It's often said that history repeats itself, but when Bill Belichick and Tom Brady began building their legacies as the NFL's greatest coach and quarterback, respectively, with an upset over the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI, not a soul could have predicted what would happen 17 years later. Belichick and Brady captured their sixth championship on Sunday night in Atlanta by vanquishing the same foe they beat to begin their reign all those years ago -- back when Brady was actually an underdog, Belichick was a formerly great defensive coordinator struggling to prove his worth as a coach, and the Patriots were just another ordinary team trying to secure their first Lombardi Trophy. 

In their third straight appearance, the Patriots won their second Super Bowl in three years and their sixth championship since the 2001 season with a 13-3 win over the Rams. It's the first time the Patriots have won a Super Bowl by more than one score and the second time they've done so without Brady capturing MVP honors -- that distinction belongs to wideout Julian Edelman, who was the only standout offensive player in a defensive struggle. 

It's fitting. Though 17 years have come and gone, the game unfolded in similar fashion. 

The last time the Patriots beat the Rams in the Super Bowl, they did it with an incredible defensive effort against a previously unstoppable offense and one clutch kick. It wasn't entirely the same this time around -- Brady wasn't forced to engineer a two-minute drill in the dying seconds -- but it felt remarkably similar. Seventeen years after holding Mike Martz, Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk, Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt to 17 points (14.4 points fewer than their regular-season average), the Patriots one-upped that defensive performance by holding Sean McVay, Jared Goff, Todd Gurley, Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods to three points (29.9 fewer than their regular-season average). 

The Patriots brought down Rams quarterback Jared Goff four times. They held him to 229 yards and a 57.9 passer rating, picking him off once late in the fourth quarter. The Patriots also limited the Rams' ground game to 3.4 yards per carry. And they didn't allow a touchdown to one of the NFL's most prolific offenses this season. Even though Edelman won MVP honors thanks to a 141-yard performance, it was New England's defense that almost single-handedly won this game. Stephen Gostkowski didn't make a game-winning field goal like Adam Vinatieri, but he did seal the Patriots' win with a clutch 41-yard field goal with just over a minute remaining in the game to turn a seven-point lead into an insurmountable 10-point advantage. 

From the beginning, the game was a defensive slog. 

The Patriots came out moving the ball steadily with their ground assault and Edelman's uncanny ability to get open in key situations, but due to a bad Brady interception, a missed field goal, and a failed fourth-down conversion, they only managed to score three points. The Rams fared even worse. They got shutout in the first half, picking up only 57 yards and averaging 2.6 yards per play. All six of their drives ended in punts. Goff was off, Gurley was absent, and the offensive line was getting run over in the trenches by the Patriots' defensive front. At halftime, Rams punter Johnny Hekker had touched the ball six times. Put together, Gurley and Cooks garnered five touches in the first half.

It was the worst offensive first half of the otherwise prolific McVay era, though despite the Patriots' early offensive dominance (195-57 total yards), they led only 3-0. It was the second-lowest scoring first half of a Super Bowl ever, the lowest since Super Bowl IX in 1975.

On the other side of the break, the Rams set the record for the most consecutive punts to begin a Super Bowl, per Elias Sports Bureau. Their best offensive play came when Hekker broke the record for the longest punt in a Super Bowl with a 65-yard bomb. L.A. ended up punting on its first eight series. Its ninth third down of the game, with roughly 4 minutes remaining in the third quarter, resulted in its first such conversion. It led to a 53-yard field goal that tied the game (which came after Goff misfired on an easy touchdown and took a bad sack to really test Greg Zuerlein's leg). 

The game was tied at 3-3 heading into the fourth quarter. The six combined points were the lowest point total through three quarters of a Super Bowl. Finally, midway through the fourth quarter, the Patriots gained entrance into the end zone. To get there, they turned to a familiar formula, one that has consistently bailed them out during their reign: Brady threw a perfect pass to Gronk, who made an incredible catch to beat tight coverage.

On the next play, Sony Michel plunged into the end zone to give the Patriots a 10-3 lead with 7 minutes to go. 

For a moment, it looked like that touchdown would finally awaken the Rams offense. It seemed as if they'd respond with a touchdown of their own. Goff converted a third down to Josh Reynolds. He hit Woods for another first down. From the Pats' 27-yard line, Goff dropped a dime over Cooks' shoulder and into his hands, but New England bothered Cooks enough on the play to force an incompletion. On the next play, Goff went back to the well. 

He ended up lofting a duck to Stephon Gilmore, who played brilliantly all night and picked off the pass

Goff never really got another chance. Though he eventually did step back onto the field, he wasn't allowed to do so until the Rams were trailing by 10 points after their defense failed to stop the Patriots' running game, which carried them from their own 4-yard line to the Rams' 24. And that's where Gostkowski ended the game, but only just barely.

