Everyone, from the most accomplished former athlete to the average fan, whose only athletic move is the ole 12 ounce curl, agreed that for the Philadelphia Eagles to vanquish the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII, they would need to follow the basic guideline set forth by the New York Giants in their two Super Bowl wins over the Patriots – pressure Tom Brady from the middle of the defensive line and collapse the pocket without resorting to exotic blitz packages. Of course, winning the turnover battle and converting 3rd downs help the cause, but keeping Brady from getting comfortable in the pocket is priority number one. Fortunately, for Eagles fans, Fletcher Cox and his fellow defensive line teammates were very good at pressuring quarterbacks this season. Check box filled. Except, Tom Brady found time to throw for 505 yards, 3 touchdowns, with no interceptions. A stat line like that should point to a Pats victory, right? Guess again. The Eagles won the game by outscoring the Patriots 41- 33. How did this happen?
Doug Pederson made all the right calls to put his team in position to win the game.
Much was made of Coach Doug Pederson’s aggressive play calling, and he deserves a lot of credit here, because most coaches seem to get little off kilter when facing Bill Belichick. They either get too conservative with their play calling, leaving the door open for a patented Patriots come from behind win, or they deviate wildly from their team’s strength by calling plays that end with disastrous results, thus gifting the game over to the Patriots. The Eagles were aggressive all year – going for it on those 4th downs in the Super Bowl was nothing new, so this was not out of character for them. Pederson was able to play chess with Belichick.
The Eagles backed up the aggressive play calling by executing those plays with supreme precision.
Aggressive play calling alone, though, isn’t the golden ticket to success against the Patriots. Remember the Atlanta Falcons continuing to attack the Patriots when all they needed to do was run clock? How about the Seattle Seahawks deciding to throw the ball when the prudent play call was hand off to Marshawn Lynch near the Patriots’ goal line? Staying aggressive is only one variable of the equation. Executing those aggressive play calls is the other. What is aggressive play calling without execution? Failure. Ridicule. The Eagles out-executed the team known for its machine-like execution. Third down conversion rates favored the Eagles (10-16 vs 5-10). Fourth down conversion rates favored the Eagles (2-2 vs 1-2).
Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles (What in the world?)
Speaking of execution, Nick Foles was fantastic (28/43 for 373 yards with 3 touchdowns against one interception). He was on target with most of his throws. The deep ball Alshon Jefferey caught for a touchdown in the first quarter was a great throw made sensational by the catch. How about Foles’ calmness on 4th down late in the game, where he sidesteps to his left to avoid the rush, and then delivers a strike to Zach Ertz? The touchdown throw to Corey Clement displayed pinpoint accuracy as the ball found its way in between multiple defenders. Finally, Pats-haters could rejoice that their long held view that this Patriots defense wasn’t up to the quality of previous years was proven. All that was needed was a quality quarterback with weapons at his disposal and a coach willing to unleash the offensive onslaught, and Foles was way better than just a quality quarterback. Congratulations, Nick Foles, Super Bowl LII MVP.
The Eagles had the better roster.
While it’s true that the Patriots lost key contributors on the defensive side of the ball early in the year, this was nothing compared to the Eagles losing their starting quarterback, a player who was in the conversation for MVP of the league. Imagine the Patriots losing Tom Brady? Are the Patriots anywhere near the Super Bowl? Uh, no, that’s not a bet many people would make. It turns out that Eagles could brawl with teams in the “phone booth” as scouts like to say, or they could razzle-dazzle opposing teams with the run pass option, trick plays, etc. – all of this with their backup quarterback, too.
Fly Eagles fly.