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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
Kirk Cousins Mar 20 9:20pm ET

The New York Jets agreed to terms with free-agent quarterback Trevor Siemian on a one-year, $2 million deal on Wednesday, a source told NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. Siemian can make up to $3 million in incentives. The 27-year-old former Bronco didn't play at all with the Vikings last year while backing up Kirk Cousins. He was the starter in Denver in 2016 and 2017, completing 59.3 percent of his passes for 30 touchdowns and 24 interceptions. New York's addition of Siemian likely means that veteran Josh McCown, a 40-year-old journeyman quarterback, will leave in free agency or retire. Siemian won't have any fantasy appeal in his new digs while backing up Sam Darnold.

From RotoBaller

Dwayne Haskins Mar 20 9:10pm ET

Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins met with the New York Giants on Tuesday night and has meetings scheduled with the Broncos, Raiders, Dolphins and Redskins, who all have a pick in the top 15 of the first round of this year's draft. NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said that Haskins checks off many of the boxes that NFL front offices look for when considering a franchise quarterback. Haskins showed his athleticism and strong arm at his pro day after producing a school-record 50 touchdowns and 4,831 passing yards in his lone season as a starter. Along with Oklahoma's Kyler Murray, Haskins is one of the top two QB prospects in this draft and he'll surely come off the board to a QB-needy team in the first round. Where he lands will help determine his future fantasy outlook.

From RotoBaller

Doug Baldwin Mar 20 5:00pm ET

Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin told Sports Radio 950 KJR in Seattle that "more surgeries (are) on the way, most likely." NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reports that Baldwin will visit with Dr. William Meyers soon to see about possibly undergoing sports hernia surgery, according to a source informed of the plan. Head coach Pete Carroll revealed during the scouting combine that Baldwin had knee and shoulder surgeries after the 2018 season ended. The 31-year-old showed his age last year while dealing with multiple injuries, catching only 50 passes for 618 yards and five touchdowns. Baldwin's fantasy stock is trending down after a poor 2018 season, and his latest injury and possible surgery won't help matters.

From RotoBaller

Chandler Jones Mar 20 12:40pm ET

Arizona Cardinals pass rusher Chandler Jones, who was tied for seventh in the NFL with 13 sacks in 2018, is "very excited" to move from defensive end back to outside linebacker in defensive coordinator Vance Joseph's 3-4 defensive scheme. Jones led the NFL with 17 sacks in 2017 the last time he played outside linebacker. The two-time Pro Bowler will certainly be in play in IDP leagues once again in 2019. Jones was also up to 280 pounds heading into training camp last summer, but he is now down to around 255 pounds. With veteran Terrell Suggs in the mix, the Cardinals could be sneaky tough against opposing quarterbacks.

From RotoBaller

Eli Manning Mar 20 12:30pm ET

The New York Giants brass met with Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins on Tuesday night, according to NFL Network's Mike Garafolo. Head coach Pat Shurmur, offensive coordinator Mike Shula, vice president of player evaluation Chris Mara, director of college scouting Chris Pettit and assistant general manager Kevin Abrams were in attendance. The Giants have the sixth overall pick in the draft and will need an eventual replacement for Eli Manning. Haskins is a big-armed pocket quarterback, but he could probably use a year of grooming before taking over the starting job in the NFL.

From RotoBaller

George Iloka Mar 20 9:23am ET

Free-agent S George Iloka (Vikings) is visiting the Oakland Raiders Wednesday, March 20.

Blake Bortles Mar 20 9:23am ET

Updating previous reports, Los Angeles Rams QB Blake Bortles received a one-year, $1 million deal from the Rams, which will be subtracted from the $6.5 million the Jacksonville Jaguars owe him.

Leonard Fournette Mar 20 3:03am ET

Jacksonville Jaguars RB Leonard Fournette has and will continue to work out with new University of Wyoming director of sports performance Ben Iannacchione, who spent six of the past seven seasons working in the strength and conditioning program at LSU - Fournette's alma mater. Fournette also spoke with executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin, who still has 'full confidence' in the player he selected No. 4 overall in 2017. 'With Leonard, a prepared Leonard coming into camp with a mindset that he discussed and we talked about ... I have full confidence in him. He does have some things he's got to prove when he comes back about his preparation, but he's a young, young player, he loves football, had an outstanding year, had a very disappointing year, and I think he wants to - we want him to be a great player and I think he's in the same mindset,' Coughlin said.

