The New England Patriots have to go out and execute their game plan on Sunday to defeat the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII and their game plan should work. The Eagles have some glaring weaknesses and BleedingGreenNation.com‘s Brandon Lee Gowton shared why the Patriots are built to take advantage of those flaws.
The Eagles’ biggest concern on offense is obvious. Philadelphia has a backup quarterback starting in the most important game in franchise history. Now, everybody knows Nick Foles isn’t your typical backup. He’s played some pretty good games before. His performance in the NFC Championship Game, against a top-ranked Vikings defense, was mind-blowing.
But Foles isn’t consistent. He’s really just the opposite: a high variance player. For as many good games as he’s had, he’s also stunk up the joint quite a bit. Look no further than this outings against the Raiders and the Cowboys to end the season. Or even some of his first half tape from the Eagles-Falcons game in the Divisional Round.
Good Foles emerges when the quarterback gets in a rhythm and looks unflappable. Bad Foles shows up when his confidence is shot and his mechanics go to sh… crap. Bad Foles has a penchant for dropping back into oblivion (instead of stepping up) or rolling out of the pocket too early altogether. Bad Foles also leaves a lot of easy throws on the field. He’ll have a wide receiver or tight end running wide open but he won’t be able to see the field well enough to realize he’s there.
Foles is playing with much more confidence heading into the Super Bowl, so that’s a good sign for the Eagles. But it’s hard to fully trust Bad Foles won’t show up until we see it first.
The key to beating the Eagles is definitely limiting quarterback Nick Foles. He’s definitely a limited player when it comes to handling pressure and when the play breaks down, but Doug Pederson and the Eagles have constructed a system that allows him to flourish.
If the Patriots can take away his quick passes with press coverage and force Foles to hold on to the football, maybe the Patriots pass rush that destroyed the very good Tennessee Titans offensive line can show up and destroy the even better Eagles offensive line.
I also think that if the Patriots are able to build a two-score lead, that Foles won’t be able to put the team on his back and win and will start making mistakes.
We all know Tom Brady and Josh McDaniels have been studying the Giants’ offensive performances against the Eagles’ defense in 2017. It’s been well-documented that New York was able to neutralize Philly’s top-ranked pass rush and shred the Eagles’ secondary by utilizing a no-huddle, quick-passing game. The Eagles just couldn’t defend a slant pass to save their lives in those games. Then the Eagles’ corners overcompensated by being too aggressive on the underneath routes, which made them susceptible to getting beat deep on double moves.
Brady’s ability to get the ball out quick is a concern for Jim Schwartz’s unit. It’s not hard to imagine him being able to have a lot of success with short passes to the Patriots’ running backs. If the Patriots can slow down the Eagles’ pass rush, New England will have some opportunities to take some shots down the field to Brandin Cooks. Or work the middle of the field with Rob Gronkowski.
As Pats Pulpit has pointed out, Schwartz doesn’t have a great history going up against his mentor, Bill Belichick. I’d argue that this Eagles defense is probably the most talented unit he’s had relative to those other games, but the history is still a concern. The Patriots have experience attacking his scheme. I’d imagine New England will try to utilize tempo to attack this Philly defense.
I think the Patriots have four skill players that are perfect counters to the Eagles defense.
Dion Lewis will be a menace as a receiver in the flat out of the backfield and the Eagles should have trouble covering him. Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola are beasts up the middle where the Eagles are mediocre on defense. Brandin Cooks dominates slower defensive backs and if Josh McDaniels can isolate him against Jalen Mills (4.61s 40 yard dash) by sacrificing Chris Hogan on Ronald Darby, then I expect Cooks to produce, too.
This is easier said than done, but the Patriots match up well.
I think the talk of “Super Bowl experience” can be overrated to some extent, but it’s not totally insignificant that Brady and Belichick have been here before. They know what to expect. They’re used to the halftime break and the other delays that don’t occur during a normal football game. The pressure of the moment certainly isn’t too big for them.
Another thing worth considering is how the Eagles will fare on a neutral field. Or if that field will even truly be neutral. It’s unclear what to expect from the game. I’d imagine that there will be a good showing from Eagles fans. The Philly faithful travel well and this is obviously a huge moment that they won’t want to miss.
On the other hand, I wonder if there could be a decent number of Vikings fans at the game since, after all, we’re in Minnesota. We saw on media night how they booed whenever the Eagles were on the stage. It’d be unideal for the Eagles if Patriots fans and Vikings fans were able to team up and make this have a road game feel.
My honest opinion is that I feel like the Eagles are going to win this game. But that doesn’t mean I think it’ll be easy.
Bill Belichick says that prior experience doesn’t matter in the playoffs- It’s how you play on game day. That holds true and the Eagles punched above their weight class in their first two playoff games. That’s not to say that they didn’t deserve to win, but if the Eagles played the Vikings 100 times, how many games would the Eagles win by 31 points?
Nick Foles isn’t 2012 Joe Flacco. The machine grinds onwards. The Patriots will prevail.