The New England Patriots were on the losing end of a 28-3 rout against the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl XXXVIII. The final score doesn’t represent the true intensity of the game, as the Patriots were well ahead 28-3 early in the second quarter. That deficit is the largest the defending champion has been behind in the first half of a Super Bowl.
Odds makers at two prominent offshore books had the Rams listed as 4½-1 odds to win the game before it began. The Patriots were listed at 9-1. The Rams were 15-8 against the spread in their last 23 road games before the Super Bowl, with the over under winning 19.5 games.
Why Were the Odds Against the Patriots?
The Patriots had a disappointing regular season, going 8-8-1 and failing to improve on their 15-1 record from 2017. They lost three of their last four games and fell to 9-7 after a 27-17 upset loss against the Miami Dolphins in Week 17. New England started 8-1-1 but lost four of their last five games; the only win was against the lowly Buffalo Bills. The Patriots had lost five straight against the spread before their upset win over Miami in Week 17. After the game, coach Bill Belichick said, “The odds were definitely in our favor, but that’s how the cookie crumbles sometimes.”
Belichick was spot on. The Patriots were not only favored to beat the Rams, but they also covered the spread (ATS). In fact, they were almost guaranteed to win. The Patriots opened as 9-1 favorites, with the Rams listed as 4½-1. Before the season even began, bookmakers knew exactly what they were getting into. So while the final score wasn’t close, the game was. Furthermore, Belichick’s reference to the “cookie crumbles” perfectly encapsulates the Patriots’ season — they turned up all the chocolate chips and went for it.
How Did the Rams Score 28 Points So Early In The Second Quarter?
The Patriots punted on their first four possessions, and the Rams promptly scored 28 unanswered points. This was the largest comeback in Super Bowl history. The Rams had an early 14-0 lead, but the Patriots scored 21 points in the first half alone. The Patriots’ comeback was fueled by an explosive opening drive that lasted 13 plays and ended with a 9-yard touchdown rush by Sony Michel.
The Rams were able to take advantage of a couple of early Patriots mistakes. First, they intercepted Tom Brady and returned it for a 42-yard touchdown. Next, they blocked a punt, recovering it in the end zone for a touchdown.
The Rams scored 10 points in the first quarter, and the Patriots didn’t score until almost six minutes had elapsed in the second. The first half was a complete demolition, with the Patriots scoring just 28 points while the Rams scored 49.
Why did the Rams go from 14-0 to 49-28 in the first half? It’s a simple as Tom Brady and the second-year quarterback’s struggles. Brady missed wide-open receivers on numerous occasions and had another pass intercepted. He also lost a fumble. For a quarterback who is normally so accurate, this was a complete game changer.
Belichick’s defense forced five fumbles and recovered two, but the Rams forced four interceptions and returned three of them for touchdowns. One of the picks was returned by Taylor Rapp for a 62-yard touchdown. After the game, Rams coach Sean McVay said, “I think it definitely helped that they were missing some key players on their defense.”
Why Did The Game End Up 34-37?
New England scored the first touchdown on their first drive of the second half, but that was all they could do. The Rams responded with a touchdown of their own, and the momentum shifted in Los Angeles’ favor. The Patriots got a late touchdown and two two-point conversions, but the Rams won 34-37.
The comeback in Super Bowl XXVIII was more impressive than the final score would indicate. The Patriots scored 21 points in the first half alone. They then added another 14 points in the third quarter to take a 34-14 lead into the final period. The Rams answered with a touchdown and a two-point conversion, and then forced New England to march down the field and score a last-minute touchdown to make it 34-37. This was a classic case of the team that played well below its potential, and the team that played above its potential won the day.
What’s Next For The Patriots?
Belichick will be 55 years old in February, and he’s already won three Super Bowls. It’s not hard to see why he’s had such great success, as he’s a great coach who gets the absolute most out of his players. The Patriots will have their work cut out for them in the upcoming NFL season, as they have a lot of talent but lack leadership. Belichick will have to figure out who will replace Brady at the top of the quarterback hierarchy when the two-time Super Bowl MVP retires.
Even if he doesn’t retire, it’s still unclear if Brady will play another season. The Patriots are a year removed from an incredible comeback victory over the Rams in the Super Bowl, and there are rumblings that the 34-year-old quarterback isn’t happy in New England. Belichick will have to decide whether to commit to Brady for another season or go in another direction.
No matter what, the Patriots will have a big hole to fill at the top of the quarterback hierarchy. As great as Brady is, he won’t be able to carry the team the way he has in the past. The writing is on the wall for the Patriots, and they know it.
For more NFL news, rumors, and analysis, follow @cbssportsprof on Twitter. Chris Bensman is a Staff Writer for CBS Sports. You can follow him on Twitter at @chrisbensman.