I put punting in the same category as I put kicking and bubonic plague. I’d prefer not to be exposed to it.
Unfortunately, all of us viewed dangerous levels of punting in Super Bowl LIII, and there’s a strong possibility we will never be the same again.
The Patriots beat the Rams 13-3 in a game that shoved the “foot’’ part of football down our throats Sunday.
There will be all sorts of talk about Tom Brady and Bill Belichick teaming up for their sixth Super Bowl together, but it will miss the essence of Sunday. This game was about the nine punts that the Rams’ Johnny Hekker put us through, and the five the Patriots’ Ryan Allen added, apparently out of spite.
Not only was I bored to tears, my tears were bored to tears.
“I wish we had played a little better on offense, but we won,’’ Brady said.
There’s nothing wrong with good defense and special teams, and there was plenty of both Sunday. But, come on. The Super Bowl is about entertainment. Watching defensive players dominate, although interesting, only leads to punting. To review: punting = bad.
The Rams’ offense, which was a frenetic video game in the regular season, picked up just 57 yards of total offense in the first half. That led to two first downs. And that dismal production was the reason Hekker punted six times in the first 30 minutes and why the Rams trailed 3-0 at halftime.
In terms of actual offense, the only thing you need to know about is one play. Midway through the fourth quarter, Brady threw a perfectly placed ball to tight end Rob Gronkowski for a 29-yard gain. It put the Patriots at the Rams’ two-yard line. It was the first time either team had been in the red zone to that point. Sony Michel ran it in to give New England a 10-3 lead.
That, sports fans, was your highlight.
Oh, the Rams started moving the ball soon after, but it didn’t last long. Quarterback Jared Goff threw a ball for wide receiver Brandin Cooks that hung up in the air. When it came down, it was resting in the hands of Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore.
A 41-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski made it 13-3 with 1:12 left. Greg Zuerlein’s missed field goal for Los Angeles put the game out of its misery.
That it ended with a foot making contact with a ball was only right.
And oh so wrong.
Super Bowl MVP Julian Edelman caught 10 passes for 141 yards, and for the longest time, he was the Patriots’ offense. A Brady interception (on his first pass of the game) and a Gostkowski missed field goal summed up New England’s first half. Gostkowski’s 42-yard field goal was the only scoring of the half. Whatever this was, I could get it on C-SPAN.
Maybe it was the curse of the Saints, who were robbed of a chance to go to the Super Bowl by a no-call in the NFC Championship Game. Or maybe it was age was catching up with the 41-year-old Brady. Or maybe Goff (19 of 38, 229 yards, 57.9 passer rating) isn’t as good as some of his earlier performances suggested.
I’d like to report that the second half gloriously appeared, like warmth after a cold spell. But I can’t. The second half appeared, and it looked as if it had been separated at birth from the first half.
“This is hard to watch,’’ CBS analyst Tony Romo said after a punt in the third quarter.
Hey, Tony, at least you get paid $4 million a year to watch.
In the third quarter, Hekker had the longest punt in Super Bowl history – a 65-yarder. Of course he did.
There was nothing to be done about it. This wasn’t a moral failing. You couldn’t tell the Rams or the Pats to straighten up, fly right and get better. There wasn’t an on/off switch for this. There was only a power outage that lasted way too long.
The defenses were very, very good. But the Super Bowl isn’t about them. It’s about the viewing audience. We waited an entire NFL season to watch this? There had to be more.
The Rams came “roaring’’ back late in the third quarter, tying the game 3-3 on Zuerlein’s 53-yard field goal. This was what the Gold Rush must have felt like in the 1800s.
It was the Super Bowl as punch line, and it was so bad, it was good. Admit it: By the fourth quarter, you didn’t want there to be a scoring outbreak. The pain was a shared experience. We were all in this together.
There were limits, however. Overtime, for example. Please, anything but that.
In a season marked by high-octane offenses, defense won a championship. I’d like to think we’re all a little less because of it.
“We’re still here,’’ Belichick said of his team.
You can thank the punting gods for that, Bill.