SKOWHEGAN — The prognosticating pastor who publicly predicted the final score in the Patriots’ win in the AFC title game is forecasting a New England victory in Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta on Sunday.

The final score, according to the Rev. Mark Tanner?

New England Patriots, 34.

Los Angeles Rams, 24.

“I’m just thinking that, based on last year’s Super Bowl, I think the Patriots have something to prove this year,” Tanner said Thursday before unveiling his prediction on the church sign in downtown Skowhegan. “I think it’ll be a good game, but I’m not necessarily thinking it’s going to be a close game. They want to prove that they’re not old, that they’re talented.”

Tanner, who celebrates 25 years as pastor at the Skowhegan Federated Church this month, had his secretary put his AFC championship prediction up on the big sign outside the church on Island Avenue on Friday, Jan. 18 – two days before the AFC championship game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

It read: “God doesn’t have a favorite team but the pastor does!!” He then had his prediction of the final score accompany the message: Patriots, 37; Chief, 31.

Bingo. That was exactly right – though he didn’t mention that it would entail overtime.

Josh Tanner laughs as his father, the Rev. Mark Tanner, predicts the Patriots will beat the L.A. Rams 34-24 in the Super Bowl.

Other churches had a similar message, but none of them nailed the correct score like Tanner.

Tanner’s phone blew up when the game ended with his precise prognosis, and his story went viral.

“I would like to think it was divine intervention, but I’m not that crazy,” Tanner, 62, said the day after the game, as media members from around Maine lined up to get the story.

Tanner said when the season opened last fall the Patriots got off to a rough start, losing two of their first three games. Since then, he said, they have learned to work as a team.

“They’ve also learned how to be a family,” he said. “They’re a family. They’re working hard, but they’re having fun.”

Tanner said the Patriots also have something to prove after last year’s Super Bowl loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

He said benching former Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler was a mistake and most likely contributed to the 41-33 loss.

Members of the Tanner family, hardcore fans of the New England Patriots, gather around the sign at the Federated Church in Skowhegan on Jan. 21. Deb Tanner, center, is flanked by children Kaley and Josh.

He expects Sunday’s game will be a mix of running and passing, with Patriots coach Bill Belichick keeping the Rams guessing what will come next, perhaps opening with an aerial attack instead of the running game.

Quarterback Tom Brady, running back Sony Michel, defensive end Trey Flowers, along with Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, James White and Chris Hogan are going to be keys to the game, Tanner said.

On the other side of the ball, Tanner said, watch out for the Rams defensive line with Ndamukong Suh and Aaron Donald doing some damage. He said Rams running back Todd Gurley could be off his game Sunday, but quarterback Jared Goff, 24, could be a threat, in spite of his youth.

So what is his inspiration for prediction?

“It’s really a gut feeling, seriously, a gut feeling; it’s going with your gut,” he said. “I think, you know, you drive along, you kind of talk to yourself and you say, ‘This feels good. This just feels right.’

“This particular game, I’m really basing my inspiration, my feelings, on the last year’s Super Bowl because it’s only going to be a matter of a couple more years and Brady’s going to be done.”

Tanner said he got the idea for the sign when he was on his way to the Portland International Jetport that Friday before the AFC championships for a flight to Iowa to visit a friend who had just undergone surgery.

“I wanted to put that sign up in Skowhegan. I’ve been here long enough, and I thought people would just get a kick out of it,” he said. “I asked my secretary to put the sign up, and I said, ‘I want you to put the score up. I want to make the score 37-31’ because it’s going to be a high-scoring game and that was it. I never thought any more about it until … when it went into overtime.

“My wife said to the kids, she said, ‘You know if there’s a touchdown scored, the score’s going to be the exact number in the sign that your father predicted.'”

The Tanner household in Skowhegan is all about Boston sports, with Red Sox and Patriots memorabilia all over the place. There’s even a small shrine on the hearth of an unused fireplace, with framed pictures of the Patriots including one that celebrates The Last Supper as The Last Laugh and another depicting four Patriots players – quarterback Tom Brady included – doing a mock Abbey Road stroll.

Doug Harlow can be contacted at 612-2367 or at:

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