Drunken Ramblings: Super Bowl LIII Patriots at Rams
That was not the game I wanted. Not even close. The only thing that happened correctly was I wanted to win, and we sure did. Of course I wanted a Pats blow out. Finally give us our care free bowl which we so richly deserve. I didn't seem like a Rams blowout was ever in the cards so I took that off the table. And as much as I wanted a drubbing, a close game felt like the obvious option. Despite everything that happened last year, I still thought a shootout was our best bet. I will take Tom Terrific over Jared GOOF (which is what we were calling him on the drive that ended with a pick and there is no way that's a coincidence) in a 44-41 game because DUH. The only thing I was truly afraid of was the Rams D staying hot and confusing us. It had the Super Bowl That Shall Not Be Named written all over it. That's some type of 14-10 loss and I want to rip my head off my own body. So a low scoring close game was my actual nightmare.
Loyal readers know how much it pleases me when Tom throws picks. It's a dropper of CBD oil for my soul. So you can imagine how I reacted when his first attempted pass of the Super Bowl was possibly the worst looking throw of his career. Not worst decision. That fine honor belongs elsewhere. But the whole thing. He didn't set his feet. He looked soooo casual. He misread the coverage. And if I only showed you a clip of the rotation of that ball mid flight and then asked you if someone kicked it or threw it, you would guess the former. I'm not even kidding.
Credit to Wade Phillips game plan, because he disguised coverages brilliantly all night and kept Tommy perplexed. Which never happens. I mean TWO first quarter time outs. I almost threw up when Tom couldn't get the snap off and had to take that second one. All signs were pointing to us never figuring it out on offense, which wasn't that far off.
Even the strip sack. Not sacked all yoffs coming in. Had 2-3 hours to throw on that play. Double clutched. Didn't scramble. Fumble. If Andrew's doesn't jump on that it's a different ball game. All of this is to say that going into his 9th Super Bowl, I expected Tom to be past the "this game makes everyone nervous" bullshit. When you've played in more than half a season's worth of Bowls, it truly is just another game. And seeing those breakdowns had me rattle snaked early.
However, this isn't a lets give Tom a hard time post. It's a we just won the fucking Super Bowl for the 6th time post. And Tom didn't win MVP, he didn't carry this team to victory, but he did what he always does. He looked deep into my eyes while he f- errr I mean he delivered when it matters most.
That tuddy drive that everyone is talking about was great work from Josh no doubt. We ran the same play three straight times and even though the Rams basically knew what was coming they couldn't stop it. It was an innovative play call and a great adjustment from the OC. But none of that matters if you don't execute. The throws to Jules and Burk were pitch and catch, but the decision was the right one. And even though Tom saw jersey number 58 sprinting over to cover Gronk on the third play, so he knew where he was going pre snap, it still took an absolute DIME of a throw drop it over the LB and before the safety. Not a bad catch if I may so myself. It reminded me a lot of the tuddy pass to Laffy in the Ravens divisional round game when were down 14 twice. Just a beautiful touch pass with the entire season on the line that Tom drops into a bucket to win the game. For all the success he has had despite his defense, and the losses he has had at the hands of his defense (cough, last year), I don't begrudge the man one second for adding another notch to the old belt with a little help from his friends. I'll be sure to let Tom know everyone expects him to play better when he wins his 7th.
I knew the running game would have a major emphasis for both teams. Sony finished with 18 carries for 94 yards and a tuddy. With that hundred yard back stat I've been spewing I really wanted to hit that number. Withouth his 26 yards scamper on the final drive he wasn't actually that close. The Rams did a good job of stopping us from running right at their big interior guys. I expected more to the outside, but we had a plan and we stuck with it. It's not so much his individual game I want to talk about with Sony. It's the whole season. No one was harder on him than me this year. I was appalled we took a running back in the first round. I've accused him of having no burst. Saying he only gets what is blocked for him. All of it. I can't remember if I ever said "bust" (I for sure did) but what I do know is I owe him an apology. Balance in the offense is always important, but especially as Tom gets older. If this kid can give me four more healthy season of this kind of production, I will personally kiss him on the lips when he gets paid by Tampa Bay as a free agent the following year. I bet he finds room in his bags for the 2 or 3 Super Bowl rings he will be bringing with him.
