Reimer: This Super Bowl belongs to Bill Belichick, who humiliated Sean McVay and showed why he's the best ever

Alex Reimer
February 04, 2019 - 12:00 pm
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Bill Belichick was the goat of last year’s Super Bowl. He inexplicably sat Malcolm Butler while Nick Foles shred the porous Patriots’ defense for 373 yards in the second-highest-scoring Super Bowl ever. On top of that, Belichick was reportedly feuding with Tom Brady, and causing Rob Gronkowski to contemplate retirement for far longer than any All-World tight end in the prime of his career should. 

It seemed like everything was on the verge of falling apart. And if it did, Belichick’s dour demeanor would’ve shouldered much of the blame. Couldn’t he have given Brady just one Patriots Player of the Week award? Is that too much to ask?

This year, of course, the story reads differently. Belichick is once again being hailed as a defensive genius following the Patriots’ 13-3 beatdown of the Rams Sunday. New England stifled Los Angeles’ explosive offense and won the lowest-scoring Super Bowl in history. Sean McVay, whose innovative offensive mind supposedly catapulted football decades into the future, was left looking like the countless other coaching novices who tried to match The Hoodie and failed. 

“I’m pretty numb right now, but, definitely, I got out-coached,” McVay told reporters after the game. "I didn’t do nearly good enough for our football team.”

The Rams’ futility was staggering. They punted on their opening eight possessions and nine of their first 10. Prior to the game, an anonymous Patriots player predicted young Rams QB Jared Goff would “(expletive) himself.” It was the most prescient football take ever, no offense to Tony Romo. Goff went 19-of-38 for 229 yards and looked perpetually overwhelmed. The Patriots hurred him 12 times and sacked him on four occasions. 

Goff couldn’t handle the pressure all night –– holding onto the ball way too long for a Kyle Van Noy 14-yard sack and airmailing third-down throws with defenders in his face. When the Patriots sent a six-man blitz on the Rams’ last meaningful offensive play of the game, Goff panicked and heaved up a duck right into Stephon Gilmore’s outstretched arms. It was the perfect play call from Brian Flores, who heads into his first head coaching gig with a slightly better Super Bowl performance on his record than Matt Patricia. 

As ESPN’s Bill Barnwell notes in his terrific breakdown, the Patriots played lots of zone coverage against the Rams and tried to make Goff into a traditional pocket passer. He wasn’t up to the task and McVay didn’t adjust. The Patriots enjoyed tremendous success with their dime package –– six defensive backs on the field at the same time –– holding Goff to a 6-of-16 performance for 60 yards and a pick. With those wretched numbers in mind, it’s stunning McVay didn’t try to run the ball more. Los Angeles only ran the ball one out of 20 times against the dime package. 

Todd Gurley, who the Rams insist was healthy, carried the ball a mere 10 times. One must wonder if the NFL owners who have hired McVay disciples this year, even marginal ones like Kliff Kingsbury, are beginning to entertain second thoughts about their latest flavor-of-the-month.

For 18 years, the Patriots have been at the top. They wouldn’t be there without Brady, but we’ve had plenty of Super Bowls to laud TB12. This one was about Belichick and his ability to adapt. As the NFL has shifted towards more wide-open college styles of play, thanks partially to McVay, the Patriots have built themselves into a physical powerhouse. Belichick gave guard Shaq Mason $50 million and nabbed Sony Michel in the first-round last year. The Patriots were 8-0 when Michel ran for 90 more yards this season. He scampered to 94 yards on the ground in the Super Bowl and scored the game’s only touchdown.

The Patriots' O-line dominated January. New England played some of the most ferocious pass-rushers in football this postseason: Melvin Ingram, Joey Bosa, Dee Ford, Justin Houston, Chris Jones, Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh, Dante Fowler Jr. They combined for just 10 tackles, three hits on Brady and no sacks. David Andrews and Trent Brown better get a cut of TB12 Inc. after all of this. They are just as responsible for Brady's longevity as Alex Guerrero's deep tissue massages. 

Brady shows little signs of slowing down, and amazingly, neither does Belichick. At 66 years old, he's the oldest head coach to ever win a Super Bowl. Years ago, Belichick remarked he didn’t want to be Marv Levy and coach into his 70s. But it looks like he could do this for years to come. 

"Everybody counted us out from the beginning of the season, mid-season, an euphoric Belichick told Jim Nantz after the game. "But we're still here."

Tangentially, Belichick was talking about the team. But it sure sounds like he was referring to himself, too. And rightfully so. Belichick's austerity did not end the Patriots dynasty. His football brilliance once again perpetuated it. 

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