A Team of Destiny: Ten Takeaways from Eagles 41, Patriots 33

Photo Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

What a ride, man.

The disrespect, the doubt, the misfortune – wasn’t it there from the start? There was always something hanging over this team, some nagging apprehension in the back of the mind that made you wonder if they really could get it done.

It honestly started in Week 1, when Ronald Darby dislocated his ankle. There goes the #1 cornerback Howie Roseman had just traded for.

In Week 2, a tough loss at Kansas City. We spent the next seven days arguing about Doug Pederson’s run/pass play-calling split.

Week 3, then, they’re cruising against the Giants before Eli Manning wakes up. Jake Elliott hits a 61-yard field goal to salvage the game and keep the Eagles from falling to 1-2. How important was that?

Was Doug good enough or was he Andy Reid junior? Was the secondary capable? Would Jim Schwartz interview for head coaching jobs?

The questions just wouldn’t go away.

And the injuries… Jesus Christ, the injuries.

Darren Spoles, done for the year.

Jason Peters, done for the year.

Jordan Hicks, Joe Walker, Chris Maragos, Carson Wentz… done, done, done, and done. No way they recover from all of that, right?

The left guard rotation.. remember that one? Chance Warmack and Stefen Wisniewski. The Carolina game and the lopsided penalty flags. Big V needing help at left tackle. A second round draft pick who didn’t even play until Week 17.

Oh yeah, “They haven’t beaten anybody yet!”

That’s what the national media said before the Seattle game, and the Birds lost. But they stayed out west and bounced back with a clutch victory in Los Angeles, beating COACH OF THE YEAR Sean McVay on his home turf. No way they were better than the Vikings or Saints though, right?

They were a disrespected #1 seed, underdogs in three straight postseason games, two in their own house. They felt that all the way, from September through the first week of February, and it all ended with Nick Foles beating Tom Brady in the Super Bowl.

For real.

The Eagles won it all with Doug Pederson coaching a backup.

This truly was a team of destiny. Philadelphia has removed, from around its neck, the biggest albatross on the face of Mother Earth. No more Dallas Cowboy fans chiding your loser fandom. No more soul crushing losses. No more choking on the biggest stage. Memories of Rodney Harrison and Joe Jurevicius forever banished to the Pit of Misery. From here to eternity, you’ll be able to tell people where you were when the Eagles lifted the Lombardi Trophy.

They got into a shootout with Tom Brady and won. And they left themselves little room for error, overcoming a missed extra point, a missed two-point conversion, a red zone false start, and an incredibly unlucky interception. When the Pats took a fourth quarter lead, did you think that might be it? Honestly, did you? I wasn’t sure the defense would get it done, but they did.

It was an incredible game. Think about it as a neutral, if possible. Both teams came flying out of the gates and put on a show. No lulls, no boring blow out, none of that. We had guys throwing down power bombs and dropping big hits and executing on trick plays. It was a Super Bowl that shattered a ton of records.

This is what I want:

At the parade, I want the Eagles to introduce every single player and every single coach individually. Start with the rookies and second stringers. Talk about something that each one of them contributed this season, because it truly was a team effort, every single person involved from the trainers to the practice squad to the sports science guys to Joe Douglas and Howie fucking Roseman. Build it up. Hit the crescendo by rolling this guy up to the podium:

 

1) Big dick Nick

28 for 43, 373 yards, 3 touchdowns, and an interception that really wasn’t his fault.

Oh and he caught a touchdown pass, too. Nick Foles caught a touchdown pass from Trey Burton in the Super Bowl. Doug Pederson asked a backup tight end to throw a pass to a backup quarterback on fourth and goal.

Nick was phenomenal, leading the Birds down the field on a 13-play drive to start the game. They settled for a field goal after Zach Ertz committed a red zone penalty, but my immediate takeaway was that Foles had come out and established a rhythm and looked incredibly comfortable in the pocket.

He made some tough throws into tough windows and generally put the ball where his receivers could make a play. He dropped deep dimes for Corey Clement and Alshon Jeffery and was excellent under pressure:

There was some motion as well, where Foles did well to hit targets when moved out of the pocket and forced to use his feet. The Eagles finished 10-16 on third down and 2-2 on fourth down with a 34:04 to 25:56 time of possession advantage, some of which, honestly, was because the Patriots were scoring at will in the second half.

