SKOWHEGAN — The prognosticating pastor who publicly predicted the final score in the Patriots’ win Jan. 21 in the AFC title game is forecasting a New England victory Sunday in Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta.

The final score, according to the Rev. Mark Tanner?

New England Patriots, 34; Los Angeles Rams, 24.

“I’m just thinking that, based on last year’s Super Bowl, I think the Patriots have something to prove this year,” Tanner said Thursday before unveiling his prediction on the church sign in downtown Skowhegan. “I think it’ll be a good game, but I’m not necessarily thinking it’s going to be a close game. They want to prove that they’re not old, that they’re talented.”

Tanner, who celebrates 25 years as pastor at the Skowhegan Federated Church this month, had his secretary put his AFC Championship prediction up on the big sign outside the church on Island Avenue on Friday, Jan. 18 — two days before the title game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

It read: “God doesn’t have a favorite team but the pastor does!!” He then had his prediction of the final score accompany the message: Patriots, 37; Chiefs, 31.

Bingo. That was exactly right.

New England Patriots fan Josh Tanner laughs as his father, the Rev. Mark Tanner, predicts on Thursday outside the Federated Church in Skowhegan that the Patriots will beat the Los Angeles Rams, 34-24, in the Super Bowl. Morning Sentinel photo by David Leaming

Other churches had a similar message, but none of them had nailed the correct score.

Tanner’s phone blew up when the game ended with his precise prognosis, and his story went viral across the globe.

“I would like to think it was divine intervention, but I’m not that crazy,” Tanner, 62, said the following Monday after the game, as media types from across Maine lined up to get the story.

The sign outside the church Thursday afternoon had been prepared with all but the final score posted, as wind blew up from the nearby Kennebec River, swirling the snow and making the 12-degree cold feel downright frigid.

Tanner arrived with a snow shovel to clear the way in front of the sign for the huddled Maine news media.

“I’m going to put the numbers in. All ready?” Tanner said to reporters.

New England Patriots fan the Rev. Mark Tanner digs snow away from a sign Thursday outside the Federated Church in Skowhegan before posting his prediction that the Patriots will beat the Los Angeles Rams, 34-24, in Sunday’s Super Bowl. Morning Sentinel photo by David Leaming

“You know what they are already?” one reporter asked.

“I do,” he said.

He then posted the numbers, first teasing with two 4s, then posting the predicted final score — 34-24.

He was joined by his son Josh Tanner, as they fielded questions from reporters.

“I’m beginning to believe that maybe there are some who will turn around and will join us,” Mark Tanner said. “I just think that the Patriots at this point are going to be that much better and when it comes down to pressure, you’re looking at coaching … and it’s experience.”

He said the congregation has had some fun with the story since it first broke Jan. 21. He said it is a church sharing its humanity with others, being human, reaching out to the community.

The Rev. Mark Tanner on Thursday afternoon unveils his prediction for the score in Sunday’s Super Bowl outside his Skowhegan Federated Church. Tanner correctly guessed the score of the AFC Championship game the Patriots won by also posting his prediction on the church sign beforehand. Morning Sentinel photo by Doug Harlow

“It’s just a happy story. It’s a feel good story,” he said. “It’s kind of brought some positive feedback to the community in Skowhegan, and I’m thankful for that.”

Tanner said when the season opened last fall, the Patriots got off to a rough start, losing two of their first three games. Since then, he said, they have learned to work as a team.

“They’ve also learned how to be a family,” he said. “They’re a family. They’re working hard, but they’re having fun.”

Tanner said the Patriots also have something to prove after last year’s Super Bowl loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. He said benching former Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler was a mistake and most likely contributed to the 41-33 loss.

He expects Sunday’s game will be a mix of running and passing, with Patriots coach Bill Belichick keeping the Rams guessing what will come next, perhaps opening with an aerial attack instead of the running game.

Quarterback Tom Brady, running back Sony Michel and defensive end Trey Flowers, along with Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, James White and Chris Hogan, are going to be keys to the game, Tanner said.

The Rev. Mark Tanner of the Skowhegan Federated Church predicts the New England Patriots will defeat the Los Angeles Rams, 34-24, on Super Bowl Sunday. Tanner publicly predicted the correct final score of the AFC Championship match. Morning Sentinel photo by Doug Harlow

On the other side of the ball, Tanner said, watch out for the Rams defensive line with Ndamukong Suh and Aaron Donald doing damage. He said Rams running back Todd Gurley could be off his game Sunday and not pose a problem, but quarterback Jared Goff could be a threat, in spite of his young age, 24.

So what is his inspiration for prediction?

“It’s really a gut feeling, seriously, a gut feeling. It’s going with your gut,” he said. “I think, you know, you drive along, you kind of talk to yourself and you say, ‘This feels good. This just feels right.’

“This particular game, I’m really basing my inspiration, my feelings, on the last year’s Super Bowl because it’s only going to be a matter of a couple more years and Brady’s going to be done.”

Tanner said he was on his way to Portland International Jetport that Friday, Jan. 18, for a flight to Iowa to visit a friend who had just undergone surgery when he got the idea for the sign.

“I wanted to put that sign up in Skowhegan. I’ve been here long enough, and I thought people would just get a kick out of it,” he said. “I asked my secretary to put the sign up, and I said, ‘I want you to put the score up. I want to make the score 37-31’ because it’s going to be a high-scoring game, and that was it. I never thought any more about it until last night, when it went into overtime.

“My wife said to the kids, she said, you know if there’s a touchdown scored, the score’s going to be the exact number in the sign that your father predicted.”

Members of the Mark and Deb Tanner family, hardcore fans of the New England Patriots, gather around a sign at the Federated Church in Skowhegan on Jan. 21. Deb Tanner, center, is flanked by children Kaley and Josh. Her husband, the Rev. Mark Tanner, was out of state that week but picked the correct score of the AFC championship game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Morning Sentinel file photo by David Leaming

The Tanner household in Skowhegan is all about Boston-area sports, with Red Sox and Patriots memorabilia all over the place. There’s even a small shrine on the hearth of an unused fireplace, with framed pictures of the Patriots, including one that celebrates The Last Supper as The Last Laugh and another depicting four Patriots players — quarterback Tom Brady included — doing a mock Abbey Road stroll.

There’s a red “Easy Button” game with Brady’s voice saying, “That was easy.” Even the family cat gets in on the fun; his name is Brady.

Besides, Tanner said, quoting his son Josh, it’s time that a Boston team won a championship.

“Josh said: ‘It’s been so dry — three months. It’s time for another championship.’”

The game kicks off at 6:30 p.m. at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Tom Brady and the New England Patriots will make their ninth Super Bowl appearance in 18 seasons. Brady, Belichick and company are favored by 2.5 points in the latest odds.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow

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