Most of Super Bowl LIII was a grind-it-out, keep-the-faith type of game. It was a defensive slug-fest. It was ugly.
But as Super Bowl MVP Julian Edelman said, "I'll take an ugly win over a pretty loss any day."
If you watched the Rams for the first time last night, you would have never known they boasted the NFL's second-ranked offense this season. In Atlanta, the Patriot's defense held the Rams to just a single field goal.
Patriots outside linebacker Dont’a Hightower, who sacked Rams quarterback Jared Goff said this about how the Patriot's defense kept the pressure on.
"You know, a lot of that is us on the field, able to communicate with each other and changing things up. And maybe the offense might know what we're doing, but because we have so much chemistry we're built together. And we're smart enough to change things up and flip it up. So, you know, we did a good job of that in past months, and we did a good job tonight," Hightower said.
The Patriot's top offensive players, like running back James White, went out of their way to praise the team's defense.
"They don't get enough credit. But whenever the big games come around, I mean, they play their top-notch football at every level," White said.
But most of all, the Patriots took pride in how much they believed in each other, and persevered throughout the Super Bowl, and throughout the entire NFL season.
Tight-end Rob Gronkowski reflected on the up-and-down year that had some NFL pundits wondering whether the Patriots dynasty was over, whether Gronk was too beat up, whether Brady was too old.
Gronk said, "You know, the grind from the beginning of training camp to now, you know, the obstacles, how we stuck together... it was life. We went through life this year." He continued, "We figured it out. We found our identity. Keep on grinding, that was our identity. Wear the other team out."
Gronkowski easily could have been describing last night's games, because there were plenty of ups and downs.
When Tom Brady threw an interception on his first pass, Super Bowl LIII got off to an inauspicious start. Then, later in the opening quarter, kicker Stephen Gostkowski missed a 46-yard field goal. Despite some big catches by Edelman and Gronkowski, the Patriots continued to struggle offensively in the second and third quarters.
But it was the same story for the Rams. The teams entered the fourth quarter tied, 3-3. Finally, with seven minutes remaining, rookie running back Sony Michel scored on a two-yard touchdown run. The Patriots added another field goal late in the fourth. Brady finished with 262 yard.
"We were just chipping away, and we were moving the ball, we just couldn't convert enough. It was a great football team. I mean, they're at this point for a reason. They've got a lot of great players. And we just made enough plays," Brady said.
With the victory, Brady becomes the first player in NFL history to win six Super Bowls. Meanwhile, at 66, coach Bill Belichick is now the oldest head coach to win a title.
While the Patriot's sixth title win wasn't pretty, it's a good reminder of how hard it is to have the kind of success enjoyed by the Patriots, and what it sometimes takes to sustain arguably the greatest dynasty in sports.
This report comes from the New England News Collaborative: Eight public media companies, including The Public's Radio, coming together to tell the story of a changing region, with support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.