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 -- Two of Tom Brady's longtime favorite targets – slot receiver Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski – were huge in landing the Patriots in Super Bowl LIII with massive catches on both the final drive of regulation and the only drive of overtime to dispatch the Chiefs in the AFC title game.
And while Brady himself got off to a bit of a sluggish start against the Wade Phillips-coached Rams defense Sunday night in Super Bowl LIII at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, his top two targets remained hot as essentially the only effective part of the Patriots offense.
Edelman and Gronkowski combined for 76 of New England's 122 total yards in the scoreless first quarter, hauling in five of Brady's six completions in the opening period.
All three of the Patriots drives in the first quarter got into L.A. territory, but none led to points. The first ended in a Cory Littleton interception after a deflection of Brady's first throw of the night. The second culminated in a missed 46-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski that sailed wide left. The third with a Ryan Allen punt from the Rams 40.
New England finally got on the board in the second quarter on a 42-yard field goal by Gostkowski, a seven-play scoring drive that included four combined catches by Edelman and Gronkowski.
Gronkowski did limp to the bench after a third-down catch that came up short of the sticks in the second quarter, appearing to favor his right knee in the bench area where he was looked at by trainers. But he returned to finish the half without missing any snaps.
Edelman finished the first half catching seven of the eight passes thrown his way for 93 yards. Gronkowski hauled four of the five passes thrown his way for 40 yards, the dynamic duo combing for 133 of Brady's 160 yards in a first half where points were at a premium despite the fact that New England held the ball for 19:52.
New England's passing attack was far from its generally efficient self. Brady had six combined throws toward Chris Hogan (4) and Sony Michel (2) resulting in zero catches, the one interception and a couple plays that simply didn't quite look right.
Despite a matchup between two of the four highest scoring offenses in football – the Rams were No. 2 in points during the regular season, the Patriots No. 4 – the teams went to halftime with New England holding a mere 3-0 advantage.
And really were only able to do that much offensively thanks to two guys – Edelman and Gronkowski.
The aging New England legends may have to continue to be counted on in the second half of Super Bowl LIII if Bill Belichick's team is going to pull away for its sixth Lombardi Trophy.
So far, Gronkowksi and Edelman have done their jobs. So has the New England defense that held the Jared Goff-paced Rams to a mere two first downs and 57 yards.
Now, it's up to the rest of the AFC champion Patriots to step up.