Final Super Bowl LIII thoughts, including why Brian Flores deserves more credit

Ryan Hannable
February 06, 2019 - 11:55 pm

It’s been four days since Super Bowl LIII, but it is still being discussed because of its magnitude and it being the final game of the 2018 season.

The Patriots beat the Rams, 13-3, in the lowest scoring game in Super Bowl history, which coincidentally came in a season that saw the most touchdowns in the history of the NFL. The game will most likely be remembered for the performance of the Patriots defense, which held the Rams to the fewest points ever scored in a Super Bowl, and was even more impressive considering the Rams finished the year with the second-best offense in football.

Now that we’ve digested what happened and the NFL Films footage has been aired, here are some additional thoughts on what took place.

— Even though Brian Flores is now in Miami as its new head coach, the former Patriots de facto defensive coordinator isn’t getting enough credit for the job he did against the Rams. Flores barely was brought up on the CBS broadcast and it seems Bill Belichick is the one getting the majority of the credit for the defensive performance.

While Belichick certainly played some role, Flores had more to do with it than maybe most think. This was displayed in the NFL Films footage shown Tuesday and Wednesday night. When Stephon Gilmore picked off Jared Goff at the 5-yard line late in the fourth quarter to basically seal the win, Goff was pressured by Duron Harmon, who came on a safety blitz. Who called that play? It was Flores. Belichick was shown telling him, “Good call” on the sideline right after the pick. 

The defensive performance will be attributed to Belichick by most, but don’t forget about Flores -- he was as responsible as anyone.

— The experience factor was more prevalent than first thought. While Sean McVay certainly has the tools to one day be one of the greatest coaches in the league, perhaps he needed a game like Sunday to learn from. The Super Bowl is truly a different animal and he experienced it first-hand. After the game he admitted he didn’t think the crowd would be as much of a factor as it was. Everyone in Atlanta all week could tell it would be a pro-Patriot crowd, so that is on him for not realizing it. The Rams didn’t prepare for any crowd noise in the two weeks leading up to the game.

Also, for as much as he respects Belichick, he should have known the coach changes things up quite a bit and is as unpredictable as they come. McVay commented the Patriots didn’t play much zone during the season, so it caught him off guard. This is what makes Belichick so great, and for as much praise as the young coach gave Belichick before the game, he should have known that would be a possibility. With that being said, it was telling how much responsibility McVay took for the loss afterwards and is the sign of a great coach in the making.

— The defense not missing a beat when Patrick Chung left is also something not getting the credit it deserves. Chung is one of the leaders and better players on the unit, and he was lost for essentially the entire second half after breaking his forearm a few plays into the third quarter. Duron Harmon filled in nicely and also Jonathan Jones showed his versatility by moving to the safety spot on a few plays. It probably is a good thing Chung’s injury didn’t get mentioned much afterwards because it if did, it would probably have meant his absence was apparent when the reality was his teammates did a great job of stepping up.

— Dont’a Hightower always seems to play his best in Super Bowls. The linebacker didn’t play in the Super Bowl against the Eagles due to injury, so in three career Super Bowls, he has three sacks and nine total tackles, but some huge plays in each. He had two big sacks Sunday night, a huge strip sack of Matt Ryan in Super Bowl LII and of course his game-saving tackle of Marshawn Lynch against the Seahawks just before the Malcolm Butler interception. It was noteworthy he was able to play 18 of the 19 games this season, which suggests his new training methods went a long way. 

— Julian Edelman’s MVP performance was even better seeing it again. The wide out caught 10 of 12 passes thrown his way. One was a throw away and the other arguably could have been defensive pass interference. It didn’t matter who the Rams put on him, they were no match for Edelman. The gritty receiver truly is one of the best playoff receivers in the history of the NFL. In the three postseason games, he caught 26 passes for 388 yards. His 151 yards against the Chargers and 141 yards against the Rams were his two highest productive games of the year, which shouldn't come as much of a surprise.

Also, his chemistry with Tom Brady is off the charts. There was footage of them touching their faces, drinking water and hunching over at the exact same time while sitting on the sideline. Them being so in sync with one another is major reason why they work so well together and is a major reason for the success of the whole offense. 

— One of the biggest differences for the defense in the Super Bowl, and playoffs for that matter, was the stopping the run. Remember when the unit allowed 7.64 yards per carry in Weeks 13-15, which was the worst three-game stretch in franchise history? Well, it allowed a total of 122 yards rushing in the three playoff games, which was less than the team allowed in six games this season. Very impressive stuff.

— Finally, it’s always good seeing the raw emotion after Super Bowl wins. The Edelman-Matthew Slater conversation was as good as it gets when Slater asked his former roommate if he won MVP and Edelman responded simply. “I did.” Slater’s reaction was an example of what sports are all about. It was also cool to see Belichick celebrating with his players. His conversation with Rob Gronkowski stood out most when the tight end said he was going to “step out” and Belichick responded, “I’m with you man. I’m even going to step out.” 

Related: Patrick Chung reportedly will have 2 offseason surgeries, likely to miss OTAs