On the other side of the ball, I was terrified of being gashed by the Rams running game. They love to play action. We can't stop the play action. They can only play action if we can't stop the run. This was going to be crucial. Well 17 carries for 57 yards by the Rams running back was exactly the golden ticket that was going to get us into the chocolate factory. I was wayyy more scared of CJ than Gurley before the game, but Gurley actually out touched CJ 10 to 7. That was so weird. The Rams kept saying Gurley was healthy. But, like, he obviously wasn't? He had 5 touches maybe in the NFCCG and then he gets 10 in the bowl. After he rushed for 1200 yards and 17 tuddies in the reg season. Yea, for sure, that guy is healthy and you don't give him the ball in your two most important games. I guess it was a decoy thing, but that would make sense to me if they said he was healthy then just gave it to CJ all night. Good tactic, make us prep for Gurley just in case but the Rams know he isn't playing. What doesn't make sense is to say he's healthy, but then not play him as if he is hurt, but still play him more than your other for sure healthy back. I'm talking myself into a pretzel here, but needless to say I hope the next Netflix doc is about what is wrong with Todd Gurley.
Big shout out to the DLine on that front as well. Even though Flores pulled his hog out with new coverages (more on that later) you knew we were going to commit heavy to the run and make Goff beat us. Well that meant a lot of snaps for Malcom, Guy, Butler, andddddddd is that Danny Shelton's music!?! A guy who was a healthy scratch in the AFCCG, after having vanished during the entire second half of the season, played 15 snaps on D in the Bowl and made a contribution. Unreal. Even guys like Wise who I wanted to become wrath this year but didn't make the jump, saved his best game for last. He played half the snaps and finished with 5 tackles. He was as disruptive up front as anyone not named Flowers. Props to MY BOY Trey just for being him. He does everything out there, and even though he didn't have some game altering play on Sunday, we don't have the ability to do what we do on defense without him. I hope we give him all of King Midas's Silver.
The other beasts in the front 7 were Van Noy and HIGH. At this point I don't know what the Lions fans are more mad about. Hiring Patricia or letting Van Noy go. That guy is so classic Belichick I can't stand it. That first year he seemed more Shea McCllelan than Mike Vrabel. But the next year when HIGH went down Van Noy took it to another level. Wearing the green dot and making plays sideline to sideline. This year he started a little slow, who didn't, but it's clear now that everyone was just figuring out their new roles in the defense. Those two guys accounted for 3 of our 4 sacks in this game. I don't have enough superlatives to talk about HIGH. During the great Patriots trade up of 2012 when we left the draft with Chandler and HIGH, and then we took Collins with our first pick the following year, that felt like the core three guys for the future of the Pats defense. Then there was all that contract talk. We can't afford everyone. What about Malcolm Butler? Who are we gonna pay? There was endless debate among my friends. Most wanted the flashy edge rusher in Chandler. Some wanted the pure athleticism of Jamie, or the folk lore appeal of Malcolm Go. But not me. Not ya boy JO. I was HIGH til I die and always will be. That man is a Super Bowl machine. Monster plays in every title game he's been in. I legit thought he was gonna tear his ACL when he went BIG on that point the other direction dance he does, but then I remembered it's the Bowl and not even a torn pec could stop him. One of my favorite Patriots mic'd up moments is subtle but its in the Atlanta Bowl, during the huge comeback. High says to his defense "no more mistakes. no more my bads." Tom is a god damn leader of men but he is the lets go we can do it guy. HIGH is not. He says stop fucking up. Right now. If you want to know how we gave up a million points (number approx) to Nick Foles last year look no further than HIGH.
