Make it three in a row for the United States, which beat Japan, 59-12, Saturday in Canton, Ohio, to win its third straight IFAF World Championship gold medal.
The old adage goes that defense wins championships, and that was certainly the case for the U.S. as it smothered the Japan offense all night and scored four touchdowns off turnovers. As a team, Japan gained 218 total yards, compared to 413 for the United States.
And to think the U.S. didn't even need to call upon the services of Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett, both of whom were in attendance, per Brian Proud:
Due in large part to that sweltering defense, the Americans led 38-6 at halftime, and they coasted from there in the second half.
Wideout Trent Steelman took home the MVP Award in the win, per the U.S. national team:
Steelman finished with four receptions for 49 yards. He also ran for 56 yards and a touchdown on four carries. The fact he didn't post gaudy numbers but still won MVP was a testament to the overall offensive balance on show for the U.S.
The Americans simply outclassed Japan in every facet of the game.
The United States caught the attention of fans when it shellacked France 82-0 last Wednesday. The Americans led 54-0 at halftime and largely took their feet off the gas in the second half. France had minus-26 yards rushing, compared to 334 for the U.S.
As if that wasn't enough of a warning sign for Japan, the United States had already beaten their gold-medal game opponents 43-18 earlier in the tournament. The Japanese simply had no answer for the U.S.' passing attack, as Dylan Favre and Kevin Burke combined for 353 passing yards.
"It taught me a lot," said Burke of the victory, per George M. Thomas of the Akron Beacon Journal. "I learned a lot from guys on the team who played in Japan, telling us how they play and what kind of football teams they have and just seeing them on the field."
Before Burke or the United States stepped onto the field, the Americans had already earned an 8-0 lead early in the first quarter on David Guthrie's pick-six, per Brad Bournival:
Although Japan stymied the U.S. in the red zone on its next possession, it couldn't build on that defensive stop. The United States opened up a 16-point lead with 32 seconds left in the first quarter after a two-yard touchdown run.
Aaron Wimberly made it 24-0 with 7:47 left until halftime with an 18-yard scamper to the end zone, and Kyle Olugbode picked up a fumble and returned it 36 yards for the touchdown on Japan's subsequent drive.
At that point, the rout was on.
Jumpei Yoshimoto got Japan on the board with a 25-yard touchdown reception 2:56 from halftime, per Clifford L. Hickman:
But the U.S. got one last score in before it headed to the locker room, with Favre completing a one-yard TD pass to Ernst Brun.
Shota Tomita got Japan off to a strong start in the second half, pouncing on a U.S. fumble in the end zone to close the gap to 38-12 with 7:29 left in the third quarter. But that was the last time Japan would get on the board as the United States iced the game away.
Shohei Kato was one of Japan's few bright spots. He finished the game 12-of-22 for 141 yards and a touchdown. He suffered a big hit in the second half, though, which knocked him out of the game, per Hickman:
Unfortunately for Kato, his running game provided little to no support. The United States held its opponents to minus-seven yards on the ground.
Meanwhile, the combination of Steelman, Favre, Wimberly and Sadale Foster ate up yards and valuable time off the clock. Between the four, they amassed 170 yards.
It was a fantastic all-around performance from the tournament's best team.
The question will now be whether the United States will pick up its fourth gold medal in a row when the 2019 World Championship comes around.
As American football picks up popularity across the globe, more countries will continue improving on the field. The U.S. will obviously be the heavy favorites in four years' time, but the gap between it and the rest of the world might shrink a bit between now and then.