The New England Patriots take on the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia on Sunday, February 3, 2019.
ATLANTA – If Brian Flores wanted to give the Miami Dolphins one last example of his prowess before leaving to become their next head coach, the Patriots de facto defensive coordinator did his best in the first half. For the second straight game, New England pitched a first-half shutout, blanking the top two scoring offenses in football against the Chiefs and Rams.
The Patriots were smothering in the opening 30 minutes, swarming to the ball throughout. The front got pressure on Jared Goff and kept the Rams away from threatening to put any points on the scoreboard. Kyle Van Noy in particular was active from the start. On the first play from scrimmage, he buried Rams wideout Josh Reynolds with a chip at the line, knocking the receiver off his feet and forcing Goff to throw it away.
In the second quarter he provided heavy pressure on a third-and-two on what represented Los Angeles’ lone venture into Patriots territory at the 47. He eventually knocked Goff off his feet for a 14-yard loss and forced one of Johnny Hekker’s six first-half punts.
Danny Shelton also had a strong half, providing solid pressure on an early deep shot that Goff wanted but was unable to make as he was forced to throw it away. Later in the second quarter Shelton broke through and dropped C.J. Anderson for a 1-yard loss.
The secondary also was outstanding, especially Stephon Gilmore. Gilmore drew Brandin Cooks and held him under wraps, limiting the speedy former Patriot to two catches for 17 yards. In all Goff struggled badly in the first 30 minutes, completing just 5 of 12 passes for 52 yards. He was also sacked twice, the second by Dont’a Hightower to start a late two-minute drive.
When the half arrived the Rams had held the ball for just 10:08, managed just two first downs, went 0-for-6 on third down and totaled a paltry 57 offensive yards.
Unfortunately, the Patriots offense couldn’t take advantage of that dominance. New England managed just a field goal in the first half despite possessing the ball for almost 20 minutes. A promising drive to open the game ended when Tom Brady’s wobbly pass to Chris Hogan was deflected by Nickell Robey-Coleman and intercepted by Cory Littleton at the Rams 27.
Later the Patriots appeared poised to take the lead after another drive into Rams territory only to see Stephen Gostkowski pull a 46-yard field goal wide to the left. Eventually Gostkowski connected from 42 for the only points of the half, but Brady struggled with his consistency.
He hit seven times for 93 yards to pick up most of his yardage but completed only 15 of 25 for 160 yards and a pick. The Patriots went 2 of 9 on third down, failed on fourth-and-one and when the teams hit the locker room with the game very much in doubt despite a half of dominance from Flores’ troops.