Either way, the play of the Super Bowl MVP kept the Birds above water when it looked like they might sink in the fourth quarter under a constant barrage from Tom Brady and company.

This is a guy who was considering retirement less than a year ago. It’s one hell of a story.

 

2) RPO, play-action, and balance

No, not every play-action pass is an RPO, and Cris Collinsworth and Al Michaels misidentified some plays as the latter last night, which isn’t surprising.

For example, this play isn’t RPO because the linemen are pass blocking all the way:

But the Birds did what they typically do, mixing and matching all the way down the field with a lot of balance.

Just looking back at my notes, they unloaded the playbook with basically everything they’ve used all season long:

It’s all in there.

RPO, play action, runs from under center and shotgun, pitches, a fake toss, a wheel route, some flat/bubble stuff on the flanks. I don’t remember exactly what “Clement fancy fuck” means but I’m sure there was a good reason for writing that down.

 

3) A whole lot of bending

Bend but don’t break, right?

It was one big bend from the Birds defense, but they made some key plays to get the job done.

First was the Rodney McLeod third down tackle on Brandin Cooks– the power bomb:

That forced the Patriots into a field goal try, which they clanked off the post after a bad snap and/or hold.

Second was the 4th down stop, the pass for Gronk down the right sideline that went incomplete.

And finally, of course, the late-game strip sack from Brandon Graham.

In a high-level offensive game, the Eagles defense didn’t make a ton of plays, but made a few more than the Patriots defense, and that was the difference in this one. New England shot themselves in the foot with the missed field goal and failed 4th down conversion, which allowed the Birds to open up the double-digit lead in the first half. I feel like the Patriots win this game if they had gotten points out of those two aforementioned drives, instead of having to play from behind in the second half.

Sheil nails it here:

 

4) Defensive matchups

One of the things we mentioned last week in our preview series was New England’s ability to dictate matchups and identify mismatches all across the field. The Eagles had a lot of trouble with the no-huddle, up-tempo execution and looked gassed midway through the second half.

They actually had Malcolm Jenkins on James White, and he did a great job on the dangerous RB/WR hybrid, limiting him to 2 catches for 21 yards.

But with Jenkins on White, that left Corey Graham, Ronald Darby, and others to deal with Rob Gronkowski, Danny Amendola, and Chris Hogan. Think about how the Pats were slicing up the Birds even after Brandin Cooks had to leave the game with a head injury. That was a low-key HUGE development.

So New England adjusted in the second half, targeting Gronk five times on the opening touchdown drive. He finished with five first-half targets and 10 second-half targets, putting up 116 yards and two touchdowns.

The Eagles just had trouble getting to Tom Brady with a four-man rush. Fletcher Cox was double-teamed most of the night and Nate Solder did a really nice job of protecting the blindside at left tackle. When they did try to blitz, they just couldn’t get there, and Brady would easily identify where to go with the ball (think of the 3rd and 3 play in the 4th quarter after Darby made a nice open field tackle on second down).

New England put up 500 yards and didn’t punt. That’s incredible. We’ll dive into that when the all-22 film comes out.

 

5) Illegal formation?

Doug Pederson’s ridiculous call right before halftime was the play of the game for me.

When I went back and looked at it again, I thought it actually might not be a legal lineup, so I combed through Twitter and found this:

Yeah, I mean, he’s not wrong. That’s Alshon Jeffery up top, who needs to be on the line of scrimmage. Did the officials think he was? Or did they just blow the call? Maybe the pre-snap movement was a distraction.

Jeffery says he checked with the ref on the far side and got the okay.

An excerpt from an excellent article by Peter King over at Sports Illustrated:

Except Jeffery claimed he got the okay from the official on the right sideline. The way formation rules work, players can look over at a side judge or other official nearby to see if he’s in the permissible spot.

“I’m on the ball,” Jeffery said. “I pointed. What are you talking about? Man, you know I checked with the ref!”

For what it’s worth, Pro Football Talk cites an anonymous source saying the play was a “judgment call”:

The question is whether the wide receiver was on the line of scrimmage, in which case the formation was legal, or behind the line of scrimmage, in which case the Eagles only had six players on the line and were in an illegal formation.

The official thought the wide receiver was lined up close enough on the line to be covering the right tackle, and as a result the league doesn’t believe the Eagles got the benefit of a bad call.

