It’s finally been decided, after 266 games, numerous significant injuries, a wild Black Monday and a reigning problem inside the New England management which seemed to have no effect at all; the Super Bowl is upon us.
Tom Brady had just had his 40th Birthday party (where no one was invited and Tom went to bed at 7:00pm) before the season began.
Normally men at 40 have settled down, found a job they kind of like and gained weight around the abdominal area. But Tom Brady isn’t a normal man, in fact, he’s not a normal human and for the 8th time since 2002; Brady will be spending Super Bowl Sunday with the number 12 on his back and a football in his hand.
Bill Belichick will be partaking in his 11th Super Bowl as a coach; including stints with the New York Giants and New England. On paper, the Eagles win, but Brady and Belichick are the lethal combination that no punter can ignore. It is these two men that make it seem so unlikely that the reigning NFC Champions from Philadelphia can win their first Super Bowl in the history of the franchise, but anything can happen.
What the stats say
If you look at the stats during the postseason, these two teams are nearly identical.
|New England Patriots||Philadelphia Eagles|
|Defense Pass Yards Allowed||475||458|
|Defense Rush Yards Allowed||166||156|
|Offense Pass Yards||635||584|
|Offense Rush Yards||147||206|
The stats actually favour the Eagles, in the postseason the New England offensive line has allowed Brady to be sacked 11 times in just the two games, while Philadelphia has only allowed four.
The pass rushers for the Eagles acquired 36 sacks for the season so there is no doubt that Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham will be getting their hands on Brady at some point; but will it matter?
For the Eagles to be successful on Sunday they must pressure Brady with only a four-man rush, if any more players are added on the edge to blitz, Brady will find a way to take advantage of a man to man coverage.
The Eagles tend to play a more zone-oriented defense and this could pose huge problems as the New England Quarterback has made a living out of picking apart zone defenses, forcing the oppositions defense coordinator to switch to more man to man coverage. Therefore, it is imperative that the Eagles remain with only a four-man rush.
Rob Gronkowski will most likely be guarded by Malcolm Jenkins and Najee Goode or Nigel Bradham. Brandin Cooks, one of the NFL’s top vertical threats, will be taken by Ronald Darby (depending on what side Cooks lines up on) which could prove disastrous for the Eagles considering what Cooks did to Jacksonville’s Pro Bowl Corner A.J Bouye.
If Darby cannot control Cooks then another man will have to double cover the patriot's vertical threat. Leaving just three defenders to cover Chris Hogan, another underrated Patriots deep threat; Danny Amendola in the slot and a New England running game. If either Amendola or Hogan are covered man to man, Brady will find them.
Brady vs Philadelphia Defense
The Philadelphia Eagles Defense tends to be great on third downs with oppositions only converting 32% (66/205) during the regular season, they are especially successful in third and long situations. Yet in Brady’s past seven Super Bowl appearances, for plays with 7-10 yards to go he has a conversion rate of 62.5%.
A phenomenal number for any quarterback, let alone in Super Bowls. If New England cannot block the Eagles pass rushers and Brady is getting pressured then expect Belichick to adjust during halftime and switch to their Julian Edelman brand of football; with Danny Amendola and James White running horizontal routes which nullifies the Philadelphia defensive line.
Foles vs New England Defense
Looking at New England’s Defence and the Philadelphia Offense, rushing will be an aspect but not as important as many might think. Jay Ajayi, LeGarrette Blount and Corey Clement collectively rushed for 114 yards against the second-best rush defense in the NFL last week, the Minnesota Vikings. Considering that New England was ranked 20th as a rush defense unit during the regular season it is expected that the running backs of Philadelphia will be seeing a lot of the ball as well as a lot of play-action formations.
But since the postseason began (and now that games actually matter) Belichick has once again waved his special wand that magically fixes horrible defenses. Since then, New England has only allowed 166 total rushing yards against the Titans and Derrick Henry and the Jaguars and Leonard Fournette which shows large improvement in the rush defense.
In the AFC Championship game, Jacksonville’s plan was to spread the Patriots defense out and make them play in space. This is the way to beat this New England Defence except for this style of offense didn’t compliment the Jaguars ground game which has been their go-to style for the whole season.
The spread them out tactic worked in parts during the game and Blake Bortles threw some nice passes to Marquise Lee but they couldn’t sustain this style and inevitably, couldn’t put up enough points. The interesting idea is that the Eagle's natural offensive style is to spread the defense out and run this kind of offense.
So, Nick Foles must continue to find Ertz, Agholor and Jeffery in space and this Philadelphia offense could be very effective against this vulnerable New England defense.
The Final word
The Eagles front four must dominate the game in order to have a chance at winning. They must pressure the 40-year-old veteran and put him on his back, but if Brady gets back up and the chip on his shoulder grows larger, the city of Philadelphia will be left disheartened; and once again be forced to lighten themselves up by singing the Rocky Balboa theme song (the only sporting success they’ve had).
Expect this game to be unbelievably close late, with nothing in it except the boot of Stephen Gostkowski or Jake Elliott. New England to win, 27-24.
Written by Matthew Price