By EDDIE PELLS
AP National Writer
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.
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.
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has been impressed with the tempo of new head coach Kliff Kingsbury's offense. The Cardinals ranked 20th in the league in pace (time between plays) in neutral situations last year, but that is expected to change drastically in 2019. Fitzgerald said the new offense contains less verbiage that when Bruce Arians was the head coach, and players are expected to process pre-snap adjustments faster. It means that Arizona's skill players should see more bulk this year, which is good for their fantasy value. The offense will ebb and flow based on how rookie quarterback Kyler Murray fares, but the early returns are very promising.
Denver Broncos quarterback Drew Lock, a second-round pick, remains the only unsigned rookie on the team. Offensive guard Drew Risner, who was selected a pick before Lock at 41 overall, signed a deal worth $7.14 million on Tuesday. According to multiple sources, Lock's representatives are seeking a "quarterback premium." There is hope that he'll sign before the team's first meeting on Wednesday and first practice on Thursday, but there's also the chance that Lock isn't present for the start of training camp. The Broncos made assurances to Risner that Lock won't receive a richer contract. Lock has long-term upside in dynasty/keeper leagues, but he won't have much redraft value as the expected backup to veteran Joe Flacco to begin the season.
Philadelphia Eagles running back Boston Scott "might actually be the front-runner" for the final spot on the Eagles running back depth chart. Jordan Howard, Corey Clement, and rookie Miles Sanders are all locks assuming health, so Scott, Wendell Smallwood, and Josh Adams could all be competing for one final spot. Dave Zangaro of NBC Sports Philadelphia believes that Scott has "a much more complementary collection of skills" including his ability to play on special teams. Scott could be interesting if given a chance to play on offense, but it would likely take two injuries ahead of him for him to earn any significant offensive snaps.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is looking to bounce back to his previous MVP form this season. Last season was the first season since 2008 where the Packers have missed out on the playoffs when he played 16 games. Rodgers played through the season with a significant injury, with a tibial plateau fracture and sprained a medial collateral ligament. Rodgers has been working hard to learn the new offense, the first time in his entire career. Surrounding Rodgers with coaching talent is one thing, but in order to bounce back, he will hope that the surrounding skill players on the roster are able to also be looking to bounce back to being one of the most potent offenses in the league.
Minnesota Vikings running back Roc Thomas has been suspended three games for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. Thomas had just eight carries during his rookie season and is buried behind Dalvin Cook and rookie Alexander Mattison on the team's depth chart, so the suspension doesn't really mean much for his already nonexistent fantasy stock. Thomas remains at best the team's third back and at worse a preseason roster cut, though in that scenario the suspension will make it harder for me to latch onto another team's roster.
Green Bay Packers tight end Marcedes Lewis is looking to expand on his blocking role this season. Lewis is currently one of the team's most senior players on a young roster and was the only one of the 11 unrestricted free agents the Packers re-signed this offseason. New head coach Matt LaFleur said earlier this offseason that the team wants to expand the role he plays in the offense. Lewis will be unlikely to be a player with fantasy value. However, fantasy owners should monitor the situation as it may impact the value of fellow tight end Jimmy Graham.
Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones is likely to be the team's bell cow running back this season. The Packers invested in the running back position, selecting Dexter Williams in the sixth round, but that is unlikely to impact the opportunity that Jones is going to be given this season. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers commented in the spring that it was important to have a positive run game, all of which points to Jones being given the opportunity to be the lead back. One concern will be the health of Jones, having three knee injuries in his first two years in the league, finishing both seasons on injured reserve. If he is able to stay healthy there is no reason why Jones shouldn't be able to record his first 1,000 yard season for the Packers.
Green Bay Packers tight end Jimmy Graham has been working hard to learn the new system being brought in by new head coach Matt LaFleur. Graham battled through injury last season (to both his knee and hands) but was able to catch 55 passes for 636 yards and two touchdowns. Graham has only finished with that touchdown total one other time in his career- his first season in Seattle. Graham disappointed for fantasy owners, due in part to the lack of touchdowns that he was able to score. Graham has also been working with new position coach Justin Outten to fully absorb the offensive system, that will look to free Graham as he was in Seattle in 2017 when he recorded double-digit touchdowns.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling appeared on NFL's Good Morning Football show and commented on what it was like to play with Aaron Rodgers. Valdes-Scantling said that Rodgers looks for players to play well, and be consistent. While that isn't surprising the buzz around Valdes-Scantling is being given the opportunity to vastly improve on his 38 receptions, 581 yards and two touchdown season. Valdes-Scantling is currently being drafted in the later rounds, and as such if Rodgers is able to rebound from his poor season last year the receiver will give fantasy owners tremendous value.
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Ryan Switzer is working to fill the slot receiver role in his second year with the team. The 24-year-old caught 36-of-44 targets for 253 yards and a score in his first year with the Steelers. While he was a big part of the team's return game, he was at most times fifth in the pecking order for targets. At just 5'8 185 lbs, Switzer fits the proverbial mold of an NFL "slot" receiver, but getting the reps and building chemistry with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is of utmost importance heading into 2019. The more reps that you get, the more game experience you get, the better the feel and the better you get, Switzer mentioned in an interview with TribLive.com. While Brown is now in Oakland, there are 168 targets to fill in his place, so if Switzer wants a role on offense, he will need to hit the ground running once training camp starts. He doesn't hold any draft value due to a crowded receiving corps in Pittsburgh, but if he can carve out a role early on, he has the chance to hold a solid floor in PPR formats.