The Eagles may or may not have got away with one there, but whatever. Hang on while I shed a tear for the New England Patriots, who have never had anything go their way in a Super Bowl.

 

6) Broken records

This was one for the ages.

The Birds and Pats combined for 1,151 yards of offense, which isn’t just a Super Bowl or postseason record. That’s the most yards put up in ANY NFL game EVER. We’re talking Baylor vs. Texas Tech here, and not Matt Rhule’s Baylor, the scandalous Baylor from a few years back.

Some people rolled their eyes at the defenses last night, but I honestly think it was more about tremendous offensive execution and less about poor defenses. The Birds are a phenomenal unit and just looked outclassed last night.

A chunk of the records that were broken last night were Tom Brady eclipsing or extending his own Super Bowl marks, but some of the non-Brady records include:

  • Most points scored by a losing team – 33 (New England)
  • Most passing first downs in a Super Bowl – 42
  • Most yards in the game – 613 (New England)
  • Most combined yards – 1,151
  • Most passing yards in the Super Bowl –  500, (New England)
  • Most passing yards, both teams combined – 874
  • Fewest single team punts in a Super Bowl – 0 (New England)
  • Fewest overall punts, both teams – 1
  • Most missed PAT conversions in a Super Bowl – 4 (both teams)

Just incredible stuff when you think about it.

 

7) What is a catch?

Ugh, you knew this shit was gonna rear its ugly head.

Two instances in this game, first the Corey Clement touchdown:

He gets both feet down, but sort of readjusts his hands mid stride. When the “third foot” touches, he’s out of bounds. But I don’t even necessarily see this as a bobble or a lack of control. To me, he has control from the start, and re-positions his left hand to secure the ball. It feels like a fluid motion to me, and not necessarily one where he’s trying to gain control of the ball while bobbling it.

Make sense? I could see them easily overturning that, but I really do think it was the right call.

And the game-winning touchdown:

Cris Collinsworth really did not want that to be a catch.

But it is, because the officials correctly ruled that Ertz had established possession and therefore became a runner, meaning that the touchdown is confirmed as soon as the ball crosses the plane.

That’s the difference to me vs. the Dez Bryant play from a while back and the Jesse James catch earlier this season. Dez didn’t cross the goal line with the ball and James didn’t confirm possession and take multiple steps like Ertz did.

Either way, thank the Lord we’ve reached a point where the NFL can now address this problem and redefine the rule in the offseason.

 

8) Doug’s worst call?

I do this entry for every writeup.

His worst decision I think was going for the two-point conversion and then throwing a back shoulder fade to Alshon Jeffery. They didn’t need to go for two there, and then I didn’t like the call on top of it, even with a bit of misdirection in throwing four receivers out in a wide right look.

Also, the third down call to begin the fourth quarter, the little swing/reverse to Nelson Agholor for an eight yard loss, he would probably want that one back. Not a bad play design, but New England did a good job reading it.

On the final drive, he could have thrown it on third down and tried to kill the game right there, but opted for the field goal to take an eight-point lead instead. I could have gone either way on that decision, but it ended up working out just fine.

 

9) Doug’s best call?

The Nick Foles touchdown reception will go down in NFL history as one of the most gutsy decisions of all-time, illegal formation or not. The irony, really, is that it’s not like the illegal formation provided any sort of advantage or whatever. The position of the top receiver made no difference in the play. It’s not like the Eagles got away with putting 12 men on the field or whatever, know what I’m sayin?

Obviously the second-best call was the decision to go on fourth down with 6:00 left in the fourth quarter. You just couldn’t give the ball back to the Pats at that point, and Doug made the correct choice to keep it rolling.

It’s incredible to see how far he’s come as a play-caller and decision maker in less than a year.

 

10) Everything else

Admittedly, I wasn’t paying too much attention to the commercials, which I think got better as the broadcast went along. There was one really goofy one with Martin Luther King, Jr. that had to do with selling trucks, which I don’t think Dr. King would have approved of, but what do I know?

And what about the failed commercial break? 15 seconds of dead air on Super Bowl Sunday?

Woof man.

Someone’s ass is fired!

No, for real though, I thought the cable went out. What the hell was that?

