter was a 53-yard field goal by the Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein. It was the first field goal to beyond 50 yards in a Super Bowl in 15 years, and it was only that long thanks to a timely sack of Jared Goff by the Patriots’ Dont’a Hightower. Prior to that sack, Goff had completed his first third-down pass of the game, putting the Rams in scoring range with his best throw of the night, an 18-yard strike to Robert Woods over the middle of the field. Goff also missed on a throw to Brandin Cooks in the end zone, floating the ball just high enough in the air for Jason McCourty to knock it away just before it landed in Cooks’ arms.
The two biggest developments of the third quarter were a record-setting punt by Hekker (65 yards, the longest in Super Bowl history by 1 yard) and an injury to Patriots safety Patrick Chung, who appeared to suffer a broken arm while making a tackle early in the third quarter and was declared out for the game after having the arm placed in an air cast.
Fourth quarter | Patriots 13, Rams 3: In a game that the defenses dominated all night long, the outcome turned when the Patriots went to an empty-backfield set on three consecutive plays, inviting the Los Angeles pass rush to come after Brady — trusting that he would make the right reads to get the ball out in time. And on three consecutive plays, that’s exactly what he did. Brady first found Edelman over the middle of the field on an option route, then hit Rex Burkhead on a quick hitch to the perimeter, and finally, he lofted the ball down the left sideline to his monster-sized tight end Rob Gronkowski, who went up over the top of Littleton and came down with the football. That set the Patriots up with first and goal from the 1-yard line; on the very next play, Sony Michel scored the first and only touchdown of the night.
The Rams, who struggled offensively throughout the game, finally caught a rhythm on their next drive. Goff was nearly intercepted on a screen pass to open the possession, but instead, Brandin Cooks nabbed it and gained 19 yards. Goff made back-to-back huge throws to Josh Reynolds and Robert Woods later in the drive to move into scoring territory, but the Rams would never reach the end zone. A perfectly-placed pass to Cooks near the goal line was broken up at the last second by Stephon Gilmore and Duron Harmon (who entered the game after Chung’s third quarter injury). The Rams took another shot down the field on the next snap, but the Pats sent an all-out blitz, Goff had to let the ball go off his back foot, and it ultimately fell into the waiting arms of Gilmore before Cooks could even locate the ball.
The Patriots got the ball back with 4:17 left to play, and after marching down the field into Rams territory behind the powerful running of Michel and Burkhead, officially sealed their victory with a 41-yard field goal by Gostkowski as Zuerlein missed an attempt to make it a one-score game with 5 seconds remaining. And so, the Patriots’ dynasty, which started 17 years ago with a shocking Super Bowl victory over the then-St. Louis Rams, officially came full circle on this night with a 13-3 win that gave Bill Belichick and Tom Brady their sixth Lombardi Trophy.