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February Fix Est. 2017
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Throwback night: Pats win Super Bowl the old-fashioned way

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By EDDIE PELLS
AP National Writer

Players: Tom Brady, Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, Johnny Hekker, Rex Burkhead, Greg Zuerlein, Brandin Cooks, Todd Gurley, Jared Goff, Sony Michel

New England Patriots' Tom Brady holds his daughter, Vivian, after the NFL Super Bowl 53 football game against the Los Angeles Rams, Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019, in Atlanta. The Patriots won 13-3. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)


New England Patriots' Tom Brady hugs New England Patriots president Jonathan Kraft, after the NFL Super Bowl 53 football game against the Los Angeles Rams, Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019, in Atlanta. The Patriots won 13-3. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)


New England Patriots' Tom Brady (12) celebrates on the field, after the NFL Super Bowl 53 football game against the Los Angeles Rams, Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019, in Atlanta. The Patriots won 13-3. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)


New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick embraces New England Patriots' Julian Edelman and New England Patriots' Tom Brady after the NFL Super Bowl 53 football game against the Los Angeles Rams, Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019, in Atlanta. The Patriots won 13-3. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)


New England Patriots' Rob Gronkowski (87) catches a pass in front of Los Angeles Rams' Marcus Peters (22) and Cory Littleton (58) during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 53 football game Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)


New England Patriots' Rob Gronkowski (87) catches a pass in front of Los Angeles Rams' Samson Ebukam (50) during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 53 football game Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)


New England Patriots' Tom Brady (12) throws the ball as Los Angeles Rams' Ndamukong Suh (93) rushes during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 53 football game Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)


New England Patriots' Tom Brady, left, talks with head coach Bill Belichick during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 53 football game against the Los Angeles Rams, Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)


ATLANTA (AP) Graying but still gritty, Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the Patriots came to the Super Bowl intending to stave off, for at least one more game, the inevitable onslaught of the NFL's future.

Job well done.

Pro football never looked flatter, older and more stuck in the days of the VCR than it did Sunday.

In a Super Bowl only New England could love, the Patriots won their sixth title by lumbering their way to a 13-3 victory over the Los Angeles Rams - that young, brash, high-flying team with the 33-year-old coach and the 24-year-old quarterback who were, we thought, changing football before our very eyes.

If only we could've kept them open.

Among the Super Bowl records set: Fewest points by both teams (16); fewest points by the winning team (13); fewest combined points through three quarters (6); most consecutive drives ending with a punt (8 by the Rams); longest punt (65 yards).

The halftime show with Maroon 5 offered no relief - roundly ripped, including by an Associated Press reviewer who called it ''Empty. Boring. Basic. Sleepy.''

He could have said the same about the game. But give credit where it's due.

The defense designed by Belichick turned Rams quarterback Jared Goff into a jittery mess. He completed 19 of 38 passes for 229 yards, with an assortment of rushed throws, misread coverages and, in the tiny windows in which LA showed any sign of life, a pair of terrible passes.

One, trailing 3-0 in the third quarter, was late and high to wide-open Brandin Cooks in the end zone; the other, trailing 10-3 with 4:17 left in the fourth quarter, was high under pressure for an easy interception by Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore that essentially ended the game.

''I know I definitely have a lot to learn from this one,'' said Rams coach Sean McVay, who, at 33, is exactly half the age of Belichick.

McVay has been the flavor of the month in the copycat NFL. Other teams have hired away three of his assistant coaches over the last two years, as the league tries to catch up with his newfangled offense that cracked 30 points in 13 games this season.

On Sunday, it managed one 53-yard field goal from Greg Zuerlein and didn't take a snap inside the New England 20.

Gilmore's interception came minutes after Brady engineered the game's lone touchdown drive.

It was five plays and included four straight completions: 18 yards to Rob Gronkowski, 13 yards to Julian Edelman, seven yards to backup running back Rex Burkhead, then a 29-yard teardrop placed perfectly into the arms of Gronkowski, who was double-covered. Sony Michel ran it in from 2 yards for the touchdown with 7 minutes left.

''We couldn't get points on the board for one reason or another,'' Brady said, ''but in the end, it feels a lot better than last year, when we did get some points on the board.''

Last year, the Patriots fell 41-33 to Philly in a back-and-forth thriller that essentially featured one good defensive play: a sack and strip on Brady by Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham with the clock running down.

