In an NFL season that was filled with numerous offensive records, it is ironic that the Super Bowl was a defensive slugfest.
Super Bowl 53 will go down for a lot of the wrong reasons for many. The 16 combined points eclipse the 21 points from Super Bowl 7 to become the lowest scoring Super Bowl. It was also the second Super Bowl that only one team scored a touchdown (Super Bowl 3) and the Los Angeles Rams became the first team since the 1971 Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl 6 to lose without scoring a touchdown. The sour taste still in the mouths of many fans, especially in New Orleans, from the NFC championship and just fatigue from the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl again added up to give the NFL a rare dud of a game after a variety of great Super Bowls recently.
The game saw the lowest ratings in years and the halftime show has been slammed critically.
I’m sure it is not the look that the NFL wants, especially as they are starting their celebration for the league’s 100th anniversary.
While the big game wasn’t what we all expected, it wasn’t all that bad, right?
We got multiple Super Bowl records in this game. Like I mentioned above, it now holds the record for lowest scoring. Johnny Hekker also broke the record for longest punt in Super Bowl history with a 65-yard punt. I jokingly said Hekker should have gotten the MVP, but he honestly was one of the few bright spots. Plus, I love good special teams. Punters are people too.
Although this is also a bad thing to many, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick now have six Super Bowls together. Although breaking the rules a few times have helped, it still is impressive that the team continues to win in the modern NFL with free agency, salary caps and all of the other aspects that make it hard for teams to stay consistent. No team has remained as consistent as New England since 2001. The team has won the division every year since 2001 besides 2002 and 2008. Both were still winning seasons. Other teams have had nice runs of success like the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers, but the other 31 teams in the NFL have not had prolonged success close to the level of New England.
One could argue that it is because of the ineptitude of the rest of the AFC. Super Bowl 53 made it 16 Super Bowls in the last 18 that either Brady, Peyton Manning or Ben Roethlisberger started at quarterback for the AFC representative in the Super Bowl. Rich Gannon in Super Bowl 37 and Joe Flacco in Super Bowl 47 are the other two quarterbacks to start in a Super Bowl for the AFC. In comparison, the NFC has sent 15 different quarterbacks. Only Kurt Warner, Eli Manning and Russell Wilson have started multiple Super Bowls for NFC teams. But is the rest of the AFC also inept because of how good the Patriots have been? Circular logic is interesting. But like Alabama football and the Golden State Warriors in basketball, fans are ready for new teams to win.
And who knows, we could have a few of those teams ready to go. The Kansas City Chiefs are close thanks to Patrick Mahomes and that explosive offense. Dee Ford doesn’t go offsides and this column could have been a lot different. The Los Angeles Chargers, Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans are all strong teams as well. The Pittsburgh Steelers could be too if they can fix the locker room drama. Plus, teams like Jacksonville and Cleveland are a few pieces away from being in this group.
The Patriots’ opponent in the Super Bowl also should be able to be back. The Los Angeles Rams had a bad performance on offense but Sean McVay still is one of the NFL’s best offensive minds. I also think the Todd Gurley injury that the team will not acknowledge is the main catalyst of the downfall of the offense at the end of the season (losing Cooper Kupp didn’t help either). While some of the big free agent and trade pickups like Ndamukong Suh and Dante Fowler may not resign, there is a good core nucleus on this Rams team on both sides of the ball to return. This team could easily be back in the Super Bowl next season. And other teams across the NFC are loaded. Someone could get out of the NFC and snag a Super Bowl next season.
But it’s still New England. And just like they said, they are still here. We cannot count them out again.
Speaking of something still being here, football is not actually over.
While the NFL is done with games until preseason starts in August, this weekend kicks off the Alliance of American Football. The new league isn’t looking to compete with the NFL. Instead, it is looking to be complementary. If this league succeeds, I wouldn’t be surprised if it eventually becomes a minor league feeder for the NFL. The eight teams are all centrally owned and operated so that could help the league not follow in the footsteps of the USFL in the 1980s when Donald Trump pushed for the league to move from spring to fall to compete with the NFL.
The idea of the league came when Charlie Ebersol helped make the documentary “This Was the XFL” in the “30 for 30” series on ESPN. He came to the conclusion that the XFL was viable but it was poorly executed. Ebersol assembled a strong team of executives with former NFL executives and players to help the league succeed.
The league will have similar rules to the NFL with a few changes. There are no TV timeouts and fewer “full-screen commercials” to help speed up the game. The play clock is also five seconds shorter than the NFL’s. The goal is to have a real-time game length of 150 minutes instead of more than 180 minutes for an NFL game. There are no extra point kicks, only two-point conversions after touchdowns. There are also no kickoffs. Teams will begin with the ball on their own 25-yard line, just like a touchback. In lieu of an onside kick, a team can keep possession by attempting a play from their own 28. If they get at least 12 yards, the team keeps the ball. Overtime will be played under most high school football rules. Each team will begin on their opponent’s 10-yard line and get four downs to score. If the score is still tied after both teams get a possession, the game ends in a tie.
The first season will kick off with eight teams. The teams are the Atlanta Legends, Birmingham Iron, Memphis Express, Orlando Apollos, Arizona Hotshots, Salt Lake Stallions, San Antonio Commanders and San Diego Fleet.
The league may not have too many household names, but most players were split up territorially. So fans of the Birmingham Irons can watch former Alabama and Auburn players like Blake Simms, Trent Richardson and Chris Davis. It’s not perfect, especially for Big Ten and northern Big 12 schools, but having regional players will help. It varies from person to person, but Richardson might be the biggest name in this league. The draw to teams for people in the area could also vary. Nebraska Cornhuskers fans might want to gravitate toward Salt Lake with numerous former Huskers like Kenny Bell, Terrell Newby, Josh Banderas and De’Mornay Pierson-El all on the roster. A few other teams have former Huskers as well, but Salt Lake has the largest amount. Plus, Huskers fans who miss Mike Riley (I don’t know how) can watch the former head coach return to the sidelines in San Antonio. He joins Mike Martz, Mike Singletary and others coaching the eight teams. Basehor-Linwood fans (and Jayhawks fans) might instead pick San Diego as former Bobcats and Jayhawks standout Ben Johnson will play for the Fleet. I personally have not decided who I will root for. I am leaning toward the Stallions due to blue being my favorite color and the ties of players that I rooted for at Nebraska and the Minnesota Vikings.
Regardless of who I pick, I am excited to see this new league and where it can go from here. If it becomes the minor league feeder like I think it should be, the NFL, AAF, players and fans could all benefit a ton. The extra league gives the players lower on the depth charts a chance to get reps and improve, which strengthens NFL teams and adds better depth. Plus it gives fans two more months of football and after the Super Bowl ended in a boring offensive performance, two months of potentially exciting football looks more and more enticing.
Luke Peterson is the sports editor for the Leavenworth Times. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org