It was déjà vu all over again. And again.
I could have sworn I’d seen this game before after watching the New England Patriots and its durably efficient quarterback Tom Brady eventually demolish and demoralize the Los Angeles Rams by the lowest Super Bowl score ever, 13-3.
The settings and the commercials may have been a little different. Super Bowl LIII was played in the super-futuristic Mercedes-Benz Stadium, itself something of a city of the future, and the barrage of sometimes puzzling but always trend-pointing commercials was certainly different.
But, on the whole, the game seemed like the last set in a three-part package — each played differently and in different places with different opponents, but all three featuring a steadfast component: a devastating, almost perfectly executed touchdown drive by the Patriots that was nearly awe-inspiring in its efficiency.
All three drives added up to wins for the Patriots, their coach with his scowling face and their still-sterling quarterback, all three intertwined like some long-lived family, surrounded by different relatives over the years. The end result was a sixth Super Bowl victory for the Patriots, for the perpetual walking scowl of a coach Bill Belichick, for their almost forever-young quarterback Tom Brady.
The game may have appeared to many viewers and commentators as boring, with highlights of only one touchdown, two missed field goals, two made field goals and interceptions by both quarterbacks. But as it progressed it created its own stomach-churning tensions. Until it didn’t.
That came during the final quarter, when Brady, up until then up-and-down efficient, struck for three perfect tosses to eternally boyish bull-boy Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman (the game’s MVP), which brought them to the one-yard line, from which rookie Sony Michel took it in for a touchdown and, besides a little quavering, game over.
The game — it wasn’t pretty and in fact was, as one Patriot described it, “pretty ugly” — played out in the end much the same way as did the AFC championship game two weeks before, in which a more experienced Patriot team stood off the youthful challenge of Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes in an overtime drive that was perfection itself and also sudden, keeping the superstar of the future off the field and winning the game.
There was also the 2017 Super Bowl, in which the Patriots, after falling behind 28-3 by the third quarter, wore down the Atlanta Falcons and crushed them with a devastating overtime drive to win.
What’s similar in all three games is an ability not to play a completely dominating game, but to completely dominate for one drive when it counts the most.
Everything else was the same: Brady spouse and supermodel Gisele Bündchen cheering in the team box, Belichick managing a small smile — or was it just another version of one of his scowls — hordes of players inundating a beaming Brady, who looked half his age, with a beard not yet in maturity, enjoying himself like a baby boy.
What was obvious was that, with the exception of a quirky and tough loss to Philadelphia the previous year, young quarterbacks like Mahomes and the out-of-his element, in-over-his-head bewildered Rams quarterback Jared Goff were not ready for prime time, at least this time, and young-genius (only 30) coach Sean McVay had no answers for all of Belichick’s schemes.
Was it a great game? Naw. But it was in its own way a kind of football drama that only pro football can put on the world’s biggest stage. Which still doesn’t make Maroon 5 and its tattooed leader any more palatable, not because of the tattoos, but we’re just not that into him.
As for commercials, there was the Washington Post’s salute to fallen journalists, a somber tribute narrated by Tom Hanks, and, for sheer fun, the dog that outwits Harrison Ford in a Stella ad, and Chance the Rapper hooking up with the Back Street Boys for Doritos, and the always steadiness of the Budweiser horses and the NFL ad featuring every tuxedoed former NFL superstar in a free-for-all brawl — Hi there, Terry Bradshaw … OMG, it’s Joe Montana! — with the aged but still menacing Jim Brown knocking over cakes and tables.
Thirteen-to-three? I’ll take those odds.