The New England Patriots claimed their sixth title in 18 seasons by edging the Los Angeles Rams, 13-3, in a slog of a Super Bowl LIII on Sunday last week. Like their previous five Super Bowl victories under Belichick and Brady, Sunday’s was not decided until late, on Sony Michel’s 2-yard touchdown run with seven minutes left.
The New England Patriots’ dynasty began exactly 17 years ago Sunday, when the most fruitful partnership in N.F.L. history launched its transformation from plucky upstarts to league overlords. Coach Bill Belichick tamed the explosive Rams, and quarterback Tom Brady commanded an efficient offense.
The Patriots commemorated the anniversary by securing another championship against the same franchise, in a similar way, for a title that represents not a bookend so much as an ellipsis. New England’s reign is as relentless as a downpour, and without precedent.
On Sunday last week, at the much watched Super Bowl, one final stop — Stephon Gilmore’s interception near the goal line with 4 minutes 17 seconds remaining — punctuated a defensive effort that evoked Belichick’s first masterpiece against the Rams, when he sapped their potency by erasing the versatile back Marshall Faulk. Against this Rams team, the league’s second-ranked offense, New England forced punts on nine of 12 possessions and five three-and-outs.
The Patriots’ performance will ricochet around their empire as Belichick’s magnum opus, but it will be remembered outside New England as a grind, lacking the offensive artistry that defined this record-setting season.
It was as if after all the marks shattered — the most touchdowns scored, the most touchdown passes thrown — the ball decided, in the 267th and final game, that it was just too exhausted to breach the end zone anymore. It did so only once.
These Rams and Patriots will be forever linked in Super Bowl ignominy: the fewest combined points, the lowest-scoring first half in 44 years (3 points), the most time elapsed without a touchdown. That stretch ended at the time when Brady asserts his primacy.
All of Brady’s other championships have come after the score was tied, or the Patriots were trailing, in the fourth quarter. In those situations, Brady was 45 for 59 with 503 yards and three touchdowns and no interceptions. Taking over at his 31-yard line with 9:49 left, Brady connected on four straight passes for 67 yards, including a 29-yard beauty to Rob Gronkowski down the left side that preceded Michel’s touchdown, his sixth of the playoffs.