2017 NFL: Super Bowl

I can’t believe I’m at the point where I don’t want to watch the Super Bowl. I just don’t want to sit there and watch the Patriots win, not to say that it’s going to happen, but it could. The other thing is that I totally wrote off the Eagles once Wentz got hurt, and after seeing Foles play a few games afterward. He looked really bad. The way he’s been playing recently, causes me believe that, like Alex Smith, the head coach has found certain schemes/plays to put the QB in the right play and cover his weaknesses. In other words, Foles’s success is scheme/coach-driven. If that’s true, I tend to think it could get ugly in this game, because you don’t beat Belichick by out-scheming him. You beat Belichick by talent (and solid coaching)–something that clever schemes have a limited effect upon.

The other scenario where the Eagles end up winning is if the DL can get to Brady, especially the interior. In my opinion, the Patriot OL has been really good, maybe a top five OL this year. Their interior pass protection has looked especially great. They looked like an impenetrable wall against the Jaguars, and if they play like this against the Eagles, I don’t see how the Eagles can win. (Eagles do have some good interior D-linemen, so there’s hope.) If they can pressure Brady up the middle, they could not only disrupt the offense, but they could get some turnovers.

I tend to think the game will be a blow out, though.

31 thoughts on “2017 NFL: Super Bowl

  1. The Eagles front four is key to Philadelphia even having a chance. If it can get to Brady early (EARLY) and often, and can keep the team close through the first half, the Ealges have a prayer.

    But if the Philly offense goes down the field and get a couple of field goals and punts, and the Patriots score a few TDs, which is what I think is going to happen, it’ll really be over by halftime.

    Gronkowski is playing, which of course makes a difference. I think he only really needs to be in during that first half.

    Patriots by 20! 41-21.

  2. On a side note, I heard an commentator bring up the point you’re making–about the importance of getting pressure on Brady for only four rushers. (I believe Schwartz likes to blitz, so it’ll be interesting how he calls the game. I’d be surprised if he calls a lot of blitzes.) And the commentator referred back to the Giants teams that beat the Patriots in the Super Bowls, naming Pierre-Paul, Tuck, Strahan. Hearing those names, it hit me how stacked they were. And then I couldn’t help but think back to the Seahawks. The OL basically turned every opposing DL into a Pierre-Paul, Tuck, Strahan. So crazy.

  3. If the Pats start fast in this one, I agree it will be over quickly, but I don’t get that impression. The Pats have struggled early in their two playoff games (and past Super Bowls). Well against the Titans, struggling early may be an overstatement. They struggled for a quarter. I think the Eagles offense may do okay against the Patriots. Yes Bill will try and get Foles to beat them, but even then I’m not sure the Pats will completely stop the Eagles from moving the ball. The question as Mitchell alluded to, is whether or not the Eagles will be able to score TDs or just field goals.

    Early on I liked the Eagles taking the 6 or so points. Now I’m sort of closer to the fence, and may be leaning Pats by a TD. I think the Patriots win late in a sort of close game, but win by somewhere between seven and nine. But I hope I’m wrong, as I’m not cheering for the Pats in this one.

  4. It should be said: the Patriots don’t strike me as a great on defense and offense. There are several types of teams that can win a Super Bowl. One of them is a team that is well-balanced but not necessarily great in any phase. I think the Patriots are like that (and they’ve been that way since they last won in 2014).

    Because of this, I agree with Don that the offense may not get off to a fast start. Patriot offense vs. Eagles defense doesn’t make me automatically think that Patriots will be scoring a lot of TDs, and I could see them being the team not scoring enough of them (settling for FGs too often). But a lot of this is based on guessing, because I’m really out of touch with the Eagles defense. (I have seen the Patriots offense, though, and they don’t strike me as juggernauts like previous teams.)

    The Patriot defense doesn’t look dominant as well, but I have no idea what to expect from Foles and the Eagles. But I’ll stick to what I said above: if their success is based on scheme, that’s not likely to succeed against Belichick, for it would mean that they outschemed him. I don’t see that happening (but I sure hope it does).

