Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, back in another Super Bowl. Ho Hum. Where oh where have we seen this movie before?
Oh, that’s right, last season, and eight different times to be exact.
It would be easy to throw our hands up and say, “who cares?!” But that’s too easy for us here at The Spread Offensive. Sure. You can tune out. You can switch over to the Puppy Bowl on the Animal Planet…a surefire instant classic this year I hear….or you can put your big girl and boy pants on and find a why. Why this Super Bowl matters.
We’ll begin with the obvious. David versus Goliath. Who doesn’t love an underdog? It doesn’t get much more underdog-ish than a Super Bowl-less Eagles team taking on the five time Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots. Also, the margin of victory in all Super Bowls not involving the Patriots = double digits. With the Patriots? The margin of victory in Super Bowls featuring the evil empire = less than four points. That’s right, the numbers say there’s a good chance this game is decided by the margin of a field goal.
“But but but…Nick Foles is a back up and Tom Brady…”…Was a backup too, we know. Oh, what’s that? Did the casual observer who only knows Brady from his strange Fifty Shades-ish mattress commercials, his ugly Ugg boot adverts, or his horrendous “Tom vs. Time” Facebook documentary know this? Probably not, but they should. They should also know that in his first Super Bowl, you know, the one where the Pats were such underdogs they were introduced out of the tunnel “as a team”, coming out locked in arms, that Tom Brady threw for only 145 yards and one touchdown besting the heavily favored Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk led Rams.
That’s right. Brady was the random other guy out of Michigan that replaced Drew Bledsoe and somehow started winning with the Patriots. Years later it’s easy to see how Brady rode the early dynasty of the Patriots defense thanks to the D that Belichick built, but many who only know the TB12 method, Gisele loving, Trump friending Brady of today aren’t as aware of his less illustrious days as a more attractive game managing Alex Smith.
That’s right. We said it. If we are going based on past and pedigree, the Eagles have more than enough reason to hold hope in Foles. Foles at least is known for his height and big arm. Brady came out of Michigan as a part time starter and part time backup that was out of shape, slower than Christmas, and not even worthy of a pick in the top 150. If that guy can do it, why not a guy who was pick #88 and just coming out of college after Brady had already won three Super Bowls…oh…wait…
Yes, it’s true Brady had already shined three rings and polished three Lombardi trophies before Foles ever threw a pass in the NFL, but this is the NFL’s year of Stranger Things in 2017.
And with that, let’s get into it!
Sunday, February 4th
Super Bowl LII
Philadelphia Eagles @ New England Patriots
Okay, for starters, there is no home team. The Patriots are the AFC team in the NFC stadium (thanks Minnesota – U.S. Bank is going to look real nice raining down white and green or red, white, and blue), and thus they are the “home” team. As home team however the Pats have elected to wear their white away jerseys. The Pats are 5 and 0 wearing their white away jerseys, but haven’t won in their home blues. Superstition is a funny thing.
With the recent leak that Tom Brady is the MVP, the Pats odds actually take a hit given the track record of recent MVPs in the big game. From Ryan to Newton, to Manning and yes even Brady himself, no league MVP has won the Super Bowl since 2000. That’s right. Tom “Terrific” won the MVP in 2007 and 2010 and lost both of his following Super Bowl appearances. Things are looking up already eh Philly fans?!
The bad news. 54. That’s the number of come from behind victories Brady has led. All five of Brady’s Super Bowl wins have been because of deciding points scored with two and half minutes left in the fourth quarter. If history or the numbers tell us anything it’s that we could be in for a nail biter. Then again, “Stanger Things” are upon us in this 2017-2018 NFL season.
You’re going to here these three words – Run Pass Option – a lot. RPO. The Eagles have taken what the Chiefs do and perfected it. The RPO delivers simple reads for the QB. It shortens the field and keeps the defense honest. The RPO forces the defense to react and requires more discipline. Based on what the QB sees on defense, he can call the run or a quick pass to take advantage of the lineup. But you have to have speed to execute it, and the Eagles have it in spades.
This game will answer a couple of questions.
- Does coaching matter more or does scheme matter more?
- Does athleticism matter more or taking advantage of mismatches matter more?
The Eagles have better athletes. The Patriots are infamous for taking advantage of mismatches ala Danny Amendola who benefits from the mismatch the scheme creates on the field. And Brady is practiced and experienced at taking advantage of mismatches. Spotting them is second nature. So the athleticism of the Eagles defense will be pitted against a veteran highly skilled at identifying and taking advantage of mismatches.
The Eagles, for their part, have taken what Andy Reid was doing and part of what Chip Kelly left behind and developed a new philosophy that says – Let’s get so good at all the things we do so well and then getter better at them. Double Down. So they did. They were executing the RPO so well that they brought in Jay Ajayi. “But, but, but they already had LeGarrette Blount who leads the NFL in yards after first contact…” Philly said, “Great, let’s get even more dominant.” The Eagles defense is deep and so they made it deeper. They platoon 4 starting defensive linemen and their second four is just as talented. Keeping the defensive front fresh could wreak havoc on Tom “Terrific”.