Washington Redskins rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins will have to prove himself in training camp in order to earn the Week 1 start over Case Keenum, but his coaches like what they've seen so far. Per Kyle Melnick of Redskins.com, offensive coordinator Kevin O'Connell has been impressed with Haskins's work ethic. O'Connell is used to the slow learning curve inherent in rookies, but Haskins has somewhat broken that mold. This shouldn't come as too much of a surprise after Haskins led all of college football in passing yards and passing touchdowns in his only season as a starter. It's also worth noting that Melnick mentions Urban Meyer praising Haskins as "the most accurate passer he's coached." While it will take a considerable leap forward for Haskins to earn the starting job in Washington, he's off to a good start this spring and summer.
New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman is in line to, once again, be quarterback Tom Brady's favorite target as the beginning of training camp looms. The 33-year-old caught 74 passes for 850 yards and six touchdowns through 12 games last season, including 26 receptions for 388 yards in three playoff games. Edelman racks up targets thanks to his kismet chemistry with Brady and sneaky route running. Age may one day catch up to Edelman but the only thing that could stifle the veteran's production in 2019 would be injury. He will be a solid, mid-round WR2 come fantasy draft day.
Chicago Bears wide receiver Riley Ridley was a surprise selection when the Bears drafted him in the fourth round. The rookie, and brother of the Falcons Calvin Ridley, is a big receiver who has impressed the coaching staff throughout the offseason workout programs. But fantasy owners need to be patient with a prospect like Ridley and rookie wide receivers can easily struggle to crack the lineup in the first half of a season. Ridley caught 13 touchdowns in 28 career college games at Georgia so he could steal some red zone targets from teammates Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller. But owners should not expect production right out of the gate and will only have dynasty value when fantasy draft rooms open in about one month.
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton may be using more play fakes this upcoming season. With the arrival of new head coach Zac Taylor, Dalton may utilize play-action more often than he has in previous seasons. Under Taylor, Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff averaged 10 yards per play-action attempt last season, good for fourth in the league. However, with the retirement of guard Clint Boling and the season-ending injury to tackle Jonah Williams (shoulder), along with the Bengals having only a step of separation on just 53.8 percent of their targets last season, it will be an uphill battle for the 32-year-old. If whats left of the offensive line can hold it together, however, Dalton will have plenty of time to utilize who is available to him on the offensive side of the ball under a new system.
The Atlanta Falcons No. 1 offseason priority is now to lock up wide receiver Julio Jones to a long-term deal, but that could take a while, according to sources. Jones believes that owner Arthur Blank will get something done and hasn't been threatening a holdout with another year still left on his deal. The 30-year-old is getting to be a bit more of an injury risk, but he's still an elite fantasy wideout and will be one of the first guys off the board in the early rounds.
The Atlanta Falcons and defensive tackle Grady Jarrett agreed to a four-year contract extension on Monday. The contract is expected to be worth $68 million with $38 million guaranteed, according to a source. He was initially set to receive the $15.209 million franchise tag if a deal wasn't worked out by Monday. The team can now move on to extensions for receiver Julio Jones and linebacker Deion Jones. The Falcons and Deion Jones' representation will meet face-to-face on Wednesday. Jarrett, a fifth-round pick in 2015, has been a top defender for Atlanta and had 53 total pressures in 2018, according to Pro Football Focus. He also had six sacks, three forced fumbles and a team-high 16 QB hits.
Arizona Cardinals rookie wide receiver Andy Isabella, a second-round pick this year, looks like he'll get an initial chance in the offense behind veteran Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk, who looked good in his rookie season in 2018. Rookies Keesean Johnson and Hakeem Butler could also be in the mix, but they might have a steeper climb for relevant work early on. Isabella is a great long-term pick in dynasty leagues and has late-round sleeper appeal in what could be a high-flying offensive attack under rookie quarterback Kyler Murray and new head coach Kliff Kingsbury.
Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith (leg) is no longer wearing an external fixator on his surgically repaired right leg. He credited the fixator with allowing him "to heal and walk again." Although Smith is unlikely to play in 2019 or perhaps ever again in the NFL, this is a step in the right direction and some needed good news for the veteran signal-caller. The 'Skins drafted quarterback Dwayne Haskins in the first round, so Smith's future isn't in D.C. You can ignore him in upcoming fantasy drafts completely.
Denver Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay (wrist) said the training staff will determine the repetitions he gets at training camp, but "in my mind I'm ready. I'm 100 percent," Lindsay said. He should be ready for Week 1, barring a setback this summer. Lindsay was one of the most pleasant surprises in his rookie season after going undrafted. The 24-year-old became Denver's go-to back and finished with 192 attempts for 1.037 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground. He also caught 35 passes for 241 yard and another score. His stock is obviously way up going into his second season, but he'll still have to remain effective to hold off a push from Royce Freeman.
In 2018, Phillip Lindsay had 192 carries to fellow rookie Royce Freeman's 130, but Justin Adams of CBS 4 believes that that may change in 2019. Lindsay is recovering from a wrist injury and has yet to participate in offseason activities with the team, which Adams believes has put Freeman in a position to potentially wind up as Denver's lead back. That's the role Freeman was initially drafted to play before Lindsay broke out in the preseason, so it wouldn't be a shock to see Freeman assert himself more in 2019. Keep an eye on the situation, as it could lead to Lindsay losing fantasy value while Freeman gains some.