ATLANTA (Reuters) - Those watching the Super Bowl on Sunday to see a passing of the torch instead saw the old guard stand firm as the New England Patriots won a battle of the generations 13-3 over the Los Angeles Rams ensuring their dynasty will carry on.
The National Football League will mark its 100th season in 2019 and the Patriots will be right at the center of the celebrations after another Super Bowl performance that was literally one for the ages with 41-year-old Tom Brady and 66-year-old Bill Belichick entering the record books as the oldest quarterback and coach to hoist the Vince Lombardi trophy.
“It’s sweet,” said Belichick. “Everybody counted us out from the beginning of the season, the midseason but we’re still here.”
For many it must seem as if the Patriots have been dominating and winning titles since they first pumped air into a pigskin.
They have made 11 Super Bowl appearances, three more than their nearest rivals in Dallas, Denver and Pittsburgh while their six victories moves them into a share of the all-time mark with the Steelers.
Like a fine wine, the Patriots have aged into a rare vintage having reached the NFL showcase four of the last five years returning home with the trophy on three occasions.
It marked third consecutive year that the Patriots and Brady had gotten to the championship game and the story line running through each of them was the same - when will Brady retire?
It was one of the first questions put to Brady on his arrival in Atlanta and one of the last asked of him Sunday.
“What’s next (for me) is Monday and some rest,” laughed Brady when questioned about his future. “I’m looking forward to getting some rest.”
The Patriots’ three pillars of Brady, Belichick and owner Robert Kraft have made it clear they are not yet ready to pass the torch.
In the AFC championship game the Brady and the Patriots saw off the Kansas City Chiefs and their brilliant young quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who was named the NFL’s most valuable player on Saturday.
Brady was once again the quarterback on top on Sunday out-duelling Rams’ 24-year-old sensation Jared Goff to become the first to win six Super Bowl rings as a player.
The supporting cast may change but Brady, Belichick and Kraft have provided a winning foundation and championship template.
While Sunday’s game was the first of Brady’s nine Super Bowls in which he did not throw at least one touchdown pass, his fingerprints were all over New England’s victory cracking open a tight 3-3 defensive battle late in the fourth quarter when he hit Rob Gronkowski with a 29-yard strike to set up a two-yard touchdown run by Sony Michel.
The Rams had looked poised to hit right back when Goff marched Los Angeles into New England territory only to be intercepted on the four-yard line.
With the Rams reeling, Brady moved in for the kill with another drive to set up kicker Stephen Gostkowski who nailed a 41-yarder with 72 seconds remaining to clinch the win.
“I just felt like we needed to grind it out all night,” said Brady, after the lowest scoring Super Bowl ever. “We couldn’t take our foot off the gas pedal, we were playing a great football team.”
Editing by Amlan Chakraborty