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Throwback night: Pats win Super Bowl the old-fashioned way

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ATLANTA Greying but still gritty, Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the Patriots came to the Super Bowl intending to stave off, for at least one more game, the inevitable onslaught of the NFL’s future.

Job well done.

Pro football never looked flatter, older and more stuck in the days of the VCR than it did Sunday.

In a Super Bowl only New England could love, the Patriots won their sixth title by lumbering their way to a 13-3 victory over the Los Angeles Rams — that young, brash, high-flying team with the 33-year-old coach and the 24-year-old quarterback who were, we thought, changing football before our very eyes.

If only we could’ve kept them open.

Among the Super Bowl records set: Fewest points by both teams (16); fewest points by the winning team (13); fewest combined points through three quarters (6); most consecutive drives ending with a punt (8 by the Rams); longest punt (65 yards).

The halftime show with Maroon 5 offered no relief — roundly ripped, including by an Associated Press reviewer who called it “Empty. Boring. Basic. Sleepy.”

He could have said the same about the game. But give credit where it’s due.

The defence designed by Belichick turned Rams quarterback Jared Goff into a jittery mess. He completed 19 of 38 passes for 229 yards, with an assortment of rushed throws, misread coverages and, in the tiny windows in which LA showed any sign of life, a pair of terrible passes.

One, trailing 3-0 in the third quarter, was late and high to wide-open Brandin Cooks in the end zone; the other, trailing 10-3 with 4:17 left in the fourth quarter, was high under pressure for an easy interception by Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore that essentially ended the game.

“I know I definitely have a lot to learn from this one,” said Rams coach Sean McVay, who, at 33, is exactly half the age of Belichick.

McVay has been the flavour of the month in the copycat NFL. Other teams have hired away three of his assistant coaches over the last two years, as the league tries to catch up with his newfangled offence that cracked 30 points in 13 games this season.

On Sunday, it managed one 53-yard field goal from Greg Zuerlein and didn’t take a snap inside the New England 20.

Gilmore’s interception came minutes after Brady engineered the game’s lone touchdown drive.

It was five plays and included four straight completions: 18 yards to Rob Gronkowski, 13 yards to Julian Edelman, seven yards to backup running back Rex Burkhead, then a 29-yard teardrop placed perfectly into the arms of Gronkowski, who was double-covered. Sony Michel ran it in from 2 yards for the touchdown with 7 minutes left.

“We couldn’t get points on the board for one reason or another,” Brady said, “but in the end, it feels a lot better than last year, when we did get some points on the board.”

Last year, the Patriots fell 41-33 to Philly in a back-and-forth thriller that essentially featured one good defensive play: a sack and strip on Brady by Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham with the clock running down.

The year before, the Patriots scored 31 points in the second half and overtime for a riveting 34-28 comeback win over Atlanta and title No. 5.

Then, this.

New England’s road to a sixth Lombardi Trophy — tied with Pittsburgh for the most — was never easy this season. The Patriots lost five times, didn’t have home-field advantage through the playoffs and, after every loss, were beset by questions over whether the 41-year-old Brady and his 66-year-old coach might be winding down.

Through it all, though, they could score. New England averaged 27.2 points a game. And in the run through the playoffs, the offence scored 10 touchdowns and Brady barely got touched, and never got sacked.

They were not clicking like that Sunday at the $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium, where 70,081 fans — most of them cheering for New England — watched the game.

Other than Edelman, whose 10 catches for 141 yards won him MVP honours and made him look like a combination of Michael Irvin and Jerry Rice considering everything happening around him, the Patriots were out of sync.

Brady’s first pass got intercepted. He went 21 for 35 for 262 yards and a passer rating of 71.4 — more than 26 points lower than he averaged this season.

New England outgained Los Angeles 195-57 in the first half, but settled for two field goal attempts — one miss and one make — for a 3-0 lead at the break.

It was 3-3 heading into the fourth quarter — the fewest points through the first 45 minutes of any playoff game since a 1980 barnburner between the Bucs and Rams that LA won 9-0.

Maybe the biggest irony of all: The New England dynasty’s five previous Super Bowl victories came by 3, 3, 3, 4 and 6. Two were decided on the last play. The other three came down to the final minutes.

Compared to that, this was a veritable runaway.

On a day when New England held LA running back Todd Gurley to 35 yards, when LA couldn’t muster a drive longer than five plays for nearly three quarters, and when LA’s Johnny Hekker (eight punts, 46.3 yard average) was his team’s most effective player, a 10-point lead at the end felt like a million.