  5. By some measures, the Patriots had one of the best defenses in the NFL this season. New England gave up only 250 points, and yes, I know they played the Jets, Bills, and Dolphins twice each, but AFC West teams played the Chiefs, Raiders, Chargers, and Broncos twice each. 🙂

    Compare that 250 to the middle of the pack: the Bills and Titans tied at 16th with 378 total points. The Patriots were 8th with 326.4 yards per game (the Eagles were 13th with 342.8). New England was tied for third with 18.4 first downs per game (the Eagles were 6th with 18.8 so we’ll call that a push).

    I don’t think there’s any reason to think the Eagles offense vs. the Patriots defense has a better chance than the Patriots offense vs. the Eagles defense.

  6. Would you call the Patriots defense great, or even just a dominant defense–based on what you’ve seen? I wouldn’t. To me, this is a down year over all; the quality of teams has declined (and has been declining in my view). The Patriots are not even close to the 2015 Broncos or 2013 Seahawks. I wouldn’t put them in the same class as the best Niner defenses under Harbaugh. I don’t think this defense is a good as the 2014 Patriot defense (which has a strong secondary).

    I don’t think there’s any reason to think the Eagles offense vs. the Patriots defense has a better chance than the Patriots offense vs. the Eagles defense.

    I agree, but I don’t think means that the Patriots will score more TDs than the Eagles offense.

  7. Not sure if Reid watched the game, but he would have found a lot of it entertaining especially because the Pats were humbled somewhat. I’m sure Reid would have found some of the lack of defense irritating, but the game was entertaining none-the-less. The Pats really had no answer to the Eagle offense. Almost everything the Eagles did worked, with few exceptions. I wouldn’t say the Eagles out-schemed the Pats per se, but the Eagles didn’t do much different in this game, but the Pats defense really had no answers. I think Collinsworth mentioned that the Pats took away the middle of the field and so the Eagles seem to go to the outside more than normal, but sans that it was the Eagle offense that we’ve seen all year. I’ll add the Foles was spectacular though, with very few missteps. I’ll also add he throws a really catchable long ball, with lots of air under it. It really gives his receivers a chance to go up and get it.

    On the other side I thought the Eagles defensive game plan overall was terrible. The Pats had open guys running deep all over the place. Before the game, I would have said what the Eagles did having all those defenders at the line of scrimmage was the way to go. But at some point with all the big plays they were giving up, they should have played a little softer (ie: Let the underneath guys catch the ball and try to punish them with hits.). At the end of the game, the Eagles were playing a little softer and just allowing their front four to try and get to Brady before Brady could make a big play. IMO, this is when the effectiveness of the front four changed and in the end they were able to win the game. I thought they should have gone to that a little sooner. I’ll add that Brady was pretty darn good in this game though.

  8. Well I was plenty disappointed in the result, but the game was entertaining enough. What are we supposed to do with our Sundays for the next eight months?

  9. I didn’t watch the game–only the last couple of minutes, and that wasn’t really by choice. (I had dinner with Larri’s family at Ruby Tuesdays, and the game was on.)

    I’m sure Reid would have found some of the lack of defense irritating, but the game was entertaining none-the-less.

    I assume the second statement refers mostly to your reaction, because if the first statement was true, the second one wouldn’t have been true for me.

    What I want to know: Could the Eagles control the clock? The score suggests they couldn’t. Also, I think I saw that the Eagles had a decent lead at some point. If that’s true, then I’m guessing they couldn’t run the ball all that well.

    Did it seem like the Patriots were taking away the run and forcing Foles to beat them? I saw the TD passes Foles threw–two were really good (although AJ deserves a lot of credit for on the TD he caught).

    Mitchell,

    What are we supposed to do with our Sundays for the next eight months?

