How bad could a Super Bowl be? The New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams gave us the answer on Sunday: “worse than you could possibly imagine”. In one corner, we had the up and coming Los Angeles Rams with a budding superstar quarterback in Jared Goff and budding superstar running back in Todd Gurley. Their head coach, Sean McVey is the pro football coaching flavor of the month and given credit for his ‘cerebral approach’ to the game and ‘innovative play calling’.
In the other corner was the New England Patriots. Some would argue that the Patriots in the Belichick/Brady era are the ‘greatest’ Super Bowl team in NFL history. If the Patriots are pro football’s version of Muhammad Ali, this was the Ali that showed up to fight Larry Holmes in his sad next to final fight. Of course if we want to extend the boxing metaphor a bit, the Los Angeles Rams looked like the Michael Spinks that showed up to fight Mike Tyson.
Ultimately, the Patriots would prevail in a Super Bowl that neither team deserved to win. Tom Brady set the tone for the game by throwing an interception on his first pass attempt. That gave him the dubious honor of becoming the third quarterback to throw an interception on his first pass attempt joining Jim Kelly (Super Bowl XXVI) and Ron Jaworski (XV). Brady need not worry, however, since the NFL’s spin control minions at ESPN were already hard at work and by the first quarter what should be remembered as the worst Super Bowl performance by two otherwise competent teams in NFL history was getting a new narrative: an ‘intense defensive battle’. The good news about Brady’s game opening interception? You could have received a nice +250 payday by betting that Brady would throw an INT before he’d throw a TD in a prop bet offered by the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook.
Super Bowl LIII does provide a good lesson in how the media hype machine and the public bettors it hoodwinks can drive oddsmakers to price games the way they do. That’s why bookmakers opened the total on this game at 58–the highest in Super Bowl history–with no real statistical or situational justification to do so. It was based exclusively on the misguided opinion of a deluded public that had been subjected to a season full of ESPN hype about the ‘greatness’ of Brady/Belichick and the ‘unstoppable’ Rams offense. Anyone that took the ‘Over 58’ should be put in a self exclusion program and never be allowed to wager on NFL football again.
As far as the side play goes, these teams were evenly matched and showed up on Super Bowl Sunday with the same pitiful offensive execution. In a perfect world, bets on either side of the game should be graded as a loss.
The Patriots did back in to a 13-3 to win which was good news for the sports media since they didn’t have to re-write their love letters to Brady and Belichick Super Bowl game recaps that the wrote long before kickoff. This wasn’t a game in which the Patriots defense ‘led the way’ as ESPN gushed. Nor was it a ‘defensive struggle’. It was a painful to watch matchup of two of the best offenses in the NFL completely failing to execute when they needed to execute the most. You can’t denigrate what Tom Brady has done during his career but his Super Bowl LIII showing should explain just how silly and meaningless it is when a yammering sports media type talks about his ‘superior big game experience’. This was a performance that should rank among the most embarrassing of his career. 262 yards, 1 sack and 1 INT was Brady’s line and Rams’ QB Jared Goff was basically the same–229 yards 1 INT and 4 sacks.
The most embarrassing offensive performance has to go to the Rams’ rushing game. Los Angeles had the #3 team rushing attack in football during the regular season putting up 139.4 yards per game. Todd Gurley was third in the league in rushing with 1251 yards. His performance on Sunday was pitiful–10 carries for 35 yards–as was C.J. Anderson who went for 22 yards on 7 carries. Sean McVey’s gets a lot of credit for his ‘innovative play calling’ but he looked completely lost here once he realized that both the Rams’ passing attack and rushing game were screwed. The Rams became are now the second team to go an entire Super Bowl without scoring a touchdown. The first time was in Super Bowl VI when Miami’s Garo Yeprimian’s second quarter field goal gave the Dolphins their only three points of the day in a 24-3 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. That was 25 years ago and it’s supposedly a different game now. In other words, back then the players might have had an excuse. This year we had two offenses in a perfect situation to execute facing mediocre at best defensive opponents. The preseason game level offensive performance that we witnessed really defies explanation.