For the majority of those who tuned in, Super Bowl LIII could be summed up in one word: boring.
Neither the New England Patriots or Los Angeles Rams could get anything going on offense. The first quarter came and went without any points, as a string of three and outs and stalled drives put a damper on the action. The Patriots got on the board in the second quarter, but not in the form of a touchdown, and took a 3-0 lead into halftime.
The score remained 3-0 through most of the third quarter until the Rams got on the board to tie the game with a field goal of their own. It was not until Sony Michel found pay dirt for the Patriots in the fourth quarter that either team managed to score a touchdown.
Fans want to see touchdowns and lots of points. Scoring drives equate to action and the more points that are scored, the more fans become intrigued. The casual fan is not interested seeing Johnny Hekker and Ryan Allen compete to break the Super Bowl record for punts in a game.
For the die-hard fan, though, Super Bowl LIII could be summed up as a defensive masterpiece that only true fans of the sport could understand and enjoy. As the old saying goes, defense wins championships. Both the Rams’ and Patriots’ defenses came to play and shut down two of the most prolific offenses in the NFL.
In 2018, the Rams ranked second in the league in total yards per game (421.1) and points per game (32.9). The Patriots were not far behind, as they finished fifth in yards per game (393.4) and fourth in points per game (27.3). Thanks to strong defensive play, those highly ranked offenses were neutralized.
For the Patriots, cornerback Stephon Gilmore turned in his best performance of the season at the right time with five tackles, three pass deflections, an interception and one forced fumble. Linebacker Dont’a Hightower also came up big with two sacks. On the other side, Cory Littleton made 10 tackles for the Rams, while linebacker Mark Barron (eight tackles) and defensive tackle Michael Brockers (seven tackles) did a good job stifiling New England’s rushing attack for the most part.
Both defenses came through when they were needed the most. The two offenses combined to go 6-25 on third down conversions, as key pass deflections, run stops and open-field tackles forced a combined 14 punts.
Compare Super Bowl LIII to a pitcher’s duel in baseball. Is it an action-packed game? No. However, you can’t help but respect the dominance taking place on the field. In today’s NFL, offense is the name of the game. The league would prefer teams to put up a boatload of points to attract new fans and keep them engaged. Games are even officiated in a manner that caters to the offense to an extent.
This year’s Super Bowl was a blast from the past. Defensive battles such as the one the Rams and Patriots took part in used to be commonplace and some of those battles resulted in games that went down in NFL lore. Offense will always win out from an entertainment standpoint, but defense will win the game taking place on the field.
While others twiddled their thumbs and did not take joy in the action, true football fans reveled in the defensive dominance that unfolded last weekend.
Tyler Calvaruso can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @tyler_calvaruso.