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Myths, realities for Pats-Eagles match-up


02/08/18



 The Patriots’ latest Super Bowl appearance comes your way Sunday at 6:30 p.m. when they face the Philadelphia Eagles while attempting to win a third SB over a four-year span for a second time in the Brady-Belichick era. That provides one last chance to offer my two cents on various points of view, stats, and historical factoids that probably only I am interested and you’re stuck reading, about the teams, participating cities and their fans. 

Reason to Like Philly: (1) Uh, uh, uh — oh yeah, good uniforms, with cool helmets. (2) That’s all I can think of. 
Reasons to Hate Philly: How much space do I have? OK, I’ll be brief. (1) Philly sports fans of all stripes are beyond obnoxious. (2) Rex Ryan’s even more obnoxious father Buddy Ryan was once their head coach. (3) See No. 4 in the next entry. (4) They fired Chip Kelly. 
Franchise History vs. Franchise History: (1) Face of the franchise: Tom Brady vs. Steve Van Buren or Chuck Bednarik. (2) Last NFL title: NE, 11 months 27 days ago, vs. Philly, 57 years ago in 1960. (3) Most important moment: Bill Belichick named HC of NEP in 2000 vs. uh, uh, uh, dissolving their WWII-induced merger with the Pittsburgh Steelers when they were called (I kid you not) the Pitt-Philly Steagles after 1943. (4) Most typical fan attitude moment: Fans pack Gillette for meaningless season final despite massive snowstorm late in the Bruschi era and playfully pelt each other with snowballs vs. Santa Claus getting booed and pelted with snowballs at the Vet when Eagles play on Christmas Day in 1968. 
Best Franchise Nickname for Player/Coach: NE’s Gronk vs. Philly’s Greasy Neale, though that would’ve fit one of those shady Louisiana governors better than an NFL head coach. 
SB Myth vs. Reality — It’s Critical to Score First: (1) The Patriots have never scored in the first quarter in any of their five SB wins in the Brady-Belichick era. (2) They scored first on a field goal by ex-Eagles kicker Tony Franklin in SB 20 before da Bears ran off the next 44 straight in an annihilation the scope of which the 46-10 final doesn’t begin to tell. (3) While the Packers scored first in 1996 Drew Bledsoe and company led 14-10 after a dynamic first quarter. 
The Eagles’ Soft Schedule: (1) They played only three teams with winning records. (2) You can only beat who you play, though playing against bad teams make the team stats scarier than they actually are. (3) They played against just two good offenses vs. the one-and-done Rams when Jeff Goff put 35 points on the board in a 42-35 Eagles win and Atlanta who scored just 10 points in their playoff matchup. (4) The Falcons got just seven against the Patriots defense. 
Stat That Makes You Think: (1) The stout Eagles defense was the only team in the NFL to hold their opponents under 1,000 yards on the ground. (2) Belichick and Brady are 15-0 in the playoffs when, like on Sunday, facing teams they did not face during the regular season (from Ben Volin of the Boston Globe).  
Patriots History That Makes Philly Think: (1) In their last two Super Bowl-winning seasons and this year after trailing the Ravens, Seahawks and Jaguars by 10 points each time entering the final period they scored 14 points in the fourth quarter to win. (2) They were down 28-3 to Atlanta in last year’s SB before rallying to score 25 straight in the finals 16 minutes of regulation and six more to win in OT. (3) In SB 36 John Madden said they should sit on the ball with under 2 minutes left and the ball inside their 10 and play for overtime. They didn’t do it and the dynasty got started when Adam V. won it a short time later. 
Trending: After a horrendous start, the Patriots defense has given up just 14 a game since Week 5. 
Biggest Philadelphia Advantage: They are great against the run in allowing just 986 yards all year, while the Patriots gave up over 1,500 rushing yards. 
Key Patriots Players Besides Tom Brady: (1) Trey Flowers — their best pass rusher needs a big game. (2) Brandin Cooks — up and down all year, but with six catches for 100 yards and huge interference calls for a combined 75 yards on two TD drives he was big last week. With Gronk likely double-teamed he needs to again be productive down field to keep the safeties from crowding the line of scrimmage. (3) Ryan Allen — this will be a game of field position, so hopefully he matches the fantastic game he had last week by pinning Philly deep in their end to force long drives to get a TD and/or create shorter ones for the Pats. 
Patriots Game Keys: (1) Pass protection — the Eagles can be passed on, which, since they’re so good against the run, figures to be how the Patriots will attack. So they must give Brady enough time to do that. (2) Red area — as usual the defense will give up a lot of yards, so they must make Philly settle for FGs over TDs when they get here — something they didn’t do vs. Tennessee or Jacksonville, who scored TDs all four times they got in the red zone. (3) Pass rush — while Nick Foles had a very solid, turnover-free game in the destruction of Minnesota, he threw six picks in the three games before that. So finding ways to keep him off balance with regular pressure and well-timed blitzing could force a big mistake or two. 
Prediction: The Eagles move the ball and stifle the Pats on the ground, but the clock strikes midnight on Philadelphia’s impressive season when the Pats defense wins the turnover battle, and they spread the field as Danny Amendola earns a new contract from GM Belichick with a big game and Brady throws for 350 plus. Patriots 27, Eagles 23.
 
Email Dave Long at dlong@hippopress.com. 





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