Hit snooze: Pats, Rams play out 3-point first half

ATLANTA — So much for a shootout in Super Bowl LIII.

The New England Patriots took a 3-0 lead over the Los Angeles Rams into halftime on Sunday night as the teams combined for the second-lowest-scoring half in a Super Bowl — despite the over/under for the game closing at 56, the third-highest in Super Bowl history.

The lowest-scoring half came in Super Bowl IX in 1975, when the Pittsburgh Steelers and Minnesota Vikings combined for two points.

With the score 3-3 after three quarters, Super Bowl LIII stood a good chance of breaking the record for the fewest points in an entire game. The Miami Dolphins and Washington Redskins combined for 21 points at Super Bowl VII in 1973.

Before the half, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was uncharacteristically shaky, going 15-of-25 for 160 yards, while throwing an interception on his first pass attempt. Rams quarterback Jared Goff also struggled, completing 5 of 12 passes for 52 yards.

The Rams, who went 0-for-6 on third down before the half, are the 13th team to be shut out in the first half of the Super Bowl. None of the previous 12 went on to win.

The Patriots are the third team to shut out their opponent in the first half of both the conference championship and Super Bowl, along with the 1973 Dolphins and 2000 Baltimore Ravens. Both of those teams won the Super Bowl.

This is only the second playoff game since 2001 that had three or fewer combined first-half points. The Vikings and Seattle Seahawks combined for three in the 2015 wild-card round.

The Patriots’ defense has sizzled in the first half of its last two games — against the Kansas City Chiefs and Rams. The unit has not allowed any points, while opponents ran 38 plays for 89 yards.

During the regular season, the Chiefs (18.6 points per half) and the Rams (17.4 points per half) were the two highest-scoring first-half offenses in the league.

The offensive futility continued for the Rams early in the second half, with a bright spot coming as punter Johnny Hekker set a Super Bowl record with a 65-yard punt, narrowly eclipsing a 64-yarder from Patriots punter Ryan Allen four years ago.

Hekker had plenty of practice. His seven first-half punts were the most before the half in his seven-year career. The Super Bowl record is 11 punts, set by the New York Giants‘ Brad Maynard in 2001.

When the Rams did finally put some points in the board in the third quarter, they needed Greg Zuerlein to kick a 53-yard field goal — one yard short of the longest ever in a Super Bowl, set by Buffalo’s Steve Christie at Super Bowl XXVIII in 1994.

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