Like Ol’ Man River, Tom Brady just keeps rolling along.
Brady, 41, the oldest quarterback ever to start a Super Bowl, took a back seat to a dominating defensive performance in the 53rd Super Bowl on Sunday, but he safely steered the New England Patriots to a 13-3 victory over the Los Angeles Rams for his record sixth Super Bowl title.
Brady’s and the Patriots’ sixth championship came on the 17th anniversary of the first, and it was a rematch. The Patriots beat the Rams, then representing St. Louis, by 20-17, setting Brady and coach Bill Belichick off on an unparalleled streak of success that has brought them six National Football League championships.
Brady’s opposite number on Sunday, Rams quarterback Jared Goff, was just 7 years old when Brady won that first title. With Sunday’s victory, Brady became the oldest quarterback to win a Super Bowl, and at 66, Belichick became the oldest coach to win one.
It was also one of the least eventful Super Bowls ever played as the league’s two top offenses ground to a halt.
The Patriots’ defense stuffed the Rams, holding them to 27 yards and forcing eight first-half punts. Brady was solid but unspectacular, completing 21 of 35 passes for 253 yards, no touchdowns and an interception on his first pass of the game.
The Patriots finally broke the ice with a 42-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski to go ahead, 3-0, early in the second. That was still the score — the second-lowest halftime score in Super Bowl history — after a first half whose star was Julian Edelman, a possession receiver whose miscue late in the American Football Conference championship game against the Kansas City Chiefs two weeks ago led to an interception that almost cost the Patriots their place in Sunday’s game.
Edelman snagged seven catches, a Super Bowl first-half record, for almost 100 yards in the first half, but his teammates could turn them into only those three points. He ended the game with 10 catches for 141 yards.
The Rams finally got moving late in the third quarter before stalling in New England territory and settling for a 53-yard field goal by Greg Zuerlein, tying the score at 3, which is how the game stood entering the fourth quarter.
Neither team managed to make it inside their opponent’s 20-yard line until the fourth quarter — running out three quarters with no red-zone plays. Then Brady hit tight end Rob Gronkowsi for 18 yards to the Rams’ 2, where rookie running back Sony Michel took it in to give the Patriots a 10-3 lead with seven minutes left.
Only then did the game come to life. The Rams immediately responded with a long drive, only to have it snuffed out when first-team All-Pro Stephon Gilmore intercepted a Goff pass at the Patriots’ 4-yard line with a little more than 4 minutes to play.
The Patriots tacked on a late field goal with 1:12 left, but it was still the lowest scoring Super Bowl ever — one point below the Miami Dolphins’ 14-7 defeat of Washington after the 1972 season.
It wasn’t the most impressive season for the Patriots, who lost five of their 19 games as Brady struggled — relatively speaking — throwing 11 interceptions, his most in five years. But he was steady in the biggest game of the year to win his sixth Super Bowl ring, breaking a tie with Charles Haley for the most ever by a player.
The win was historic for Belichick, as well. No other coach has won six Super Bowls since the game began after the 1966 season, and only George Halas, the founder of the Chicago Bears, and Curly Lambeau, the founder of the Green Bay Packers, previously managed to win six NFL championships.