Also, I found it hilarious how everyone kept retweeting this Justin Timberlake selfie picture and turned the kid on the left into a meme, but didn’t realize that Freddie Mitchell was standing over to JT’s other side:

As far as the broadcast, Al Michaels was okay. I think he’s tired. He’s been tired all season. Guy’s had a wonderful career and it might be time to call it quits and enjoy retirement. Cris Collinsworth, I don’t have anything against him, but his commentary on the catch/no catch stuff was unbearable.

Anyway, let’s check in with Ernest Owens to see how he’s celebrating:

Go Birds.

Super Bowl Champions.

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13 Comments

  • . February 5, 2018 at 11:29 am

    awesome

    Reply
  • Me 52 February 5, 2018 at 11:30 am

    Not to sound sexist here, but in my office I’m getting this overwhelming vibe of ‘what’s the big deal’ from the female population…how can they not get it?

    Reply
  • Aaron February 5, 2018 at 12:09 pm

    FLY EAGLES FLY!!!!!!!!!!!! LETS MAKE THIS PARADE THE BIGGEST AN D MOST FUN TIME!!!!

    Reply
  • DSDM February 5, 2018 at 12:14 pm

    Kevin – on the Philly special the guy who took the snap and had to pitch the ball to the back up TE was an undrafted rookie! An unreal call. As for Collingsworth he was literally rooting for the Clement TD to be overturned. Dean Blandino on Twitter said it was a catch and it clearly was. Michaels is tired and Collingsworth just sucks. Time for a new crew there.

    Reply
    • Kevin Kinkead February 5, 2018 at 12:18 pm

      I know right? I didn’t even mention Clement’s role in the play. They trusted him in so many big spots this year.

      Reply
      • DSDM February 5, 2018 at 12:25 pm

        Just love the way he runs. Angry. Had no idea he was such a good receiver. Scratch that. Great receiver.

        Reply
  • DSDM February 5, 2018 at 12:27 pm

    Also, I think the Offensive Line deserves more credit. Foles was pretty much untouched and the birds ran the ball well also. All across the line. Right to left, a strong game.

    Reply
  • Hector from the Northeast February 5, 2018 at 1:23 pm

    Watch em. Watch Em. Get Em.

    Reply
  • Truth in Broadcasting February 5, 2018 at 1:33 pm

    Al F. Michaels is horrible. His dentures are so loose, all his S’s sound like SH’s…sounds like Sean Connery. “Shecond down and Shixsh.” He makes a TON of mistakes. He said the Patriots went ahead BEFORE they went ahead. He constantly calls the wrong distances to go for first down. He calls quarters “periods”. He doesn’t listen to what his broadcast partner has to say. He does not do his homework anymore, saying Doug Peterson “was close, I’m sure, in Coach of the Year voting” (no he wasn’t, but should have been). I maintain that Al F. Michaels never would have made the big time if Team USA hockey did not pull off the Miracle on Ice. Overrated, overblown, and SHOULD retire. Collinsworth is just a blabbermouth who wanted to see Brady win another one.

    Reply
  • Jay! February 5, 2018 at 3:39 pm

    Question on the Ertz TD:

    So, if he doesn’t take the two steps and establishes himself as a runner is it not a TD? He controlled the catch, the ball is jarred loose when he goes to ground, but he regains possession in the end zone without going out of bounds.

    Or does the end zone act like a sideline when you are a receiver? If it’s this, I could see how it’s not a catch.

    Thx,

    Jay!

    Reply
    • Kevin Kinkead February 5, 2018 at 4:38 pm

      Right, so basically that was the ruling on the Jesse James play earlier this season.

      The difference last night was that the refs determined that Ertz had possession and “became a runner” by the time of the third step, which got him across the plane. The James TD he caught the ball and sort of lunged across the line, then lost the handle.

      Reply
  • Mel February 5, 2018 at 4:56 pm

    Superb recap as usual. Colinsworthless. Nice quote from that chump at the end. Should remove the Mr.

    Reply
  • BDN February 7, 2018 at 9:51 am

    Great article. A couple of things. Doug probably should have tried a pass play on 2nd down with 2:03 to play, clock stops anyway for 2 min warning. Collingsworth is always on the Wr’s side since he was one but not for the Eagles he said both should be incomplete, wow. Al Michaels totally blew the final call. He was talking about Gronk then said oh the Eagles won the Super Bowl, horrible call. He didn’t seem interested in one of the best Super Bowls ever

    Reply
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