I surveyed the room with, what I say unabashedly, was a muted degree of satisfaction. After all, I had just spent the previous five hours scrubbing, vacuuming, and prepping for the gathering, including the cherry on top: an emergency run to the grocery store when it became known that we were sorely lacking paper plates.
As the curtain raised on Super Bowl LIII, there was no reason not to be satisfied. Sure, the Rams were in the fight in part thanks to a blown referee call, and the Patriots were…well the Patriots were the Patriots. And yet, despite those detractions, on paper, the matchup looked like a sweet treat. Oldest quarterback vs. one of the youngest quarterbacks. Oldest coach vs. youngest coach. Behemoth dynasty vs. talented upstart. Not to mention the number two and number five overall offenses, paired with some explosive defensive play. What's not to love about that main event?
It quickly became clear that everything was not to love. And though the party was still an enjoyable affair (in great part due to one of my roommates cooking an obscene amount of chicken wings), there were definitely moments when that enjoyment was sparse on the TV.
The final score: a 13-3 Patriots victory. It is one that will be satisfying for Bostonians, exhilarating for NFL record junkies, and very much meh for every other party involved.
The longest play from either team? Went only 29 yards. How many punts? Try 14 (including eight consecutive from the Rams to start the game). Two missed field goals, one from either team. An interception each from Brady and Goff. No touchdowns scored until seven minutes left in the fourth quarter, and only one touchdown at that.
The game's lone statistical jewel, Julian Edelman (who caught 10 passes for 141 yards), shined so bright that even I easily predicted he'd nab the Super Bowl MVP award as early as the second quarter.
What made the game even more frustrating was that the defensive play wasn't explosive, merely solid. There were no earth-shattering sacks, only dumb ones that could have been easily avoided (looking at you Jared Goff). Goff's pick was equally stupid. Brady's also ill-advised. Heck, there's even a particular incompletion that stands out in my mind as most heinous: with the Patriots at midfield, Brady tries to throw the ball to his halfback standing two feet away from him in the flat, and the ball hits dirt instead. As another one of my roommates smartly quipped (and not incorrectly so), "Even I could have made that throw."
So, strong defensive work, but hardly complimented by anything spectacular. And this is the Super Bowl, after all. Spectacle is what it's all supposed to be about.
I'm no happy man that the Patriots have won a sixth championship. But the way in which it was won is almost more damning. I wrote an article prior to last year's Super Bowl in which I complimented Tom Brady's amazing credentials but criticized the staying power of New England in the fashion of a fine, yet tired TV show that refuses to die.
If Super Bowl LII was the cathartic and nuanced bookend to an amazing, long-lived soap opera storyline, Super Bowl LIII was the moment the Patriots finally jumped the shark.
Who cares? Do Bostonians even care? As Yahoo's Dan Wetzel pointed out, it's been a whopping 97 days since the city hoisted its last major pro sports trophy.
I have the utmost respect for what Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have managed to do with the Patriots. They took a perennial loser and in 17 years managed to appear in nine championships, winning six. Those numbers are legendary, on par with the likes of George Halas, Curly Lambeau, and Vince Lombardi. And none of those guys ever had to deal with a salary cap or Colin Kaepernick and the President of the United States openly feuding with one another.
And yet, with that accomplishment should come paralleled success in other metrics. The Patriots were good this year, but hardly great. Same for Tom Brady. I mean, the coolest thing about every other Patriot Super Bowl was that they never won or lost by more than one score. In every other instance, down to the very last snap, they had the chance to stake claim to victory or let it slip away.
Super Bowl LIII, comparatively, was a war of attrition reminiscent of World War I trench warfare. And even when the score was tied 3-3 you had a good idea who was going to win because Jared Goff was missing open receivers all day.
So, take your championship New England, hollow though it may ring. Perhaps if Drew Brees had been playing in Atlanta instead of Goff things would've been just as dismal, but perhaps not. My money is that between two wily old veterans, one of them would've awoken eventually. Instead, Tom Brady snoozed and his Los Angeles counterpart looked skittish from start to finish.
Thanks to that glaring no call (and admittedly a few key mistakes from New Orleans too), Brady v. Brees is not what we were gifted with. Instead we have this: 13-3. The lowest scoring game in Super Bowl history. And perhaps also a whimpering finale from one of the NFL's most gargantuan, drawn from a career cast under the strange pallor of twilight.