Coach and QB should give Patriots the edge
MINNEAPOLIS – Second-year head coach in his first Super Bowl vs. sure Hall of Fame coach who has seven rings, five as a head man.
Backup quarterback who has bounced around the last couple of years vs. perhaps the greatest quarterback of all time.
Lamb vs. Goat. Will there be a slaughter on Sunday in Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium?
Not if you ask New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick.
“They’re pretty good at everything,” Belichick said of the Philadelphia Eagles. “Good in the kicking game, good on defense, good on offense, make you defend a lot of things.
“Just the volume of it all. It’s not like one thing you have to stop because there’s 10 things you have to stop. So everybody is going to have to do a good job. You can’t just rely on one guy or one thing.”
Of course the Patriots are able to rely on Tom Brady, who is looking for his sixth Super Bowl win and on Saturday night was a good possibility to take home the NFL Most Valuable Player trophy. Brady has been the Super Bowl MVP in two out of the last three years, four times overall, and after last year’s epic comeback win over Atlanta, who will pick against him?
“People have been trying to do that for 20 years,” Long said. “I can’t tell you what to do, but I can tell you what not to do, and that’s forget about doing your job, forget about fundamentals and what got you here. He’s good at timing, he’s good at frustrating (pass) rushers, getting the ball out, mixing up the protections. You can’t get out of your game.”
Of course, the Eagles primarily get their pressure on the quarterback via their Fletcher Cox-led defensive line, hardly blitzing, just bulling their way through. That’s how the New York Giants beat Brady and the Patriots twice in the Super Bowl, and Philly hopes that formula works a third time.
“They set the edge very well,” Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, who has been cleared to play after suffering a concussion. “They’re hard rushers. You’ve got to create lanes in the pass game. It all comes down to how you execute on Sunday.”
And on the other side, Eagles quarterback Nick Foles is the ultimate underdog. He was superb a few years ago with 27 TDs and only two interceptions, but that magic wore off and he went from Philly to the Rams to Kansas City and now back to the Eagles.
He was the injured Carson Wentz’s backup, but in this post season he has completed 49 of 63 passes for 598 yards and three TDs. That’s a quarterback rating of 122.1. The numbers may not lie.
“We’re going out there to compete against the Patriots,” Foles said. “To compete at a high level, to compete against the best. That’s what we play this game for. I’m looking forward to it.”
The Eagles have had one constant theme all week – play 60 minutes. They took note of how Atlanta fell apart vs. Brady and the Patriots in last year’s epic Super Bowl comeback.
“You have to know these guys are going to play all 60 minutes,” said Eagles running back LeGarrette Blount, who was on that Patriots team. “They’re going to do everything they have to do. They’re going to scratch, claw, do whatever they have to do to win this game. People saw that last year, with the 25-point deficit. So we took account of that and we know we have to play all 60 minutes.”
Of course, the Patriots have Gronkowski, who should make a huge difference in New England’s passing game if Brady can get rid of the ball quickly enough.
Then there’s the coaches. Pederson went 7-9 last year in his first season as the Eagles head coach, and not too many were really impressed. He adjusted some things and now, thanks in part to Wentz’s play before he got hurt a couple of months ago, he has his 13-3 team in the Super Bowl.
“I’ve been around these guys all year and I can tell by the way they practice – the speed, the tempo, assignment sound, the energy level,” Pederson said. “Things like that lead me to believe because I’ve seen it all season. Now, that doesn’t tell you how they’re going to play. But it just tells you that they’re prepared and ready to go into this game.”
“They’re two great coaches,” said Eagles defensive end Chris Long, who, like Blount, won a ring with the Patriots last year. “Different styles, but really awesome coaches. But if I were a fan sitting at home, I’d be ready to enjoy this game, two great teams, and it starts at the top.”
And come later on Sunday night, we’ll know who finishes on top as Super Bowl champions.
Prediction: Patriots 28, Eagles 24.