The Rams would go on to miss a field goal in the final seconds, which officially sealed the Patriots' sixth Super Bowl under Belichick and with Brady. The coach and quarterback just won't stop making history together. 

Over the past 17 seasons, the Rams have gone from Martz to Vitt to Linehan to Haslett to Spagnuolo to Fisher to Fassel to McVay; from Warner to Bulger to Bradford to Davis to Foles to Keenum to Goff; from St. Louis to Los Angeles; from Super Bowl-caliber to "7-9 bulls--t" to Super Bowl worthy again. And yet, the same final boss was there to deny them a championship. The Patriots have swapped out countless players and assistant coaches since their dynasty began, but their coach and quarterback have somehow remained in place. They've survived a devastating injury, two juicy scandals, one suspension, the emergence and departure of a potential quarterback heir, reported tension between the coach and quarterback, and turnover and changes all around them. Through it all, Belichick and Brady have endured.

This won't be the last we'll see of them. Brady already ended any talk of retirement before the whispers could begin. Patriots owner Robert Kraft is confident Belichick won't retire this year. Even if Gronkowski does walk away from the sport (it could happen), even after losing yet another top defensive lieutenant (this time, Brian Flores to the Dolphins), the Patriots will probably be back here again next year. At this point, it's entirely pointless to predict the downfall of the greatest empire the NFL has ever known until the downfall actually comes. 

It's certainly not here yet. 

Brady just bested Goff, who is so young he doesn't even remember watching Super Bowl XXXVI. Belichick just out-classed McVay, the league's chief wunderkind, becoming the oldest coach at 66 to win a Super Bowl and tying the record for the most championships by an NFL coach. After the game, McVay admitted that Belichick "out-coached" him while Belichick got ready for the night ahead.

Seventeen years after the Patriots shocked the world as 14-point underdogs to begin a dynasty nobody ever saw coming, they cemented the greatest run in NFL history with yet another championship.

1. Tom Brady makes history despite poor outing: Brady is now the oldest starting quarterback (41) in NFL history to win a Super Bowl, breaking the record a 39-year-old Peyton Manning set a few seasons ago. Brady also set the record for the most Super Bowl wins by any single NFL player, breaking a tie with Charles Haley. 

He wasn't at his best for most of the game. He finished 21 of 35 for 262 yards passing, no touchdowns, one interception, and a 71.4 passer rating. But he made the biggest throw of the game in the fourth quarter to Gronk, which preceded the game-winning touchdown. Otherwise, it was mostly a struggle for the greatest quarterback of all time. 

Brady was picked off on his first pass of the game after a good kick return and four straight running plays took them to the Rams' 34-yard line. Brady appeared to misread the coverage and threw an ill-advised pass toward Chris Hogan, who was blanketed by Nickell Robey-Coleman. He didn't come down with the pick, but his deflection did allow Cory Littleton to snag a takeaway.

Later in the first quarter, Brady had an eternity to throw the ball away but took a bad strip sack (recovered by his teammate) that stalled their third series. 

A few plays earlier, Brady was lucky to avoid an interception on another pass intended for Hogan. Once again, Brady was getting off to a slow start in the Super Bowl. In nine Super Bowls with Brady and Belichick, the Patriots have never scored a touchdown in the first quarter. The most points they've mustered in the opening 15 minutes of a Super Bowl is three. The Pats eventually got on the board with a field goal in the second quarter, but Brady's struggles persisted throughout the evening. This game was really more about their defensive effort than the offensive performance. But once again, Brady came up with a big throw at the end that most people will remember.

Twenty years from now, nobody will really remember his interception just like how nobody remembers his poor performance in the first half of the Super Bowl against the Falcons two years ago, which set the stage for an epic comeback. It all evens out. A year ago, Brady played out of his mind but fell short against the Eagles. This year, Brady didn't play well, but his teammates picked up the slack and carried him the way he's carried them so many times over the years. 

2. Julian Edelman's MVP performance: Since an entire defensive unit can't win MVP, the award went to Edelman, who was pretty much the only offensive player who consistently performed at the top of his game. At halftime, Edelman had more yards (93) than the Rams' offense (57). He finished with 12 targets, 10 catches, 141 yards, and countless third-down conversions. Edelman has always been a clutch postseason performer. He's second all time to Jerry Rice in both postseason receptions and receiving yards. On Sunday, he brought home an award that'll ensure nobody forgets how dang good he is come January and February. Edelman's season started with a four-game suspension for violating the league's performance-enhancing drugs policy. It ended with a Super Bowl MVP. 

3. Goff's nightmare: Goff is so young he doesn't remember watching the Patriots beat the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI 17 years ago. He'll wish he could forget all about Super Bowl LIII, which he called the "toughest loss I've ever had." He added: "It kills. It's terrible."