The year before, the Patriots scored 31 points in the second half and overtime for a riveting 34-28 comeback win over Atlanta and title No. 5.

Then, this.

New England's road to a sixth Lombardi Trophy - tied with Pittsburgh for the most - was never easy this season. The Patriots lost five times, didn't have home-field advantage through the playoffs and, after every loss, were beset by questions over whether the 41-year-old Brady and his 66-year-old coach might be winding down.

Through it all, though, they could score. New England averaged 27.2 points a game. And in the run through the playoffs, the offense scored 10 touchdowns and Brady barely got touched, and never got sacked.

They were not clicking like that Sunday at the $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium, where 70,081 fans - most of them cheering for New England - watched the game.

Other than Edelman, whose 10 catches for 141 yards won him MVP honors and made him look like a combination of Michael Irvin and Jerry Rice considering everything happening around him, the Patriots were out of sync.

Brady's first pass got intercepted. He went 21 for 35 for 262 yards and a passer rating of 71.4 - more than 26 points lower than he averaged this season.

New England outgained Los Angeles 195-57 in the first half, but settled for two field goal attempts - one miss and one make - for a 3-0 lead at the break.

It was 3-3 heading into the fourth quarter - the fewest points through the first 45 minutes of any playoff game since a 1980 barnburner between the Bucs and Rams that LA won 9-0.

Maybe the biggest irony of all: The New England dynasty's five previous Super Bowl victories came by 3, 3, 3, 4 and 6. Two were decided on the last play. The other three came down to the final minutes.

Compared to that, this was a veritable runaway.

On a day when New England held LA running back Todd Gurley to 35 yards, when LA couldn't muster a drive longer than five plays for nearly three quarters, and when LA's Johnny Hekker (eight punts, 46.3 yard average) was his team's most effective player, a 10-point lead at the end felt like a million.

''It's a beautiful thing, man,'' said New England cornerback Jason McCourty.

And a game only the Patriots could love.

Player Notes
Jeremy Maclin Mar 24 9:31pm ET

Former Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin announced on Sunday that he is retiring from the NFL after 10 years. Maclin was drafted in the first round in 2009 and spent six seasons with the Eagles alongside DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy. He is the 10th leading receiver in Philly franchise history after compiling 343 catches, 4,771 receiving yards and 36 touchdowns. Maclin spent the last three years struggling with the Chiefs and Ravens.

Rob Gronkowski Mar 24 6:13pm ET

New England Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski announced his retirement from the NFL Sunday, March 24.

Fantasy Spin: The Patriots have lost Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen this offseason, so they probably will be looking for a tight end early in the 2019 NFL Draft. None of the other tight ends on the Patriots roster have a lot of fantasy value.

Rob Gronkowski Mar 24 6:10pm ET

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski announced on Sunday that he is retiring. The 29-year-old Gronk finished on a high note in the postseason and goes out on top with another Super Bowl ring, but he struggled to gain separation from defenders in the regular season and finished with 47 catches for 682 yards and three touchdowns during the regular season in 13 games. Gronkowski had four 1,000-yard receiving seasons and amassed a whopping 79 regular season scores in his nine-year career. He'll go down as one of the most dominant tight ends in NFL history. With Gronk no longer around, Stephen Anderson will be the top tight end on the depth chart, although he won't be much of a fantasy consideration. Losing Gronk as a safety blanket will surely affect quarterback Tom Brady negatively moving forward.

From RotoBaller

Jeremy Maclin Mar 24 5:43pm ET

Free-agent WR Jeremy Maclin (Ravens) announced his retirement Sunday, March 24.

Michael Johnson Mar 24 4:03pm ET

Free-agent DE Michael Johnson (Bengals) is not expected to re-sign with the Cincinnati Bengals this offseason.

George Iloka Mar 24 4:00pm ET

The Dallas Cowboys signed free-agent safety George Iloka to an undisclosed one-year deal on Saturday, according to NFL Network's Mike Garafolo. The seven-year safety played the first six seasons of his career with the Bengals but disappointed with only 16 tackles in 16 games (three starts) for the Vikings in 2018. It's looking like Iloka will have a starting role with his new team in Dallas.