In the secondary I was very curious to see what we were gonna do with JC Jackson. He had really taken over as the guy opposite Gilmore. J-Mac was still playing a ton, but JC was the choice. He struggled a bit against KC, in the second half especially, but even that was over exaggerated. He got two flags, one was a brutal call, and it was a tough match up. I still trusted him. But Bill went with J-Mac who played every single snap on defense. JC still played half the game and made a big impact. As did Jon Jones who is also my guy. He played every snap but one and was huge in the slot. But it makes my heart hurt thinking about how happy I am for J-Mac. That dude was about to get cut in camp! He only stayed on the team to make Dev happy. Now he's playing every snap in the bowl oh and also had the biggest pass break up of the game. I couldn't quite tell who fucked up that zone coverage, but someone let Cooks go NUDE up the seam for an easy tuddy. J-Mac noticed it and came from another zip code to close down the throw and knock it loose. I mean he went so far on that play I would have needed Waze to find the best route to Cookie, so thank the old gods and the new that J-Mac has a better sense of direction than I do.
Gilmore had a huge pick of course, which almost sealed the game for us. You knew Jared GOOF was due for one. The sinking feeling in my stomach was he already threw it to HIGH and we didn't pull it down. I wasn't sure if he would give us another gift. But that can of corn was gift wrapped and shipped for free one day delivery on Amazon Prime, gift receipt included. All Gilmore had to do was not Asante Samuel it. But I really want to talk about that play call. A fucking jail break blitz on second down (I think?) right after they took a deep shot to Cooks that could have (should have) been caught again if not for a Duron Harmon game saving play. It's just nuts to me to think that this is essentially the same defense I watched last year play soft coverage and bend over, asking the Eagles to enter them gently. If you're gonna go down, go down swinging. And in the cast of Brian Flores, swinging past your knees.
Quick props to Harmon too. I mentioned in the last Ramblings that this dude has played basically every snap all year and then was essentially benched in the AFCCG because he wasn't fast enough to cover Hill. I figured it would be back to normal int the bowl. But with Flores shockingly going away from the Big Nickel which we've run all year, Harmon once again found himself on the bench early. Then Pat Chung savagely breaks his arm and I shit my pants. He felt like a guy we just couldn't lose. He is too versatile. Well what do you know. Insert Harmon and the defense doesn't skip a beat. It's things like that where I understand why some of these players are so respected by their teammates. Harmon is a team first, second, and third guy through and through.
Lets talk kicking game for a second? Hey Stevie, miss another kick in the bowl. I fucking dare you. I gotta say that's when I really panicked. How many times have I said in this blog that when the kicking game falls apart you know something is going wrong. Well considering we have 3 points total in the first quarter of our 9 bowls now, I hoped we would pull our head out of buttholes and change that. First drive looks like points for sure. Pick. Second drive is points for sure. Shanked FG. Scoreless first. Just shoot me in the face. They flashed a stat that Stevie has missed 4 kicks in his last 3 bowls. I want the guy back because he's one of the best in the game, but holy shit you gotta clean that up. I completely forgive him since he hit the dagger at the end. That was not a low pressure kick by any means. But just like the Eagles game, when that kick didn't go I smelled trouble in the worst way. And not like a wow I thought that was gonna be a fart smelling trouble. I'm talking WORSE than that.
And you can't talk kicking game from Sunday without talking about the punters! Wouldn't have guessed that was going to come up in Ramblings. Allen had the easier job. Most of our drives, while always stalling, at least were getting to around midfield. That was huge to keep the field tipped in our direction. But that doesn't mean Allen wont just nuke one into the end zone like an asshole. But not my guy Ry. In what might have been the lefty's last game as Patriot, it felt like he pinned the Rams inside their 10 every time the ball left his foot. I know it doesn't sound all that important, but knowing you have to go 90+ yards every time is exhausting. The Giants did that to us in bowl 2, and it sucked as much for us then as it did for the Rams on Sunday. The man who didn't have any easy job was Hekker, and I mean it when I say that dude can go fuck himself. Was he kidding me??? Every time we would pin them, I would pray for a 3 and out so they would punt from the end zone then we would get the ball on the 50 and finally have a short field and be able to score. And then every time this lead footed shit head punted the ball it would go 80 yards and everything was ruined. I couldn't believe my eyes on that 65 yarder. I wanted to rip Jules beard off for not running up and catching the ball on their side of the field before it rolled for 3 hours, but then again I didn't want him anywhere near a bouncing punt of the rest of my fucking life.