    Normally, I would sympathize with you on this, but the NFL has been kinda junk this year. I don’t feel like I’ll miss the games on Sunday.

  10. Well there was only one punt in the whole game, and it came early-ish, so it’s hard to say whether the Eagles or anyone could control the clock. Both teams just kept moving the ball. How do you determine if a team is controlling the clock if every third down is converted, if the teams even get to third down?

    The Philly run game wasn’t as good as it’s been, but the Eagles were getting to third down when they ran it on early downs. So, maybe the Patriots took it away? I couldn’t tell.

    Normally, I would sympathize with you on this, but the NFL has been kinda junk this year. I don’t feel like I’ll miss the games on Sunday.

    Yeah, but I visit my parents every Sunday. I’m going to have to find stuff to talk about.

  11. The Eagles had two very impressive long drives, the first one of the game which ate up about 7-8 minutes and the last “real” scoring drive which ate up close to the same. In both cases the Eagles offense (Foles in particular) was pretty darn remarkable, although the first drive ended in only a field goal because of a false start penalty on the one yard line.

    Despite the Eagles rushing numbers during the regular season, I never feel like they are a running team. But they were gashing the Pats on the ground (Just read Mitchell’s post and he had a different take.). They probably should have stuck to the ground a little more, but the Pats couldn’t stop the Eagles in any way. I think the Eagles punted only once. The Eagles also never got out to a huge lead because their defense could not stop Brady. Brady had over five hundred yards passing the ball. I’m not sure if you were going to be irritated by the Pats defense, they just had no answers, and not because they were playing or tackling badly. I wouldn’t necessarily say the same of the Eagles defense, which had Pats receivers running wide open a little more times than they should have.

    FWIW, there was very few penalties as well.

  12. Mitchell,

    How do you determine if a team is controlling the clock if every third down is converted, if the teams even get to third down?

    “Controlling the clock” is too imprecise, perhaps. What I’d look for is long drives–where the offense consumes time and runs a lot of plays. What I’d also look for are segments in the game where one team had a few possessions where they ran a lot of plays and consume time, while the opponent’s offense did something close to the opposite. In my view, this is potentially decisive point in the game, where one team can put themselves in the driver’s seat to win it.

  13. Don,

    Despite the Eagles rushing numbers during the regular season, I never feel like they are a running team.

    I have the same impression. Running seems move like a change-of-pace play for them, built more on the passing game.

    I’m not sure if you were going to be irritated by the Pats defense, they just had no answers, and not because they were playing or tackling badly.

    Well, if the three TDs were a reflection of the Pat’s defense that day, I don’t think I would have been irritated. The defense looked pretty good on those plays–it was just superior offense. I don’t mind that at all. In fact, I like that.

    I wouldn’t necessarily say the same of the Eagles defense, which had Pats receivers running wide open a little more times than they should have.

    Now, that would be annoying. Too many of those plays and the game becomes unwatchable for me.

  14. Does that mean of the Kelce brothers you would favor Jason? Collinsworth keeps saying he’s the most athletic center in the NFL.

  15. I’m just going to say that I think you missed out on some good, entertaining football. I enjoy good defense too, but what we saw wasn’t the equivalent of the NBA all-star game. Each team was trying to stop the other; they just weren’t very good at it because the offenses were so good. Jeffrey made plays. Ertz made plays. Ajayi, Hogan, Gronkowski, Amendola, Brady, Cooks, and Foles made plays. There were drama, trick plays, some good pass defenses, missed extra points, fourth down attempts, and for the most part, error-free football. Collinsworth and Michaels called a good game. The commercials, while not stellar, were kind of interesting. The halftime show, which I always hate, didn’t suck. And when it was over, Tom Brady had thrown for 500 yards and no interceptions and was the loser. And a career backup QB whom nobody has taken seriously in five or six years was the MVP. If I wasn’t so in the tank for the Patriots, I would have been moved by the Plunkett-like story.

    It was a good end to the season.

