Patriots

Patriots

Defense (or, one could argue, poor offense) was the headliner at Super Bowl LIII.

So, why are we talking about Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels after New England mustered just 13 points against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday night?

Because McDaniels' offense did just enough to win -- and he wasn't discouraged by the Patriots' abysmal offensive first half.

Here's an awesome anecdote from NBC Sports' Peter King about what McDaniels told his group at halftime:

In the locker room post-game, talk was that McDaniels went to the board to talk to his team and he drew the number “44.” That’s how many plays the Patriots ran in the first half-- and how many plays the Rams D was on the field. “That’s got to count for something,” McDaniels told his players. “That’s gonna pay off in the second half.”

Despite scoring just three points on 195 total yards of offense in the first half, the Patriots made the Rams' defense work, running 18 more offense plays than L.A. (The official game book has New England running 40 first-half plays, not 44.)

If the Rams were worn down, they didn't show it right away, as they held the Patriots scoreless in the third quarter. But early in the fourth quarter, New England finally exposed Wade Phillips' defense by gashing L.A. for 69 yards on five plays, the last of which was a 2-yard Sony Michel plunge for the game's only touchdown.

 

McDaniels' offensive adjustment helped spark that TD drive, as he switched the Patriots to a "22" look (two running backs; two tight ends) early in the fourth quarter -- a personnel grouping they hadn't even practiced entering Sunday.

"It was a pretty amazing thing,’’ Patriots tight end Dwayne Allen told King. “ ... Josh told us on the sideline, 'We did not practice this at all coming into this game, and I realize that, but this is going off in my head, and it’s something I think we need to do.' "

But McDaniels probably also figured the Rams' defense, used to benefiting from the NFC's highest-scoring offense that kept it off the field, may be a bit winded down the stretch thanks to those 40 first-half plays.

Sure enough, following a Stephon Gilmore interception on the ensuing L.A. drive, the Patriots' offense again marched down the field, traveling 72 yards on nine plays to set up a Stephen Gostkowski field goal that put the game out of reach at 13-3.

So, that number McDaniels wrote on the board at halftime did count for something: 10 unanswered second-half points en route to New England's sixth Super Bowl title.

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