Armando Salguero

Patriots ride (Brian Flores) defense to Super Bowl LIII victory

A Super Bowl history of Tom Brady and the Patriots dynasty

As the New England Patriots take on the Los Angeles Rams in the Super Bowl this Sunday, here's a look at how Tom Brady and the Patriots dynasty have done in Super Bowls since 2001.
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As the New England Patriots take on the Los Angeles Rams in the Super Bowl this Sunday, here's a look at how Tom Brady and the Patriots dynasty have done in Super Bowls since 2001.

Even before the ball was snapped by Tom Brady on the final play, signaling the sixth New England Patriots Super Bowl championship this century, a celebration that will reverberate in South Florida was taking place on the Patriots’ sideline.

Defensive lineman Trey Flowers lifted a Gatorade jug and doused linebacker coach and defensive play-caller Brian Flores with blue shower of the stuff.

And then linebacker Elandon Roberts picked up another big tub and repeated the process for good measure.

A double Gatorade shower for the next Miami Dolphins coach.

This is going to feel bittersweet for some of you because you’re presumably Dolphins fans and you have no affinity for the Patriots. They are, after all, the team that has hurt the Dolphins for decades while becoming everything you wish the Dolphins could be.

Except that the Dolphins are trying to be more like the Patriots starting on Monday when, according to CBS, Flores will be introduced in a press conference as the new Dolphins coach.

So your guy just did a pretty amazing job of delivering to the Patriots the best defensive performance of any of New England Super Bowl appearance. And now he’s bringing that ability to Miami.

Yeah, mixed feelings.

And it gets more complicated than that. Because we don’t know for sure, beyond a shadow of the doubt, that this performance was authored by Flores.

During Super Bowl week he talked of the Patriots defensive game plan being a collaboration of him and the entire defensive staff and head coach Bill Belichick. And we hope that it’s more Flores and less Belichick because Belichick isn’t coming to Miami.

And because it would suggest if Flores can put his signature on games like this, he might be able to do it in Miami.

Perhaps the cynic would argue the Patriots defense is really Bill Belichick’s defense and Belichick’s alone.

Me? I believe both those things are true. This is definitely Belichick’s defense. But it’s also belongs to Flores. And Kyle Van Noy. and Stephon Gilmore. And Patrick Chung. and Devin McCourty. And Dont’a Hightower. And Flowers.

It’s all those guys.

All of them.

And the Dolphins on Monday are getting one of them.

That’s pretty good. I guess in the short run it looks better than having hired a coach with ties to Rams coach Sean McVay and then watch the Rams offense lay a terrible egg on the NFL’s biggest stage.

And this was indeed a goose egg for the Rams. They didn’t score a touchdown in this 13-3 defeat.

If you had no rooting interest this night, you probably thought this game was boring. But let me tell you what else this game was:

It was a perfect way for a team whose quarterback was not playing so well, to win a huge game.

Now let me think ...

What local football team lacking great quarterback play might benefit from playing well enough to win without a quarterback performing well?

And make no mistake, the Patriots played great on defense.

The Patriots were 30th in the NFL in sacks during the season. They had four sacks this Super Bowl. And they sacked a quarterback, Jared Goff, who had been sacked only once in two previous games this postseason.

The Rams managed two first downs in the first half.

It was the first time the Rams were shut out in a first half this season. That came after the Patriots shut out Kansas City in the first half two weeks ago, which hadn’t happened to the Chiefs all season, either.

The Chiefs led the NFL in scoring, averaging 35.3 points per game. The Rams were second, averaging 32.9 points per game.

The Patriots got the best of both.

The Patriots forced the Rams to punt eight consecutive times.

To be fair, the Rams did move the ball late in the third quarter. And the Patriots avoided disaster when they suffered a defensive bust in the secondary that left Cooks running wide open in the end zone.

But Goff saw Cooks late. And Cooks couldn’t hold on to the ball when he was hit as the ball arrived. But it’s pretty obvious this play never would might have happened had starting safety Patrick Chung not left the game earlier in the third quarter with a right arm injury.

And despite the bust, and the Rams drive, and the third quarter expiring, the Rams had not scored a touchdown. No, neither had the Patriots and that’s why this was the fewest points scored in Super Bowl history through three quarters.

No matter the down or distance, the Patriots were seemingly always one step ahead of the Los Angeles offense. Flores, making the calls, was one step ahead.

So a Flores defense was playing as well any New England defense has played in a Super Bowl. And it certainly was better than we’ve seen the Dolphins defense play at any point in years.

The hope now is Brian Flores and whatever amount of responsibility he has for this defense will come to Miami and perform like this.

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Armando Salguero has covered the Miami Dolphins and the NFL since 1990, so longer than many players on the current roster have been alive and since many coaches on the team were in middle school. He was a 2016 APSE Top 3 columnist nationwide. He is one of 48 Pro Football Hall of Fame voters. He is an Associated Press All-Pro and awards voter. He’s covered Dolphins games in London, Berlin, Mexico City and Tokyo. He has covered 25 Super Bowls, the NBA Finals, and the Olympics.