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FFL: Preseason | NFL: Week 1

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
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

Morgan Burnett Mar 22 11:50am ET

The Pittsburgh Steelers informed safety Morgan Burnett that they will release him by April 1 per the player's request, according to his agent, Kevin Conner. Both parties discussed trade possibilities before the release, according to a source. Pittsburgh signed the safety to a three-year, $14.25 million contract last season that included a $4.25 million signing bonus. Burnett missed four of the first six games of 2018 due to injury and recorded 30 tackles and six pass deflections in a sub-package role in 11 games. The 30-year-old had previously played eight seasons with the Packers.

From RotoBaller

Malcolm Brown Mar 22 11:40am ET

The Los Angeles Rams are matching the Detroit Lions offer sheet for restricted free-agent running back Malcolm Brown on Friday. Brown's deal with the Rams is for two years with a $3.3 million base salary, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. He'll receive $2.1 million in practice guarantees ($1 million base guaranteed and a $1.1 million roster bonus to be issued April 15). Brown landed on Injured Reserve in Week 13 with a clavicle injury. He played just 15 percent of the offensive snaps and had 264 yards from scrimmage and one receiving touchdown. He's merely depth behind Todd Gurley.

From RotoBaller

Cody Latimer Mar 22 11:40am ET

The New York Giants re-signed wide receiver Cody Latimer to an undisclosed deal on Friday. Latimer played in the first three games and the last two games of the 2018 season but just one of the 11 games in between in his first season in New York because of injuries. He battled a knee injury and also spent two months on Injured Reserve with a pulled hamstring. Latimer finished with only 11 receptions for 190 yards and one touchdown and also averaged 24.6 yards on five kickoff returns. He might have more opportunities to make noise in 2019 with Odell Beckham Jr. out of the picture, but Latimer still doesn't have much fantasy upside.

From RotoBaller

Trevor Siemian Mar 22 10:45am 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.

Jared Cook Mar 22 10:44am ET

The New Orleans Saints are expected to sign free-agent tight end Jared Cook, sources told NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. Cook, who turns 32 next month, had a career year with the Raiders in 2018, catching 68 passes for 896 yards and six touchdowns. The veteran can stretch opposing defenses down the seam and should open up more space for star receiver Michael Thomas on the outside. While it would be foolish to expect Cook to put up better numbers than he did in Oakland, he should remain a strong TE1 option in the high-flying offense of the Saints.

Clay Matthews Mar 22 10:23am ET

Updating previous reports, Los Angeles Rams LB Clay Matthews' two-year deal has a $9.25 million base value with $5.5 million guaranteed.

Morgan Burnett Mar 22 9:43am ET

Pittsburgh Steelers FS Morgan Burnett will be released by April 1, per the player's request, according to his agent, Kevin Conner.

Robert Griffin III Mar 22 8:23am ET

Free-agent QB Robert Griffin III (Ravens) re-signed with the Baltimore Ravens Friday, March 22, on a two-year deal. Financial terms weren't disclosed, and the deal is pending a physical.

Marcus Sherels Mar 21 10:20pm ET

The New Orleans Saints signed long-time Minnesota Vikings punt returner Marcus Sherels to an undisclosed one-year deal on Thursday, according to a source. The 31-year-old was the Vikings primary punt returner for the last eight years and averaged 12.0 yards per punt return in 2018 to finish in the league's top five for the third time in the last six seasons. He was also used occasionally as a kickoff returner and was a backup cornerback. New Orleans ranked in the league's bottom 10 teams in punt return yardage the last two years. Sherels won't be an option in most fantasy leagues with his move to the Saints.

From RotoBaller

O.J. Howard Mar 21 10:13pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers TE O.J. Howard (ankle) spent time running routes and catching passes from Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes Thursday, March 21.

Fantasy Spin: Howard was having a TE1 campaign in 2018 before an injury ended his season early, but he should be back at full strength well before the start of next season. He is a big-play weapon from the tight end spot and could finish as a top-five fantasy option at his position.

Robert Griffin III Mar 21 10:10pm ET

The Baltimore Ravens re-signed backup quarterback Robert Griffin III on Thursday to an undisclosed two-year deal. The 29-year-old will continue to back up starter Lamar Jackson in 2019. The former first-round pick can be an invaluable source for Jackson as he matures heading into his second season, but RG3 will continue to have no fantasy value.

From RotoBaller

Jordan Howard Mar 21 10:03pm ET

Chicago Bears RB Jordan Howard is unlikely to have a role in the offense if he remains with the team in 2019, in the opinion of Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune.

Fantasy Spin: Howard has always struggled to make an impact in the passing game, and after regressing as a between-the-tackles runner last year, the Bears don't have much incentive to feature him in the offense. Feel free to take a flier on him in the final rounds of drafts, but don't count on him to be a contributor for your fantasy squad.

Justin Houston Mar 21 10:00pm ET

The Indianapolis Colts signed free-agent outside linebacker Justin Houston to a two-year deal worth $24 million on Thursday, a source told NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. Houston had nine sacks for the Chiefs last year, but he was cut with the team trying to get younger and defense while transitioning from a 3-4 base defense to a 4-3 scheme. The Colts also run a 4-3, but they project to use him as a defensive end for the first time in his career. The 30-year-old has dealt with a nagging knee injury in recent years but still has 18.5 sacks in the last two years. The veteran will certainly help boost a weak Indy pass rush from a season ago.

From RotoBaller

Jordan Reed Mar 21 9:33pm ET

Washington Redskins TE Jordan Reed (toe) has been working out with teammates this offseason, according to RB Adrian Peterson.

Fantasy Spin: Reed managed to play in 13 games last season, but it didn't translate into much production on the field. Between constant health issues and slipping per-game numbers, Reed is no more than a late-round lottery ticket heading into 2019.

Cooper Kupp Mar 21 9:23pm ET

Los Angeles Rams WR Cooper Kupp (knee) said his recovery is where it is 'supposed to be' at this point in the process.

Fantasy Spin: Kupp is expected to be ready for the start of the 2019 season. He was Jared Goff's go-to target on third downs and in the red zone prior to the injury, and Kupp should be able to deliver WR2 numbers, especially in PPR formats.

Hunter Henry Mar 21 9:23pm ET

Los Angeles Chargers TE Hunter Henry (knee) is expected to be ready for the start of OTAs, according to general manager Tom Telesco.

Fantasy Spin: Assuming he doesn't suffer any setbacks, Henry should open the year as the starting tight end for the Chargers and a low-end TE1 candidate for fantasy owners.

Stephen Gostkowski Mar 21 7:03pm ET

Free-agent PK Stephen Gostkowski (Patriots) is making progress in contract talks with the New England Patriots. Gostkowski has also received interest from other teams.

Fantasy Spin: Gostkowski struggled at times this past season but still can be a weekly starting option in all fantasy leagues.

Mar 21 6:43pm ET

Free-agent DT Al Woods (Colts) met with the Detroit Lions Thursday, March 21.