By Seth Rivello
Take a look back to 2005 when the New England Patriots faced the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl. New England was a seven-point favorite. In 2018, Philadelphia is again an underdog, something the team isn’t afraid to embrace.
For both teams, a lot has changed. Philly no longer has Donovan McNabb under center or Brian Dawkins roaming the field at safety. The Patriots no longer have Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch at receiver or Tedy Bruschi handling the defense at linebacker. They do have one guy left from 13 years ago: Tom Brady.
This will be 40-year-old Tom Brady’s eighth Super Bowl appearance, second against the Eagles. It wasn’t that bumpy of a road to get to Minnesota either. As usual, he only had to play in two playoff games, the divisional round and the AFC championship game. In the divisional round, the Patriots went up against the lowest seeded Tennessee Titans. The Patriots got a 35-14 blowout win as Brady completed 35-of-53 passes, 11 caught by Danny Amendola, and three touchdowns.
In the AFC championship game, the Patriots struggled as a whole against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jags’ defensive line applied pressure to Brady early and often to make him squeamish in the pocket. The Jags dominated until the fourth quarter where Brady strives. Again with no help from the run, Brady was forced to throw. Amendola was again his main target who caught two touchdowns. A 24-20 win over Jacksonville pushed New England into another Super Bowl.
In the NFC divisional round, Philadelphia sloppily took down the 2017 Super Bowl runner-up, Atlanta Falcons. Applying pressure and hitting reigning MVP Matt Ryan 11 times with three sacks, slowed its explosive offense to nothing. In the NFC championship, Nick Foles picked apart the number one defense in the NFL, the Minnesota Vikings. A 38-7 blowout, Foles finished with 352 yards passing and three touchdowns and he’s supposed to be a backup. Philly plays strong defense and doesn’t let the opposing defense touch their quarterback.
Philly has a very appealing offense with Jay Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount handling the backfield. Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, and speedy Nelson Agholor lined up at receiver and a compliment with Zach Ertz at tight end. This is Nick Foles’ first Super Bowl and I’m sure his mind will be racing. If he controls himself, handles the clock and limits turnovers, he can be a champion.
The defense is also stacked. With the Patriots non-existent run game, all the focus goes onto Tom Brady. Arguably the best interior lineman, Fletcher Cox, should be able to rip through this offensive line followed by Brandon Graham, Chris Long, and rookie Derek Barnett. Jalen Mills will be able to match Brandin Cooks on the outside which leaves a couple options for Brady: Chris Hogan, slightly concussed Rob Gronkowski and Amendola. Amendola always gets targets in the biggest games and seems uncontainable.
Give Foles a clean pocket and play keep-away. Make Brady and the offense work to get the ball down field, never lay off and keep your foot on the gas. One thing Bill Belichick loves to see is when teams form a lead and sit on the ball then the patriots always climb back in and build momentum.
In the fourth quarter, keep the ball out of Brady’s hands. Use Ajayi and Blount to gash for first downs and use the run to open up the offense for a Foles deep ball. No way this is a blowout but if Philly plays right, this could be a 14-point win.