Fantasy Spin: Fournette was among the bigger disappointments in fantasy in 2018, twice missing an extended period of time with hamstring injuries and earning a suspension for coming off the sidelines to throw a punch in Week 12. Owners have every right to avoid him for his lack of durability, but he is also shaping up to be a value pick if he slides into the late third round area of fantasy drafts. Until further notice, he will still be the focal point of the offense. He'll also have plenty of motivation on what should be an improved offense.

Deshaun Watson Mar 19 11:20pm ET

The Houston Texans signed free-agent quarterback AJ McCarron to a one-year, $3 million deal on Tuesday, a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter. He'll serve as the backup to Deshaun Watson in 2019. The former Alabama quarterback has played in just 12 NFL games, including seven for the Bengals in 2015 when he took over for the injured Andy Dalton. McCarron has completed 64 percent of his passes for 928 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions. He won't be on the fantasy radar.

From RotoBaller

Aaron Lynch Mar 19 11:13pm ET

Free-agent LB Aaron Lynch (Bears) is scheduled to visit the Indianapolis Colts on Wednesday, March 20. Lynch has already visited with the Oakland Raiders and Seattle Seahawks this week.

Randall Cobb Mar 19 11:10pm ET

The Dallas Cowboys signed free-agent wide receiver Randall Cobb to a one-year, $5 million deal on Tuesday, a source told NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. He's likely to replace Cole Beasley as the team's slot receiver alongside Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup. Cobb was a second-round pick of the Packers in 2011 and spent his first eight years in Green Bay. He had a career-high 1,287 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2014, but the 28-year-old missed seven games in 2018 with hamstring and concussion issues. Cobb's fantasy stock will be way down, especially going from quarterback Aaron Rodgers to Dallas signal-caller Dak Prescott.

From RotoBaller

Vontaze Burfict Mar 19 11:10pm ET

The Oakland Raiders signed free-agent linebacker Vontaze Burfict to a one-year deal worth roughly $5 million (including incentives) on Tuesday, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero. Burfict roamed the middle of Cincy's defense for seven years, including a 2013 Pro Bowl season after he led the league with 177 tackles. The aggressive and controversial linebacker sat out due to suspension for three straight seasons and also has been hurt by injuries. It could be a perfect fit, but Burfict's days of being IDP-relevant are likely over.

From RotoBaller

Clay Matthews Mar 19 11:00pm ET

The Los Angeles Rams signed free-agent linebacker Clay Matthews to a two-year deal worth a maximum of $16.75 million, a source informed of the situation told NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. The former first-rounder will return to his hometown. Matthews had double-digit sacks in four of his first six seasons with the Packers and was an All-Pro in 2010. The 32-year-old's play has declined in recent seasons, but he'll bring veteran leadership to an already stacked Rams unit.

From RotoBaller

A.J. McCarron Mar 19 10:43pm ET

Updating a previous report, free-agent QB AJ McCarron (Raiders) agreed to terms on a one-year contract worth $3 million with the Houston Texans on Tuesday, March 19.

Geremy Davis Mar 19 9:53pm ET

Free-agent WR Geremy Davis re-signed with the Los Angeles Chargers on Tuesday, March 19. Terms of the deal were not immediately disclosed.

Trevor Siemian Mar 19 8:03pm ET

Free-agent QB Trevor Siemian (Vikings) will meet with the New York Jets Wednesday, March 20.

Sean Mannion Mar 19 7:53pm ET

Free-agent QB Sean Mannion (Rams) has drawn interest from the Minnesota Vikings, according to sources.

Eric Berry Mar 19 7:33pm ET

Free-agent SS Eric Berry (Chiefs) left his visit with the Dallas Cowboys Tuesday, March 19, without putting pen to paper. He is expected to visit more teams in the near future.

Sean Smith Mar 19 7:13pm ET

Free-agent Sean Smith (Raiders) was reinstated from his suspension Tuesday, March 19.

Clayton Geathers Mar 19 6:53pm ET

Free-agent S Clayton Geathers (Colts) met with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Tuesday, March 19, according to a source.