Atlanta: Tom Brady thrust his hands into the air. Jared Goff banged his hands against his helmet.
Brady swaggered off the field in the arms of his teammates. Goff remained stuck on the bench, frozen under his pads.
Brady was legendary. Goff was lost.
In the final frazzled minutes of Super Bowl LII Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Brady threw the New England Patriots into the lead. A few desperate breaths later, Goff threw the Los Angeles Rams’ season away.
And thus, the Rams’ dream ended in a red-and-blue confetti nightmare, the Patriots claiming a 13-3 victory to win their record-tying sixth Super Bowl championship while the Rams are still searching for their first representing Los Angeles.
“This one is going to stick with you, it stings in your gut,” Rams coach Sean McVay said. “I’m kind of numb right now.”
It’s numbing how the Patriots have won three Super Bowl titles in the last five years, and how Brady’s six Super Bowl rings are more than any other player in NFL history.
“It’s incredible,” Brady said.
For most of three quarters on Sunday, the entire Rams offence seemed overwhelmed by the history, overcome by the hostile environment and stifled by the Patriot defence.
With every move, they were booed by a pro-Patriots crowd that filled roughly three-quarters of the 70,000-seat stadium. With seemingly every play, they were chased down by a smart Patriots defence that appeared to know what was coming.
They were a mess but still ... after tying the score, 3-3, late in the third quarter, they had a chance. But then Brady, 41, the oldest quarterback to win a Super Bowl, showed why he is the greatest quarterback ever.
Goff, 24, attempting to be the youngest quarterback to win a Super Bowl, acted every bit his age.
“It was tough,” Goff said. “It kills. It kills. It hurts me so much.”
With 9 minutes 49 seconds left in regulation and the score still tied, 3-3, the Patriots began a drive at their 31-yard with their fans chanting, “Brady, Brady, Brady.”
What happened next was Brady, Brady, Brady.
The Patriots’ quarterback lofted a perfect pass to Rob Gronkowski, then a couple of short passes to Julian Edelman, then a perfect deep ball to a double-covered Gronkowski at the Rams’ 2-yard line.
From there, Sony Michel ran for a touchdown to give the Patriots what became a 10-3 lead, giving the ball back to Goff with seven minutes left.
“We grinded it out,” Brady said. “We were just chipping away.”
Now it was the Rams’ turn to do the same and, working from his own 25-yard line, Goff quickly moved the Rams to the Patriots’ 27.
But from there, facing a surging blitz from Duron Harmon, Goff threw wildly to Brandin Cooks in front of the end zone. The ball was badly underthrown and Stephon Gilmore intercepted it for the Patriots to essentially end the game.
Said Goff: “That’s my fault, man. I can’t put us in that situation.”
Throughout the game, Goff put them in those kinds of situations. He completed just half of his 38 passes for 229 yards while missing on a handful of open looks and making several poor decisions.
“It’s the toughest loss I’ve ever had,” Goff said. “It’s terrible. I wish I could have had a million plays back.”
One of the worst was late in the third quarter when Cooks slipped through the Patriots’ secondary and found himself wide open in the end zone.
At first, Goff didn’t see him. By the time he did, Jason McCourty was able to race over and break up the pass for the Patriots.
“I was kind of surprised that he was that wide open, and I tried to get it to him as quickly as I could,” Goff said. “Unfortunately, it was too late.”
In the end, as probably should have been expected, Brady was the Man, Goff the Kid.
“I think the biggest thing is that the play selection didn’t really give him much of a chance,” McVay said, defending his protégé. “I think it starts with me.”
McVay was right. Some of it, maybe a lot of it, did start with him.
In trying to become the youngest winning coach in Super Bowl history, McVay, 33, was completely outsmarted by the oldest winning coach, 66-year-old Bill Belichick.
Goff wasn’t the only Ram who was dazed and confused. Todd Gurley, the great Rams running back who claimed he was healthy, spent long stretches on the bench for no apparent reason. The Rams committed nine penalties, three times as many as the more disciplined Patriots. In all, the Rams were outgained 407 yards to 260 and consistently seemed like the more unsettled.
“No other way to say it but, I got outcoached tonight,” McVay said.