If you thought Tom Brady's incredible success was hard to fathom -- six game-winning drives in the Super Bowl -- try wrapping your head around this: A New England Patriots unit that allowed 30 or more points on six occasions this season just delivered the greatest defensive performance in Super Bowl history.
Recency often breeds hyperbole, but in this case, the evidence is clear.
For starters, the three points the Los Angeles Rams scored in Super Bowl LIII were tied for the fewest in Super Bowl history with the 1971 Miami Dolphins, who lost 24-3 to the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl VI.
But that Dolphins offense wasn't exactly prolific, averaging just 22.5 points per game during the regular season. The 2018 Rams? They boasted the highest-scoring offense in the NFC at 32.9 points per game -- meaning the Patriots held them to 29.9 points below their scoring average.
In the regular season, the Rams averaged 32.9 points per game. They fell short of that mark by 29.9 points, the largest shortfall in Super Bowl history. https://t.co/vZAMN8Eerb pic.twitter.com/HloOTRfbRh— Football Perspective (@fbgchase) February 4, 2019
You'll notice the Seattle Seahawks also held Peyton Manning's Denver Broncos to 29.9 points below their scoring average in Super Bowl XLVIII. But the Broncos' eight points still represented 21.1 percent of their 37.9 points-per-game average. The Rams mustered exactly 9.1 percent of their usual scoring output, the lowest in Super Bowl history, per ESPN.com.
And if you need a bit more convincing, consider these mind-boggling stats:
The Rams offense in the Super Bowl didn't look much like the one that averaged 32.9 PPG during the regular season. pic.twitter.com/d8cPNjiKra— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 4, 2019
In fact, that was the first time the Rams had punted on their first eight possessions in any game since 2008.
The story of how Bill Belichick, Brian Flores and the Patriots' defense flummoxed the high-flying Rams is fascinating, as documented by the MMQB.com's Albert Breer on Monday morning:
The idea on defense, through what Flores and Belichick planned, was to force Jared Goff to think on the fly. It’s well-documented that McVay uses to the coach-to-quarterback communication to adjust calls based on what the defense is showing, up to the point where that communication cuts off, with 15 seconds left on the play clock.
The Patriots wanted to negate that creative advantage, so they essentially sent in two calls on every play. One was what they’d show before the snap. The other was what they’d switch into post-snap. And if you want to see how it worked, go back and watch how Goff held the ball, and doubted what he was looking at, over and over and over.
The result of that gamesmanship was the Rams totaling just 260 yards of offense -- a full 161 yards fewer than the 421 yards per game they averaged during the regular season -- and the 2018 Patriots securing a unique position in Super Bowl lore.
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