The Rams' offense -- Goff especially -- was terrible. They killed any hope that L.A. had of winning. The Rams scored three points, averaged 4.3 yards per play, went 3-of-13 on third down and failed to reach the red zone. It wasn't just Goff who struggled. The offensive line failed to protect him adequately. The running game failed to get going. And Goff failed to hit passes with any sort of consistency. He finished 19 of 38 for 229 yards passing with no touchdowns, one pick and a 57.9 passer rating. Before the Rams' rather pointless final series in the waning minute when they trailed by 10 points, he was 16 of 33 for 174 yards passing and a 51.8 passer rating. 

Like Brady, Goff came out cold. On the Rams' second series, Goff jammed a pass into the wrong target (he had another man open) and saw it broken up by Patrick Chung. On the Rams' third series, Goff's third down pass was deflected at the line of scrimmage, which was a positive outcome for Goff since it looked like it would've been a pick-six had it not been tipped. On the first play of the second half, Goff threw the ball directly to Dont'a Hightower, but Hightower dropped the gimme pick. Goff finally converted his first third down with roughly 4 minutes remaining in the third quarter with a dart to Woods -- easily his best throw of the day to that point.

But he followed that up by ruining a touchdown to a wide open Cooks with a late and wobbly throw that gave Jason McCourty the time he needed to recover and break up the pass.

And then he took a sack to force his kicker to drill a 53-yard field goal.

In the fourth quarter, he missed an open man across the middle, which led to a punt and subsequently to the Patriots' game-winning touchdown.

His nightmare ended with a horrific interception that Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy described as a "buttercup pick."

We probably shouldn't be surprised by Goff's performance. He's been playing poorly since November. In his first 11 games this season, Goff completed 67.7 percent of his passes, averaged 9.3 yards per attempt and threw 26 touchdowns and six interceptions. In the seven games since (not including Sunday), he completed 58.9 percent of his passes, averaged 6.5 yards per attempt and threw seven touchdowns and seven interceptions.

He was even worse on Sunday. Give plenty of credit to Belichick and the Patriots defense. They were outstanding -- from Hightower and his two sacks to Gilmore and his outstanding coverage downfield -- and they deserve acclaim. They took advantage of a quarterback who hasn't been playing well for a few months now.

4. Todd Gurley remains M.I.A.: Goff didn't get much help because his running game completely stalled, picking up 62 yards on 18 carries (3.4 yards per carry). Once again, after seldom seeing the field two weeks ago in the NFC Championship Game, Gurley was almost nowhere to be found. Though the Rams spent the past two weeks talking about how they were going to get him involved, he wasn't involved. 

In the first half, he touched the ball three times for 10 yards. He broke free a couple times in the second half, but he finished with only 35 yards on 10 carries and one catch for a loss of one yard. After the game, Gurley, who dealt with a knee injury at the beginning and end of the regular season, maintained that he's healthy. It's been bizarre to see the Rams turn away from Gurley, who signed a monster extension in the offseason. And it'll be a story worth monitoring in the offseason.

5. Patriots ran over the Rams to ice the game: The Rams didn't run the ball effectively, but the Patriots did. The Pats' ground game has been a theme of their postseason run, extinguishing the Chargers and Chiefs with their dominant power rushing attack. It continued on Sunday when they ran the ball for 154 yards on 32 carries for an average of 4.8 yards per carry. 

Rookie Sony Michel shined, again. He led the way with 94 yards on 18 carries, scoring the game's only touchdown, which ended up being the game-winning score. Plus, he also helped salt the game away with a huge run against a Rams defense that was desperate to get a stop late in the fourth quarter after Goff's interception.

But it was Rex Burkhead who broke free for the biggest run of the game, which took the Patriots into field-goal range later on the series. Burkhead rumbled for 43 yards on only seven carries, none of which were more important than his 26-yarder with under three to go.

It's pretty remarkable. While the rest of the league has adopted exotic passing offenses that set the league on fire in the regular season, the Patriots won the Super Bowl by lining up with a fullback and running the ball up the gut. 

Super Bowl 2019 quarter-by-quarter recap

First quarter | Patriots 0, Rams 0: A whole lot of action, not many points. The Patriots moved Rams territory on each of their first two possessions but could not punch the ball in. The opening drive ended suddenly when Tom Brady's first pass of the game was picked off by Corey Littleton on a tipped ball by Nickell Robey-Coleman, who had himself a busy first quarter with a controversial unnecessary roughness call. (Coincidentally, Robey-Coleman found himself in the middle of a controversy at the end of the NFC title game when he committed an obvious pass interference that went uncalled.) After a quick three-and-out from the Rams, New England drove the ball right back into Los Angeles' end of the field. Facing a third-and-8, though, the Patriots elected to call a running play, which didn't come close to achieving a first down. Stephen Gostkowski then missed his fourth kick in the last three Super Bowls, preserving the scoreless tie.

