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Final Thoughts on Super Bowl LII

Super Bowl LII will undoubtedly go down as one of the best of all time. It saw two highly talented teams engage in an epic shootout, with the winner determined by one fantastic defensive play. It was able to capture the attention of both casual and hardcore football fans and proved that even after a down year overall for the NFL, the Super Bowl always has the potential to show off the beauty that is football.

This game was a mixed bag for the Patriots. They did a lot of fantastic things, and a lot of horrendous things all at once, and were just a few plays away from earning their sixth Lombardi trophy. Let’s break down what we saw:

– Nick Foles played an absolutely fantastic game, going 28/48 for 373 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception. He made some incredible throws, including a perfectly placed touchdown ball to Alshon Jeffrey. Foles has had one of the strangest careers of any NFL player I’ve seen: from becoming a starter and setting a record for touchdowns to interceptions, to losing his job and getting traded away, to losing another starting job and ending up back on his original team as a backup, to Super Bowl MVP. He clearly has the talent, however, it is consistency that he seems to lack. Either way, he torched the Patriots defense and quieted everyone who doubted him.

– Despite Foles’ performance, the real MVP of Super Bowl LII was the Eagles offensive line. They were perfect from start to finish in both run and pass blocking. They gave Foles all day to throw the ball, which made it easy for him to pick apart a Patriots secondary that was already struggling to cover the Eagles receivers. They did not give up a single sack, and you can count on one hand the number of times that Foles felt any semblance of pressure. They also helped the Eagles running backs and receivers rush for 164 yards against a Patriots defense that had shut down the potent rushing attacks of Tennessee and Jacksonville previously in the playoffs. That Philadelphia offensive line deserves a huge amount of credit for the outcome of that game.

– On the flip side of that was the Patriots complete inability to get to the quarterback. Trey Flowers, Deatrich Wise, and James Harrison were nonexistent forces on the edge, and Malcolm Brown and Adam Butler couldn’t manage to create any pressure up the middle. This highlighted both the fantastic play of the Eagles offensive line and the lack of pass rushing talent that New England has along its defensive line. Trey Flowers is the lone disruptive force, and the Eagles made sure to prevent him from making an impact. Malcolm Brown is great against the run, but his pass rush isn’t even significant enough to draw double teams to free up linebackers on blitzes. Wise and Butler both have talent, but they are not nearly developed enough to beat a highly talented and intelligent Eagles offensive line.

– The Patriots secondary wasn’t any better. The only player who had an impressive showing was Stephon Gilmore. The $65 million man was moved onto Alshon Jeffrey after the Eagles receiver destroyed Eric Rowe, and Gilmore was able to keep him relatively quiet for the remainder of the game. Everyone else in the Patriots secondary was a disaster. Rowe was consistently beaten by Jeffrey and Nelson Agholar. Devin McCourty had a surprisingly bad game in coverage. Duron Harmon struggled to tackle, which is out of the ordinary for him. Jordan Richards, a former second-round pick, played horrendously per the norm, getting torched by anyone who he was tasked with covering. (At one point Zach Ertz burned Richards so bad I felt it in my soul). The Patriots couldn’t make a stop on third down and that’s because this unit couldn’t cover anyone. As I mentioned earlier this week some of these issues can be placed at the feet of Bill Belichick.  He did not play Malcolm Butler, and while Philadelphia certainly still could have won the game, Butler would have been much more likely to help the Patriots make that one stop or that one play necessary to win the game. His absence also stretched beyond even his own play. Because he was out, Patrick Chung was forced to play as the nickel corner, a role that does not suit his talents. That forced Jordan Richards into the game, and as I just mention, any time Richards is in the game you know something bad is going to happen. There was a cascade of issues here that all could have been prevented had Belichick swallowed some of his pride.

– The Patriots linebackers were highlighted as easily the worst unit on the field out of both teams. While I can appreciate the effort that they put in all season, their lack of talent was shining bright like a diamond on the biggest stage of them all. It’s hard to ask backups and practice squad players to cover some of the better running backs and tight ends in the league, and in the end, Philly picked on these weaknesses all game long.

” … their lack of talent was shining bright like a diamond … ” Patrioits Linebackers

– The most amazing thing about Nick Foles’ performance is that he played a near-perfect brand of football and was still not the best quarterback on the field. Tom Brady had arguably his best overall Super Bowl performance. It didn’t have the clutch factor of some of the previous ones, but his actual play was absolutely phenomenal. Brady went 28/48 for 505 yards and three touchdowns. He moved the ball around the field with ease, with three of his receivers getting over 100 yards. However, the problem is that most people will forget the fact that he put on a historic performance that will never be repeated because of his one mistake at the end of the game, where he allowed the ball to be stripped from his hands. Brady certainly deserves some of the blame for that play, but his performance overall needs to be recognized. Had he not played as well as he did, the Patriots would have been absolutely blown out of that game because of their defenses inability to make a stop. Philadelphia had one of the best defenses in the league, and Brady made them look like amateurs.

– Like the Philadelphia offensive line, the New England offensive line deserves a lot of credit for their performance in this game. They were facing one of the best defenses in the league, particularly against the run, and were still able to help their running backs and receivers run for 113 yards. They were also fantastic pass blocking, allowing just one sack and giving Brady plenty of time to throw the ball. Unfortunately, like Brady, their overall performance will be overlooked by the Eagles brilliant defensive play that sealed the game.

Rob Gronkowski had a Super Bowl for the ages, absolutely dominating the Eagles defense after a slow start. He finished with nine catches for 116 yards and two touchdowns, all of which looked easy. He holds the record for postseason receptions, yards, and touchdowns for a tight end, and is tied for second in total postseason touchdown receptions. It is truly awe-inspiring to watch Gronk play. Someone with his size and strength shouldn’t have the speed and athleticism that he does. Someone that good at receiving the ball should not also be as good at run blocking as Gronk is. He truly is a freak of nature and we are not appreciating his play nearly enough. Danny “Playoff” Amendola also had an unbelievable performance, hauling in eight catches for 152 yards.

– Sunday was a great day for punters. New England’s Ryan Allen made a whole bunch of money to just stand on the sidelines and hold for extra points. Philadelphia’s Donnie Jones had to deal with the grueling task of punting one time throughout the course of the game. Those numbers show just how ridiculously good both teams offensive performances were, and how ridiculously bad their defensive performances were.

– There was some controversy from New England fans on two of the Eagles touchdowns. Some tried to argue that Zach Etrz touchdown should have been overturned because the ball hit the ground after he dove into the end zone. They compare it to the Jesse James play from earlier this season. That is asinine; James didn’t take any steps, while Ertz took three and dove across the goal line. The second controversy comes from Corey Clement’s touchdown catch. I go both ways on this one. Clement had two solid feet in, however he was bobbling the ball when his first foot was on the ground. Disregarding rules and technicalities for a moment, I think that is a catch. If a human being can catch an oddly shaped ball thrown 40 yards in the air while being harangued by another human being, they deserve points. However, based on the way that the NFL was making those calls around the league all year, that play probably should have been overturned, simply because Clement did not have complete possession on his first step. However, this isn’t really a huge point, because this wouldn’t have been a game-altering situation. The Eagles would have scored regardless because New England couldn’t stop them anyways.

The Eagles deserve a lot of credit for a gutsy performance. The Patriots had plenty of chances to win and they just couldn’t make the one big play to seal the deal. And that’s why they play the game.

Until next time – B$