This championship wasn’t pretty, but it just might be the sweetest

Celebrate this one, New England.

If this turns out to be the final championship for the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady partnership, they left you with one to remember.

The Patriots won their sixth Vince Lombardi Trophy Sunday night, beating the upstart Los Angeles Rams, 13-3, in Super Bowl LIII behind a stifling defense and one more drive to glory by the greatest quarterback of all time.

It wasn’t the prettiest championship they’ve ever won, but the Patriots weren’t complaining.

“I’m so happy for my teammates,” said Brady afterward. “It’s a dream come true for all of us.”

In an uneven season in which everyone outside of New England predicted the end of the New England dynasty, the Patriots only enhanced it.

This was their third Super Bowl championship in five years, sixth overall, tying them with the Pittsburgh Steelers for most all-time.

Greatest dynasty ever? Put that debate aside. There’s no question now.

Surely this had to be the most satisfying championship for Brady and the gang. The Patriots lost five games in the regular season and looked vulnerable in each of them. National commentators declared the dynasty over, that Brady had “fallen off the cliff.”

Even Belichick, who preaches for his players to ignore the noise from the outside detractors, took a swipe at the doubters.

“It’s sweet,” he said. “Everyone counted us out from the beginning of the season to midseason. But we’re still here.”

On Sunday night, Brady was at his best when the game mattered most.

With the game tied at 3-3 and 9:49 remaining, he put together one classic drive from the Patriots 31 yard line that ended with Sony Michel going in for the game’s only touchdown.

Brady completed four consecutive passes to set up the score. The first was to Rob Gronkowski, a perfectly tossed lob down the right sideline, for 18 yards. Then to Super Bowl MVP Julian Edelman over the middle for 13. Rex Burkhead caught a pass out of the backfield for seven yards.

Finally, Brady made a beautiful pass to Gronkowski down the left seam, with the tight end making a diving catch to the Rams 2. Michel rushed in from there and the Patriots were on their way to another duckboat parade.

It was vintage Brady in clutch time.

This wasn’t the game anyone expected. With two of the best offenses in the NFL going at each other, everyone expected a lot of points.

Instead, the defenses on both teams excelled.

And if Brian Flores is, indeed, leaving the Patriots to become the Miami Dolphins head coach, as has been reported multiple times, he’ll forever be remembered for this defensive game plan.

The Patriots smothered the Rams running game, confused Jared Goff. We hadn’t seen them play defense like this since the early years of their dynasty.

As Brady said during the post-game scramble on the field, “The defense played its best game of the year.”

Maligned much of the year, gashed at times by unlikely offenses, the Patriots played their best defense in the playoffs.

With so much of their offense predicated on play-action passes, the Rams needed to run the ball effectively. Instead, the Patriots held Los Angeles to just 62 rushing yards. That allowed New England to go after Goff and force him off his mark.

The Patriots had one interception, by Stephon Gilmore at the New England 4 with 4:17 left. On the play, the Patriots sent all-out pressure on Goff, forcing him to throw flat-footed and short.

The win came 17 years to the date that the Patriots defeated the then-St. Louis Rams, 20-17, in Super Bowl XXXVI for their first title. That game was similar in that New England’s defense battered the Rams.

Perhaps we need to appreciate the defense more when we talk about this dynasty. It hasn’t always been Belichick and Brady. They’ve always known it takes a team to win a championship. Sunday night the Patriots showed they have the best team.

As Belichick said, “They played like champions.”

Yet again.

 

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