The Rams finally got some movement on their second possession of the game, but their drive ultimately ended when Patrick Chung made a great play on a third-and-4 in Patriots territory. L.A. tried to shift out of punt formation to draw a penalty on the Pats but ended up being called for one themselves. After a short punt from Johnny Hekker, the Patriots moved down the field again, but their drive ultimately stalled out.

Second quarter | Patriots 3, Rams 0: The first score came on New England's opening drive of the second quarter. Gostkowski atoned for his early-game miss by nailing a 42-yard field goal to put New England up 3-0, which where the score remained entering halftime. The Rams appeared like they might get some momentum on the ensuing drive after they got away with a toe-tapping sideline catch by Robert Woods by hurrying to the line for the next snap before the Pats could challenge the play, but that drive stalled out before coach Sean McVay's bunch could get into scoring position. L.A.'s biggest break came on a late-quarter fourth down attempt from the Pats. Corey Littleton tipped a pass intended for Rob Gronkowski over the middle, and John Johnson III had excellent coverage on the play to force an incompletion. But even then, the Rams failed to take advantage and ended up punting once again.

Just about the only player making any plays of note during the second quarter was Julian Edelman (seven catches, 93 yards at halftime). The Rams continued to struggle moving the ball, punting on all four of their second quarter drives, while the Patriots did not get much of anything going except when Brady was targeting Edelman, whether to the perimeter or down the middle of the field. As the half unfolded, most of the drama surrounded the Rams' usage of Todd Gurley. The Rams' star running back carried the ball on the team's first snap of the game but spent most of the rest of the half on the sideline and went into halftime with only three total touches.

Third quarter | Patriots 3, Rams 3: If you thought the second half would bring a whole new ballgame, think again. Each team continued to struggling moving the ball thanks to the combination of hounding opposing pass rushers and quality coverage in the defensive backfield. Things were so bleak offensively that the punters (Ryan Allen and Johnny Hekker) looked like the best players on the field for much of the running time.

The lone score of the quarter was a 53-yard field goal by the Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein. It was the first field goal to beyond 50 yards in a Super Bowl in 15 years, and it was only that long thanks to a timely sack of Jared Goff by the Patriots' Dont'a Hightower. Prior to that sack, Goff had completed his first third-down pass of the game, putting the Rams in scoring range with his best throw of the night, an 18-yard strike to Robert Woods over the middle of the field. Goff also missed on a throw to Brandin Cooks in the end zone, floating the ball just high enough in the air for Jason McCourty to knock it away just before it landed in Cooks' arms.

The two biggest developments of the third quarter were a record-setting punt by Hekker (65 yards, the longest in Super Bowl history by 1 yard) and an injury to Patriots safety Patrick Chung, who appeared to suffer a broken arm while making a tackle early in the third quarter and was declared out for the game after having the arm placed in an air cast.

Fourth quarter | Patriots 13, Rams 3: In a game that the defenses dominated all night long, the outcome turned when the Patriots went to an empty-backfield set on three consecutive plays, inviting the Los Angeles pass rush to come after Brady -- trusting that he would make the right reads to get the ball out in time. And on three consecutive plays, that's exactly what he did. Brady first found Edelman over the middle of the field on an option route, then hit Rex Burkhead on a quick hitch to the perimeter, and finally, he lofted the ball down the left sideline to his monster-sized tight end Rob Gronkowski, who went up over the top of Littleton and came down with the football. That set the Patriots up with first and goal from the 1-yard line; on the very next play, Sony Michel scored the first and only touchdown of the night.

The Rams, who struggled offensively throughout the game, finally caught a rhythm on their next drive. Goff was nearly intercepted on a screen pass to open the possession, but instead, Brandin Cooks nabbed it and gained 19 yards. Goff made back-to-back huge throws to Josh Reynolds and Robert Woods later in the drive to move into scoring territory, but the Rams would never reach the end zone. A perfectly-placed pass to Cooks near the goal line was broken up at the last second by Stephon Gilmore and Duron Harmon (who entered the game after Chung's third quarter injury). The Rams took another shot down the field on the next snap, but the Pats sent an all-out blitz, Goff had to let the ball go off his back foot, and it ultimately fell into the waiting arms of Gilmore before Cooks could even locate the ball.

The Patriots got the ball back with 4:17 left to play, and after marching down the field into Rams territory behind the powerful running of Michel and Burkhead, officially sealed their victory with a 41-yard field goal by Gostkowski as Zuerlein missed an attempt to make it a one-score game with 5 seconds remaining. And so, the Patriots' dynasty, which started 17 years ago with a shocking Super Bowl victory over the then-St. Louis Rams, officially came full circle on this night with a 13-3 win that gave Bill Belichick and Tom Brady their sixth Lombardi Trophy.

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