Mercedes-Benz Stadium, host venue of Super Bowl LIII
On May 19, 2015, the league announced the four finalists that would compete to host Super Bowl LIII in 2019, LIV in 2020, and LV in 2021. NFL owners voted on these cities on May 24, 2016, with the first round of voting determining the host for Super Bowl LIII, the second round deciding a different site for Super Bowl LIV and the third round deciding the site for Super Bowl LV. The four finalists for Super Bowl LIII, all in the Southeastern United States, were:
- Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia: This would be the first Super Bowl played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium after it opened in 2017. The city had previously hosted two Super Bowls at the Georgia Dome, with the last being Super Bowl XXXIV in 2000.
- Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, Florida: South Florida had previously hosted 10 Super Bowls, with the last being Super Bowl XLIV in 2010.
- Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana: New Orleans had previously hosted 10 Super Bowls, with the last being Super Bowl XLVII in 2013.
- Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida: Tampa has hosted four Super Bowls, with the last being Super Bowl XLIII in 2009.
After three votes, Atlanta was awarded Super Bowl LIII at the NFL owners' meeting on May 24, 2016. The losing candidates, except for New Orleans which removed itself from the voting for all games except Super Bowl LIII due to event conflicts in 2020 and 2021, were then pitted against SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California for Super Bowl LIV and Super Bowl LV hosting rights. Miami eventually won the rights to host Super Bowl LIV and Los Angeles won the rights to host Super Bowl LV. However, on May 23, 2017, NFL owners opted to award Super Bowl LV to Tampa and give Super Bowl LVI to Los Angeles after it was announced that SoFi Stadium would open in 2020 due to construction delays. New Orleans would be awarded Super Bowl LVIII.
The NFL unveiled the official logo for Super Bowl LIII in February 2018; it is a navy blue-tinted version of the design introduced at Super Bowl LI, and the overall branding of the game featured use of blue and red. The host committee logo featured a stylized overhead rendition of Mercedes-Benz Stadium's roof.
New England Patriots
The Patriots finished the 2018 season with an 11–5 record to earn the #2 seed in the AFC and their 17th season with at least ten wins in their 19 years under 66-year-old head coach Bill Belichick. They went on to join the Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills as the only teams in NFL history to ever reach three consecutive Super Bowls. Though the team had only two Pro Bowl selections, they scored 436 points (fourth in the league) while giving up only 325 (seventh fewest).
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady earned his 14th Pro Bowl selection at age 41, finishing the season with 4,355 passing yards and 29 touchdowns, with only 11 interceptions, while also rushing for 35 yards and two more scores on the ground. These totals made him just the second quarterback in NFL history to amass 70,000 career passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards. His top receiver from the previous season, Brandin Cooks, was traded to the eventual Super Bowl rival Rams, but Julian Edelman, who had missed the previous season with an torn ACL injury, returned to catch 74 receptions for a team-leading 850 yards and six touchdowns, while also returning 20 punts for 154 yards. Other key receivers included (35 receptions for 553 yards and three touchdowns) and Josh Gordon (40 receptions for 720 yards and three touchdowns), though Gordon would end up leaving the team to focus on his mental health after 11 games when faced with a suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy. Tight end Rob Gronkowski added 47 receptions for 682 yards and three touchdowns. Meanwhile, the running game featured a dynamic new weapon, rookie halfback Sony Michel, who lead the team with 931 rushing yards and 6 touchdowns, along with veteran James White who racked up 1,176 yards from scrimmage while leading the team in receptions (87) and total touchdowns (12). On special teams, receiver Cordarrelle Patterson returned 23 kickoffs for 663 yards and a touchdown, an average of 28.8 yards per return (third in the NFL), while also catching 21 passes for 247 yards, rushing for 228 yards and scoring four touchdowns on offense.
