The very first play of the game had me thinking about center of mass. Sony Michel (#26) ran for 13 yards. What made his run is that after he took a hit near the line of scrimmage, he managed to keep his center of mass over his base. Check out the screen capture of his run (click on image for a larger view).
Knowing how to keep his center of mass from getting past his shoes, Michel was able to maintain his balance and pick up the game's first 1st down.
The Rams were feeling good a few plays later when they picked off Tom Brady (#12). Check out the ball in the air after the tip (click on image for a larger view).
An "impulse" is needed to change an object's momentum. The physics way of thinking of impulse is to imagine the force on an object multiplied by a collision time. The football received an impulse from Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman (#23) that redirected the ball's momentum upward. That allowed Corey Littleton (#58) to make the pick.
Super Bowl MVP Julian Edelman (#11) likely saved himself from sustaining a concussion early in the 3rd quarter. When Rams free satety Lamarcus Joyner (#20) laid a hard hit on him, Edelman just managed to tuck his head, which prevented a helmet-to-helmet collision. Check out how close Edelman came to perhaps not competing in much of the rest of the game (click on image for a larger view).
If you click on the above image, you'll see Edelman's helmet just under Joyner's helmet. Part of good practice involves learning how to get hit, and staying in one piece.
When I saw Rams quarterback Jared Goff (#16) get hit near the end of the 3rd quarter, I was reminded again about how forces add. Check out Goff getting smashed (click on image for a larger view).
He was getting sandwiched by three Patriots! Although he was ultimately pushed backwards, Goff experienced a brief moment of no net force. If the three Patriots exerted forces that add -- as vectors -- to zero, Goff would have had no net force on him. Of course, getting squashed in a Death Star trash compacter still hurts, even if one's center of mass isn't going anywhere!
At the very end of the 3rd quarter, I saw Sony Michel get hit by Rams defensive tackle Michael Brockers (#90), and like the first play of the game, a run by Michel had me thinking about center of mass. Check out the hit (click on image for a larger view).
See #90 of the Rams? He's hitting Michel right at Michel's center of mass! That didn't cause Michel to rotate for a tackle. Instead, Michel bounced off Brockers for a 19-yard gain. The action is incredibly fast on the gridiron, but good fundamentals mean the difference between getting stopped for a 5-yard gain and picking up 19 yards.
Early in the 4th quarter, I saw Jared Goff get hit by Patriots cornerback Jonathan Jones (#31). But it was only a flash because Jones came flying from the right side of the action and tagged Goff hard just before the Rams quarterback got out of bounds (click on image for a larger view).
The reason Jones looks like a blur in the above image is that he was moving over 15 mph when he closed on Goff. That was a cornerback who didn't want the opposing quarterback to get back to the line of scrimmage!
Many commentators have lauded the throw Brady made to tight end Rob Gronkowski (#87) that put the Patriots in position to win the game. I grabbed the screen capture below (click on image for a larger view).
That ball traveled 33 yards in the air and took 1.93 seconds to go from Brady's hand to Gronk's hands. But look at the tiny window Brady had to make that completion! Two Rams defenders are behind Gronk, screening him from Brady's sight. One of those Rams defender is blanketed on Gronk. A third Rams defender is closing in on the play. That throw won the Patriots the Super Bowl. There is a reason Tom Brady is the GOAT!
The Patriots finished off the Rams with a field goal by Stephen Gostkowski (#3) with just over a minute left in the game. Look how close the ball came to hitting the left upright (click on image for a larger view).
You can just see the ball about a quarter of the way down along the inside of the left upright. The Coriolis effect didn't make the difference in the kick, but it was pushing the ball in the right direction. In the northern hemisphere, projectiles, like footballs, get a tiny push to right. But because the ball was only in the air 2.3 seconds before it crossed the plane of the uprights, the Coriolis push was less than a quarter of an inch. But if you're not a Patriots fan, it stinks knowing that even Earth was trying to help that kick!
A nerd like me loves watching sports. But what makes the experience even more fun is seeing the sports world through the eyes of a physicist.