Our OLine was a thing of beauty, as they have been all yoffs. You were concerned about the interior. Thuney, Andrews, and Shaq Daddy dealing with Suh and Donald. But they held their own and then some. One sack, which was Tom's fault anyway. We were getting the ball out quick, and the pocket was collapsing at times, but they did enough to give our guys time to make plays. And they were diabolical in the run game in flashes, but especially on that last drive. The two 26 yarders from Sony and Burk on that series were like heroin in my veins. I knew that was gonna be a 3 and out by us, giving the Rams a short field and all the time in the world to tie this game. Never in my wildest dreams did I think we were getting points, and certainly not by running it. Hell of an effort from this unit who was unsung all year. It will be interesting to see what we do at LT, but if that was it for you Trent Brown, I place great blessings on all your future dwellings. That drive was massive for obvious reasons, but think about this too. McVay, who had a really weird game considering he is such an innovator and trickster, was ONE HUNDO P going for 2 if they scored to tie it at the end. If they scored before the Gilmore pick, he would have just tied the game and tried to get the stop. There was still like 4 minute left. But if we stalled out with 2 minutes left and then they scored at the buzzer, he was going for 2. No chance he's letting Brady win a coin toss in OT.
What's left besides my two beautiful boys. Jules and Gronk. The big dog had 6 catches for 87 yards. I'm not saying we actually were waiting to unleash him in the yoffs, but I'm not not saying that. I love that Jules looked at him in the huddle and basically said I've been carrying us all game. Time for you to do something so we can win the bowl. And Gronk made the fucking play. Like he has done so many times. Personally, I think he's back next year. It was a tough season no doubt, but he's got another run left in him. But good lord was I proud of him for making plays and blocking hard all night. I wish he had rolled into the end zone untouched so we could have seen a Gronk Super Bowl Spike, but I know he was just as happy to block for Sony on the way in. Gronk has been the most unguardable TE of all time when healthy. That man still exists inside. Not for 60 minutes. But when he really needs it. And we really need him.
Jules. MVP. AMAE. What can you say about 10 catches for 141 yards in the fucking bowl? I expected him to have a big game and he exceeded my expectations. He was the only thing consistently working on offense all night. We turned to him every time we were in trouble and he put the Rams DBs on ice skates. They tired everything and none of it worked. Jules is such a gamer. Coming off the ACL I truly feared for his career. A guy who built his game on quick cuts, at his age, wasn't a good combination. Then the suspension. Then he looked a little slow to start. But holy shit. On Sunday he played possibly the best game of his entire career on a night the boys needed him to. The Rams had Tom and Josh confused, but when you can fall back on 'hey Jules, get open' it's quite the luxury. Jules is an emotional cat, and so am I, so it was pretty dusty in my room when he was trying to hold back the tears at the end. Think about his ride for a second. Being too small to play football, pretending he was Brady on his school playground, to winning a Super Bowl with Brady himself, and being named MVP. I may start crying again.
Finally, a big shout out to you guys for reading. I've had kind of a crazy year and haven't been around as much as I'd hoped. I've missed more minutes of Patriots games this season than I ever have in my life. But I tried to make some jokes and give you some drunken thoughts and predictions and film study when I could. I appreciate this football team so much, and more importantly I appreciate this forum to express myself, and most importantly I appreciate you. My fellow fans. Standing on the wall with me every day. I started writing for this site last year, and we lost the Super Bowl. This was my second year, and if we had lost the Bowl again I was about to immediately tender my resignation. Can't have the curse of JO hanging over everyone's head. So thank god we pulled it out on Sunday. That means you have to deal with me again next year. I love you all. Now we get 7.