Expect the Pats to mitigate the aggressiveness and athleticism of the Eagles front seven with a ton of no-huddle. Brady and co. will do everything they can to keep the same Eagles linemen in the game as much as possible in an effort to wear them down. The Patriots depend on running the ball late in the game, but the Eagles depth on their D-Line will make this difficult for the Pats. The X-Factor in this game matchup-wise is Gronkowski. Philadelphia has likely the best matchup of any team this season, if that’s possible when you consider the task of covering the Gronk-monster, with Malcom Jenkins at safety. Jenkins has the size and hard hitting ability of a safety and linebacker, but originally entered the league as a cornerback, meaning he knows how to cover and Gronk won’t be able to simply run away from him. This is the matchup to watch Sunday.
The Eagles have to get to Brady to ensure he does NOT have the time to find the mismatches at the receiver position and across the middle of the field. Not to beat a dead horse, but it bears repeating…if you give TB12 time he will pick you apart and eat you alive. The good news is that the Eagles have the personnel to harass #12 all game. It’s not just being able to rush four, it’s moving Brady off of his spot and away from where the mismatch is being created. Fletcher Cox and Philly’s D-Line has to know where the mismatch will be AND communicate in real time on the field to execute the plan to move Brady off his spot. Now you’ve created a problem for Brady where he has to rely on his athleticism and that is NOT his strength. He’s got a good arm and is football smart. That’s not easy to beat, but he is beatable.
Which Nick Foles will show up this week. The RPO will be at his disposal. The entire thing may well depend on his ability to identify and beat the multiple looks the Patriots D will throw at him. He will also need to make some big throws downfield. Alex Smith did it Week 1. But Blake Bortles couldn’t do it. Matt Ryan couldn’t it. Eli Manning did it in two Super Bowls. Nick Foles and his squad can do it. The question is, when the time comes, will he have the nerves of steel necessary to make the big throw.
Belichick will make adjustments in the second half and so the Eagles need to run up the score in the first half. And if Philly is to have any chance, the Eagles will need to be prepared to STOP the Patriots in the 2nd half and find a way to shift to a different mismatch – one that Belichick has not observed. Belichick is a risk averse guy. He will scheme to put the pressure on one or two players and wait for them to the make the mistake. More often than not, add enough pressure to a guy and he cracks. Belichick, Saban, Parcells, Lombardi and all of the greats know this well.
However, Nick Foles may be the scariest guy the Patriots have ever faced. He’s got nothing to lose. He knows he’s not going to be the quarterback next year in Philly. Heck, he may not be a starting quarterback anywhere. No one expects him to win this game and there’s no real consequences for losing it. He’s 29 years old and may never play another snap in the NFL. That makes him, quite possibly, the most dangerous player on the field. No fear. Nothing to lose.
The Eagles are betting that their philosophy & strategy will be the one to beat the Patriots. Double down. Don’t focus on your weaknesses, overwhelm your opponent with your strengths. Stay with the RPO the entire game. Bet on what you do exceptionally well and don’t let your opponent move you off your strength. The Patriots will have to wait and be patient to see what the Eagles are able to accomplish utilizing the RPO and their overwhelming athleticism. If they falter or slip up, Brady and Belichick will be there to take full advantage of a missed opportunity or squandered chance. Head Coach Doug Pederson deserved more than one coach of the year vote, but he’ll have the last laugh if he out coaches the “Evil Genius” Bill Belichick – well, genius except for that one move mid-season 2017 eh Bill?!
This is the best opportunity in quite some time for a team to knock off the Patriots. The Patriots, a dynasty that has never scored in the First Quarter of any Super Bowl they’ve ever played in. What?! Yeah. Picking the Pats is the easy way out and that’s just not how we do things around here. We’re taking David to slay Goliath in what becomes another instant Super Bowl classic.
Brady and co. do what they do and keep it close. Amendola, Cooks, and Gronkowski burn Jalen Mills and the Eagles corners all game. Jeffrey, Agholor, and Smith do the same to the Pats secondary. Draw. The Patriots front seven generates little to no pressure on Foles, affording him plenty of time to read the defense and act according to the matchup. Ajayi, Clement and Blount run all over the undersized and slow front four of New England. Dion Lewis gobbles up yards after first contact, second most in fact, but he’ll pale in comparison to what the Eagles backfield does this Sunday. Eagles get up early and never look back, forcing the Pats into unfamiliar territory. Fly Eagles Fly!
We’re taking the Philadelphia Eagles to win the first Super Bowl in franchise history and come out victorious over the dynastic New England Patriots bringing to an end what may be one of the greatest runs in football history. Eagles!
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