From RotoBaller

Bryce Callahan Mar 24 12:33pm ET

Denver Broncos CB Bryce Callahan (foot) is unlikely to participate in the team's draft-week minicamp as he recovers from a foot injury, head coach Vic Fangio said Sunday, March 24.

Clay Harbor Mar 24 11:43am ET

Free-agent TE Clay Harbor (Saints) is attempting an NFL comeback and also appears to be open to changing his position to fullback. He has resumed training in the hopes of earning a workout with a team this offseason. Harbor plans to move on if he has not been signed by the time training camps open.

Jameis Winston Mar 24 2:13am ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston, who is listed at 6-foot-4 and 231 pounds, intends to add muscle during the offseason and wants to play at 250 pounds in 2019. 'I'm getting it. I'm going to play bigger this year. I'm about 250. Yeah. A solid 250. It's just about hydration and being at the peak body, too,'' Winston said.

Fantasy Spin: It's unclear why Winston feels the need to put on weight, although fantasy owners will probably take it if it allows him to stay on the field and improve on his deep passing. The arrival of head coach Bruce Arians figures to be a boon to his career, and there is little question he has a capable supporting cast with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and O.J. Howard as his primary targets. If he doesn't thrive this season, he'll likely have no one but himself to blame.

Adrian Peterson Mar 23 11:13pm ET

Washington Redskins RB Adrian Peterson called his 2018 season 'decent' and believes he is capable of more in 2019.

Fantasy Spin: Peterson rushed for 1,042 yards last year, but with Derrius Guice expected to be fully recovered from a knee injury, Peterson looks like more of a handcuff than a fantasy starter.

George Iloka Mar 23 9:33pm ET

Updating a previous report, Dallas Cowboys SS George Iloka has agreed to a one-year deal, according to a source.

George Iloka Mar 23 9:23pm ET

Free-agent SS George Iloka (Vikings) has agreed to sign with the Dallas Cowboys Saturday, March 23, according to a source.

George Iloka Mar 23 5:03pm ET

Free-agent SS George Iloka (Vikings) talked to the Minnesota Vikings at the NFL Scouting Combine about a possible return, but it appears like he will sign with another team this offseason.

Neiko Thorpe Mar 23 2:33pm ET

Free-agent CB Neiko Thorpe (Seahawks) re-signed with the Seattle Seahawks Saturday, March 23. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.

Malcolm Mitchell Mar 23 1:43pm ET

Free-agent WR Malcolm Mitchell (Patriots) said he plans to retire from professional football.

Rashaan Melvin Mar 23 1:00am ET

The Detroit Lions signed free-agent cornerback Rashaan Melvin to a one-year, $3.5 million deal on Friday, a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter. Melvin played for the Patriots in 2015 when head coach Matt Patricia was the defensive coordinator. The 29-year-old has been mostly a starter the last three seasons with the Colts and Raiders and had a career-high three interceptions with the Colts in 2017. He could be the replacement for Nevin Lawson, who signed with the Raiders earlier this week.

From RotoBaller

Mike Glennon Mar 23 12:50am ET

The Oakland Raiders signed free-agent quarterback Mike Glennon to a one-year, $2 million deal on Friday, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. The 29-year-old will be with his fourth different team in the last four seasons and will serve as Derek Carr's backup in silver and black. Glennon has played in 27 games (22 starts) and is 6-16 as a starter in his five seasons in the NFL. He has 35 touchdown passes, 20 interceptions and an 84.0 quarterback rating. Glennon won't be fantasy relevant.

From RotoBaller

Russell Wilson Mar 22 10:43pm ET

Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson could make as much as $40 million per year on his next contract, according to Bucky Brooks of NFL.com.

C.J. Anderson Mar 22 9:53pm ET

Free-agent RB C.J. Anderson (Rams) said on his Twitter feed that his time with the Los Angeles Rams 'was fun' and that he enjoyed the opportunity.

Fantasy Spin: Anderson was speaking like a player who doesn't expect to be back with the Rams in 2019. However, he did show that he has a little gas left in the tank in the right offense, and depending on where he signs, he could have some appeal as a depth option for fantasy owners.

Allen Hurns Mar 22 9:43pm ET

Dallas Cowboys WR Allen Hurns will likely see fewer opportunities next season after the signing of WR Randall Cobb, in the opinion of Kate Hairopoulos of The Dallas Morning News.