Written by: Robert Robinson Picture by: Robert Robinson @robrobgraphics
Well, Patriots fans, congratulations...again. To the other 90 percent of the country, I am sorry. I feel your pain. Deeply. This is now the second time in my life that I had to watch Tom Brady hoist that Belichick/Lombardi trophy, (trust me that will happen one day, sooner than later) while my team walks back into a strange locker room with our heads hung low.
For me, February 3rd could just fall off the calendar and I honestly wouldn’t miss it. The last time Tom Brady and the Patriots forcefully ripped my heart from my chest, it was the same date in the year 2002. I was about to turn 18, about to “become a man.” I was sure my Greatest Show on Turf Rams would walk out of the game celebrating our second championship. The Patriots were a bunch of over-achievers led by some gangly kid who struck absolutely no fear in me. I honestly couldn’t remember his name going into the game, I was just happy Drew Bledsoe was out due to injury. I was overconfident, one could even say, cocky, at ease in the knowledge that there was no way we could lose the game. I was wrong. The Patriots beat us 20-17 on an Adam Vinatieri kick that led me to release a stream of vulgarity not suitable for any audience… I was crushed but sure that, of these two teams, the Rams would certainly be the most likely to return. Little did I know it would be an almost 2 decade wait.
Fast forward 17 years and here we are again...February 3rd, Super Bowl 53, Rams vs. Patriots...again. So many things have changed since then. I’ve added pounds and lost hair, found a good girl and picked up 2 kids along the way, chased some dreams and failed. Chased some dreams and succeeded and found true happiness in both my personal and work life with Blitzalytics. My team, the Rams, are on our 5th coaching hire (8 if you include interim coaches), have started 21 different quarterbacks, and left me in Missouri like a jilted lover, moving from St. Louis back to Los Angeles 2 seasons ago. The Rams record since losing Super Bowl 36: 111-160-1, including 12 sub .500 seasons and 5 seasons with 4 or fewer wins, with the low point being 2009 where we went 1-15. Not exactly what I had in mind all those years ago.
Meanwhile, in Boston, that lanky kid whose name I couldn’t remember went on to be ok, I guess, winning 6 Super Bowls and 3 league MVPs, marrying a supermodel, turning his initials into a “method” and pretty much becoming the inarguable G.O.A.T. The Patriots have gone 209-63 over the last 17 years, winning 15 AFC East titles (10 straight if you’re counting), 9 AFC conference championships, and 6 Super Bowl titles. The Patriots over that span have NEVER finished worse than second in their division, and that has only happened twice: in 2002 (Brady’s second season), and 2008, where Tom tore his ACL in the season opener against the Chiefs and missed the entire season, and the Patriots became only the second team since the expansion in a 16 game season to not make the playoffs with 11 wins, with their BACKUP quarterback. They have won less than 10 games only once over the last 17 seasons, winning at least 14 in a season 5 times, capped off by the 16-0 2007 squad. 17 years...same coach…the same QB. They define stability. Their fans define spoiled.
At kickoff, I maintained a certain level of ignorant hope. I thought to myself, “Self, maybe this is the year that the Patriot run of dominance ends! How sweet would it be that we get to end this dynasty, how awesome of a Lion King, a circle of life, Disney script would that be?!?!”
I had fooled myself into believing, yet again, that Tom was old, past his prime, a shell of his former self. And you know what, after watching the game...I still kind of feel that way. But let me clue you in on the lesson I learned...IT DOES NOT MATTER.
Tom Brady went 21/35 for 262 yards no touchdowns and an interception. Not bad, but not “great”. Too often he stared down Julian Edelman, in fact, it felt like many times the only people who didn’t know that ball was about to go to Edelman were the Rams. His accuracy wasn’t what you have grown to expect from Tom Terrific, and his spiral looked super loose for much of the night. And yet, we could not stop them.
Our defense played very well for most of the night; our offense was trash. Todd clearly wasn’t “right”, CJ Anderson looked gassed, and Sean McVay got vastly outcoached. Hell, the MVP of the night for the Rams was punter Johnny Hekker.
I love the Rams. I always have, and I always will...I was born in LA, raised by a father who is a die-hard Rams fan. I moved to Missouri and a few years later the Rams followed. I felt bad for our fans in LA who lost the team, and then sad for myself when they went home. Today we are sad, together, as Rams nation. We have been through horrible seasons and tumultuous times, and on February 3rd, 2019 we ran into the mighty beast from the northeast that showed us we aren’t to their level. Yet. I hope that this isn’t the same blissful ignorance of my youth, but I believe this is just the beginning. It may not be next year, but we will be back.
I expect this offseason we will hear a lot about the garbage fire game that Goff put up, and he did, so the criticism is well deserved. I would also love to get some sort of explanation about what was really up with Todd Gurley, though my gut feeling is that McVay played him just enough to not have to put him on the injury report, while avoiding a penalty for lying about an injury, so we probably will never get a straight answer. I would also love to know what the hell was up with the play calling that led to 8 straight punts to open the game. There are so many questions that I would like answers to. None of which will change the outcome of the game.
I would imagine that Falcons, Panthers, Eagles, and Seahawks fans, all of whom have felt the coldness of defeat at the hands of the evil empire, all understand the same thing I learned again on Sunday night...this is the greatest, most terrible, awesome, horrible sports organization ever, and when put in a situation to face them on “neutral turf” always remember that the Super Bowl itself is HOME to the Patriots. And you never really stood a chance.
But remember Patriot haters… we will always have Eli Manning.