On defense, defensive end Trey Flowers led the team with 7.5 sacks and also forced three fumbles. Linebacker Kyle Van Noy led the team in total tackles (92), while also recording 3.5 sacks, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. In the secondary, safety Duron Harmon lead the team in interceptions for the second year in a row with four, while Pro Bowl cornerback Stephon Gilmore intercepted two passes and forced two fumbles. Safety Patrick Chung also made an impact with 84 total tackles to go with an interception and a fumble recovery. The Patriots secondary also featured twin brothers Jason McCourty and Devin McCourty, who both had an interception each. Devin had 82 tackles, while Jason had 70.
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams finished the 2018 season earning the #2 seed in the NFC, before knocking off the fourth seeded Dallas Cowboys in the divisional round and top seeded New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship to earn their fourth Super Bowl in franchise history. The Rams went from 2004 to 2016 without recording a winning record. After relocating from St. Louis back to Los Angeles and posting a dismal 4–12 season in 2016, the team's fortunes changed with the hiring of 30-year-old head coach Sean McVay, the youngest head coach in NFL history. Under McVay and second year quarterback Jared Goff, who recovered from a lackluster winless rookie season to record a triple digit passer rating, the Rams improved to an 11–5 record in 2017. Then in 2018, they won their first eight games and finished the year with a 13–3 record, tying the Saints for the best record in the NFC.
The Rams offense ranked second in the NFL in both points scored (527) and yards gained (6,738). Goff continued to improve in his third season, setting new career highs in passing yards (4,688, fourth in the NFL), passing touchdowns (32), passer rating (101.1), rushing yards (108) and rushing touchdowns (two). His top receiver was Robert Woods, who caught 86 passes for 1,219 yards and 6 touchdowns. Brandin Cooks, an off-season pickup from the Patriots via trade, also made a big impact with 80 receptions for 1,204 yards and 5 scores. The team's #3 receiver, Cooper Kupp, suffered a season ending injury after catching 40 passes for 566 yards in 8 games, forcing Goff to rely heavily on other targets like Gerald Everett (32 receptions) and (29). Pro Bowl running back Todd Gurley was the team's leading rusher with 1,251 yards (fourth in the NFL) and 17 touchdowns, while also catching 59 passes for 580 yards and five more touchdowns. His 17 rushing touchdowns led the league, while his 22 total touchdowns gave him 132 points, fifth in the NFL. Running back C. J. Anderson, who made the Rams his third different team in 2018 after signing up with them in December, also was a key aspect of the running game, finishing the season with 405 yards and leading the team in rushing in both of their playoff victories. On special teams, JoJo Natson returned 26 punts for 280 yards, while kicker made 87.1% of his field goals, including a franchise postseason record 57-yard kick to defeat the Saints in overtime in the NFC championship game.
The Rams defense featured Pro Bowl defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who led the league in sacks with 20.5, as many sacks as the rest of the team combined. He also had 59 tackles (25 for loss), four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. Veteran defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh was second on the team with 4.5 sacks, while also getting 59 tackles and recovering two fumbles. Pro Bowl linebacker Cory Littleton led the team in total tackles with 125, while also picking up four sacks, three interceptions and blocking two punts. The Rams also had a strong secondary, led by John Johnson (119 tackles and four interceptions), Marcus Peters (three interceptions), Lamarcus Joyner (78 tackles) and Aqib Talib.
In the playoffs, the Patriots earned a first-round bye as the AFC's second overall seed. In the divisional round, they defeated the Los Angeles Chargers 41–28, scoring touchdowns on five of their first six possessions. Brady passed for 343 yards and a touchdown, while running back Sony Michel rushed for 129 yards and three touchdowns. They then defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 37–31 in the AFC Championship Game, scoring the game-winning touchdown in overtime. The Patriots held a 14–0 lead at halftime, before the Chiefs rallied to take the lead 21–17 in the fourth quarter. From there, both teams took turns taking the lead, until the Chiefs forced overtime with a 39-yard field goal by Harrison Butker to tie the game 31–31. In overtime, Rex Burkhead scored a two-yard touchdown to win the game. Michel ended up rushing for a combined total of 242 yards and five touchdowns in the Patriots' two playoff games, setting an NFL record for postseason rushing touchdowns by a rookie. In the AFC championship game, the Patriots defense held Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce, who had both gained over 1,300 receiving yards during the season, to a combined total of just four receptions for 65 yards.