“It’s a beautiful thing, man,” said New England cornerback Jason McCourty.

And a game only the Patriots could love.

___

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/tag/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Eddie Pells, The Associated Press





















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Police name three men arrested after shooting at Raptors victory rally

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Toronto police have released the identities of three men who were arrested after Monday’s shooting at a rally celebrating the Raptors’ historic NBA win.

The men, who are all from Toronto and range in age from 18 to 25, are facing firearms-related charges.

Police have said four people suffered non-life-threatening injuries during the shooting.

Investigators allege that Shaquille Anthony Miller, 25, and Thaino Toussaint, 20, were carrying guns when they were arrested.

The men each face seven charges that include carrying a concealed weapon and — in Miller’s case — assaulting a peace officer while carrying a firearm.

Police say 18-year-old Abdikarim Kerow was arrested on a previous warrant and is facing a total of 20 charges, including two counts of possessing a loaded regulated firearm and possessing drugs for the purpose of trafficking.

Investigators are still looking for a firearm and a fourth suspect, described as a man around five-foot-nine, with a heavy build and short brown hair.

The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version said police were looking for a third suspect.

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Tory promises review of Raptors parade amid planning criticism and praise

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TORONTO — The city and its partners will review planning for the Raptors’ victory parade that drew unprecedented crowds to the downtown, some of whom found themselves caught in a terrifying situation when gunfire erupted late in the proceedings, Toronto Mayor John Tory said on Tuesday.

Some experts were critical of the planning for a parade that ran hours late due to clogged roads on a route and ended at an overflowing square in front of city hall, where about a million people spent hours without ready access to water or washrooms — or a safe way to get out in an emergency.

Police acted fast to deal with the “scary moment” of gunfire, Tory said, as he denounced the “reckless actions” of those who took firearms to the celebration and praised organizers for their “extraordinary effort.”

“This was a massive event, the likes of which our city has never seen before,” said Tory, who had urged employers in the city to give their staff time off to show up for the celebration. “They had three days to plan this parade.”

Brad Ross, a spokesman for the city, said the review led by the city’s manager would look at all aspects of the event — among them the route, security and barriers used. Ross, too, said things went extremely well given the short planning time frame.

“We had from Thursday to plan fully,” Ross said. “There were some discussions in advance of last Thursday, but couldn’t get into nitty-gritty until they won.”

Paul Wertheimer, head of Los Angeles-based consulting company Crowd Management Strategies, called it unfathomable that detailed planning only began after the Raptors clinched the championship. Contingency plans, he said, should have been in place since it became apparent that the team were serious contenders.

“It’s not like a storm that came out of nowhere,” Wertheimer said from Chicago on Tuesday. “You don’t wait to the last minute. If you only have a few days to do it, you can’t do it right.”

One of the most important aspects of the plan, Wertheimer said, should have been to limit the number of people allowed into Nathan Phillips Square. Failure to do so, he said, leads to safety issues such as crowd crush and a lack of a way for people — who assume the event is being properly managed — to exit in an orderly and timely manner in an emergency.

Police and city estimates put the crowds downtown on Monday at somewhere between one million and two million people — probably a Canadian record. Apart from the four people wounded in the shooting, police and paramedics reported few other injuries or issues.

The city said Raptors owners, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, was in charge of putting the event together.

“Pre-planning with the operations parties involved began at the start of the NBA Finals, with the plans being activated, of course, once the Raptors officially won,” said company spokesman Dave Haggith. “We will be conducting debrief sessions with unified command and operations stakeholders to implement appropriate measures for future events of this scale.”

Russ Simons, managing partner with Tennessee-based Venue Solutions Group, said it would have been difficult to predict the outsize crowd of rapturous fans who came out for the parade.

“It’s obviously at its most extreme when you have a championship like the NBA Finals — especially for a franchise that’s never had one before,” Simmons said from Los Angeles. “I don’t think that’s something anybody could reasonably anticipate. That creates a cascading effect.”

Keith Still, a professor of crowd science at Manchester Metropolitan University, said the parade’s slow going due to crowding was appropriate.

“The last thing you want to do at these events is get heavy handed and start imposing crowd controls because that can create significantly more safety problems,” Still said.

Still commended police for their handling of the shooting. Contrast that, he said, with the response to the London Bridge attack in 2017, when it took several hours to get to the injured.

—With a file from Liam Casey

Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press

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