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Eagles soar in cradle of Super Bowl


02/15/18



 So much for a sixth Super Bowl win, at least for this year. The Patriots’ 41-33 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles was a great show for football fans everywhere, though not so much for locals hoping the exclamation point would be put on local claims their team is the greatest NFL dynasty.  

After the loss of the big game for a third time in the Brady era that claim is probably gone. This time it wasn’t a spectacular one-of-a-kind catch or throw that did them in like twice against the Giants. Instead it came amid a spectacular offensive display of longs runs from scrimmage or after the catch, tremendous throws and unbelievable catches with 20 plays of over 20 yards as 74 points were scored.  
I’m not a big fan of pointing fingers after a loss, but in sports that sometimes is inevitable. So, first, let the record show that for a third time in those three losses Tom Brady again got his team a fourth-quarter lead that the defense coughed up. However, on the other side — and I can’t say it any more politely — the Patriots lost because the defense was awful. Bad tackling, no pressure on the QB and big plays all over the field. It gave up 164 rushing yards and 6.1 a carry, as Philly’s offense went for 538 total yards, converted 12 of 18 in third/fourth-down situations, scored 40 points and on their four second-half possessions went TD, FG, TD and FG. 
Not that their defense was much better. Their supposed impenetrable rush defense gave up 5.1 a carry, Brady threw for an SB record 505 yards with three TD passes and three receivers had 100-plus yards. But give them credit for earning the win by making one more big play — Brandon Graham’s final-minute strip sack, backed by gutsy, creative play calling by Doug Pederson.  
Here are a few more thoughts on the big game: 
The late, great troubadour Harry Chapin once wrote in a song, “All my life’s a circle.” And that was the case for the 2017 Patriots, who ended the year as it started, with the defense getting the crap kicked out of it by KC on opening night and Philly on the final night.  
Brady needs to work on his hands. Don’t know if he lost it in the lights, but that was a bad drop on a good pass from Danny Amendola — wide open and would’ve gotten to at least the Eagles 20. Nice call by Josh McDaniel too. 
The historical legacy took a hit locally and in NFL annals. I’d say dropping to 5-3 in championship games keeps the 17-3 Celtics in championship series as Boston’s greatest sports franchise. As for the NFL, being 4-0, 4-0 and 5-1 in NFL title games, the Bill Walsh 49ers, ’70s Steelers and ’60s Packers all were better at closing the deal.  
It was a bad day at Black Rock for Coach B. He always goes for it on fourth and one in bad-guy territory, but he went field goal in the first half from the 15 when a bad snap led to a missed FG attempt. On the next series he went for it on fourth and six from the 35, which failed. Then there was the out-of-the-blue decision to not start a healthy guy at cornerback who had started the previous 18 games. We’ll never get the real answer as to why Malcolm Butler was on the pine, so you’ll have to wonder why, while memories linger of how badly Eric Rowe got toasted in his place. Although Rowe was hardly alone in that category. 
And the decision to let LeGarrette Blount walk didn’t look too good either. He had runs of 36 and 22 while pounding for 90 yards and 6.4 a carry. 
Guess it’s fair to say almost all of New England (except me) underestimated Nick Foles. I kept telling people he once threw seven TD passes in a game. But that got pooh-poohed. Now what do you think?
Incidentally, what do Foles and Celtics rookie Jayson Tatum now have in common? After demonstrating how good they are while stepping into the breach created by major injuries, they’ll both likely come off the bench next year.  
With Philly safety Corey Graham earning a SB ring, the UNH alumni association is proud today. 
Time will tell if I’m right or not. But, while I’ll certainly give Matt Patricia a thanks for your service as leaves for Detroit, I won’t be all that sorry to see him go. He was the defensive coordinator for two Super Bowl winners, but I just can’t take the ultra-conservative ’fraidy-cat way the defense plays. Too many big plays. Too much time taken away from the offense during the long drives the bend-but-don’t-break defense gave up. Too little blitzing when the D-line couldn’t pressure QBs. All was on display Sunday when Philly gashed them for 12 plays of 20-plus yards.  
However, not having people who consistently get to the quarterback is not Patricia’s fault. It is the GM’s. So Bill, I’m begging you, please get a pass rusher or two by any means necessary. 
The biggest post-game stunner was (gulp) Rob Gronkowski saying he’ll consider his future the next few weeks. Retirement at 28 would be a shocker, but when you’re vastly underpaid and injured as much as him, you never know.   
Off-season free agents include Danny Amendola, again clutch with eight catches for 158, Deion Lewis, who looks headed for a big payday elsewhere, and Butler, who after Sunday likely won’t stay around. Take a day or two, Bill, then back to work; you have some holes to fill. 
Justin Timberlake: yuck. Commercials: not bad, but not vintage 1980s great.  
Finally, congrats to Philly. Your long 58-year national nightmare is over after earning your first NFL title since 1960. Somewhere Benjamin Franklin and Concrete Charlie are smiling. Well done.
Email Dave Long at dlong@hippopress.com. 





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