Meanwhile, the Rams also had a first-round bye as the NFC's second overall seed. They started off the divisional round by defeating the Dallas Cowboys 30–22. The Rams gained 273 yards on the ground with running backs Todd Gurley and C. J. Anderson rushing for over 100 yards each. They then defeated the New Orleans Saints 26–23 in the NFC Championship Game, scoring a game-winning field goal in overtime. The Saints jumped out to an early 13–0 first quarter lead, before the Rams rallied to close the lead to 13–10 at halftime. In the fourth quarter, tied the game at 20–20, with just over 5 minutes remaining. The Saints moved the ball to the Rams' 13 yard line, but could not gain a first down. On third down, quarterback Drew Brees threw a pass to receiver Tommylee Lewis, who was covered by Nickell Robey-Coleman. Though Robey-Coleman knocked Lewis to the ground and the pass fell incomplete, no penalty was called and the Saints' Wil Lutz kicked a 31-yard field goal to take the lead. The Rams took possession and sent the game to overtime with a 48-yard field goal by . In overtime, Brees threw an interception on their first drive and Zuerlein kicked a 57-yard field goal to win the game.
The game was a rematch of Super Bowl XXXVI between the Patriots and the Rams; the Rams at the time were based in St. Louis. However, only one player, Patriots starting quarterback Tom Brady, remained on either roster from that contest. Bill Belichick, the Patriots' head coach in the previous contest, also remained in that position for this game. Super Bowl LIII featured record setting age differences between each team's starting quarterbacks and head coaches, pitting 41-year-old Brady against 24-year-old Jared Goff, as well as 66-year-old Belichick against 33-year-old Sean McVay.
The then-St. Louis Rams won their sole Super Bowl title in Atlanta, Super Bowl XXXIV, hosted at the now-demolished Georgia Dome in 2000, which was located adjacent to Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
As the designated home team in the annual rotation between AFC and NFC teams, the Rams elected to wear their royal blue and yellow throwback uniforms for the game, which they have previously worn for six home games including a home playoff game during the 2018 season. The Patriots wore their standard white away uniforms.
Boston and Los Angeles teams of other professional sports have met in the championship rounds, popularizing the "Beat L.A." chant and the hashtag "#BeatLA". The Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers have contested a record twelve NBA Finals. Furthermore, Los Angeles Galaxy and New England Revolution have contested three MLS Cups. The Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers faced off in the 2018 World Series, and with the Patriots and Rams meeting in Super Bowl LIII, it was only the second time in 50 years that two cities' MLB and NFL teams have competed for the league title in the same season (or calendar year), the first time being in 1969 when the New York Jets and Baltimore Colts competed for Super Bowl III in January 1969 followed by the 1969 World Series featuring the New York Mets and Baltimore Orioles. The Patriots faced another Los Angeles-based team in the same playoffs, the Chargers in the divisional round, en route to their Super Bowl meeting with the Rams.
Pre-game events and entertainment were centered around Downtown Atlanta, with State Farm Arena having hosted Super Bowl Opening Night, the Georgia World Congress Center hosting the Super Bowl Experience and Super Bowl Live at Centennial Olympic Park. State Farm Arena also hosted the inaugural Bud Light Super Bowl Music Fest, a three-night concert series that was headlined by Ludacris and Migos (night 1), Aerosmith and Post Malone (night 2), and Bruno Mars and Cardi B (night 3). The show competed with a "Super Saturday Night" concert held by DirecTV at a temporary venue near Atlantic Station, headlined by the Foo Fighters and featuring Roger Taylor, Zac Brown, Tom Morello, Perry Farrell and Dave Koz as special guests.
The NFL officially launched its centennial commemorations at Super Bowl LIII, ahead of its 100th season. A themed, two-minute advertisement was aired during the game.