  16. Don,

    Does that mean of the Kelce brothers you would favor Jason?

    I actually haven’t thought of the question. I just think it was a great play by Jason. (I like seeing OL highlights.)

    Mitchell,

    they just weren’t very good at it because the offenses were so good.

    For what it’s worth, if the defense played well, but the offense just made better plays, I think I could have enjoyed the game.

  17. I said earlier that I doubted that Pederson would “out clever” Belichick. On this TD, at least, Pederson did:

    22-12 Eagles up going into the second half. The Eagles being able to run and chew up the clock at this point would have been crucial.

  18. I’m surprised you like that play. It was a critical play (although I don’t think it chews up the clock much more than a passing play or a FG), and the Eagles decide to let a guy who never throws the ball throw the ball to a guy who never catches the ball. Super low percentage, high risk play.

    Are your feelings similar about the Brady attempted reception?

  19. I didn’t bring it up because I liked the play. I brought up the play because it was an example of using cleverness and trickery to beat an opponent. Belichick is the paragon of this sort of coaching in my opinion, and I thought there was little chance that Pederson (or any other coach) would beat Belichick at his own game. Basically, I was wrong–at least on this play. (The only other example I can think of is the two AFCCG where the Rex Ryan’s Jets beat the Patriots. There were times where Brady looked lost. To be fair, the Jets had great talent on those defenses, so their success wasn’t only about subterfuge.)

    As for Brady’s trick play, I haven’t seen it, but Belichick’s plays–tricks or no tricks–and the play calling of his teams–are incredible.

    Edit

    Re: chewing up the clock. I should have said, “from this point going forward.”

    By the way, I like the play, but knowing whether calling this play at that time is harder for me to judge. I think I would have to see the game up until that point to have a stronger opinion. I’m not adverse to trick plays, though.

  20. Not being contentious, in case that’s what it sounds like. Just interested in your take because you’ve been so down on football.

    If the Foles reception had failed, like if he’d dropped it and the Patriots had taken over on downs, would it still have been out-tricking Belichick? And if the Brady reception earlier had been successful, would the Foles reception have been out-tricking him, or would it have just been keeping up with him?

    The Eagles play was very tricky, undoubtedly. But I think the Patriots play was more unexpected, and it would have gone for 25 yards and a first down. My heart kind of broke a little when it failed. Argh.

  21. If the Foles reception had failed, like if he’d dropped it and the Patriots had taken over on downs, would it still have been out-tricking Belichick?

    Yeah, sort of.

    And if the Brady reception earlier had been successful, would the Foles reception have been out-tricking him, or would it have just been keeping up with him?

    I feel like the angle you’re taking with regard to being out-tricked–or out-coached–is the wrong one. Ultimately, I would look at the entire game, and decide why one team won over the other. If the schemes, play design, and play calling played a really significant role in defeating the other team–especially if the losing team has superior talent or was generally a better team overall–then I think it’s fair to conclude that the losing team was out-coached. Does that make sense?

    For what it’s worth, an important context of this discussion involves two modes of winning that I generally apply when assessing games and a team. One mode involves having superior talent (and I would include execution and effort), while the other mode involves superior schemes, tactics. One quick example. In UNC basketball game when Dean Smith was an assistant, right before the game the Frank McGuire, the head coach, announced that they were going to play a 1-2-2 defense. Smith protested, because they never practiced that defense. McGuire said that it didn’t matter because he felt the defense would befuddle the opponent, to the degree that Carolina’s execution of the zone would be a secondary concern. And if it didn’t work, they could always switch. Anyways, the tactic worked, and Carolina won. If that tactic was a key reason for winning, that’s winning by cleverness. My sense is that coaches have preferences for one over the other. Belichick is the master schemer in my opinion. I don’t think another coach would out-scheme (out-coach) him, but maybe Pederson did.

  22. I guess so, but I didn’t know we were talking about outcoaching in general, just out-tricking. And you think the Patriots have superior talent or are a better team overall than the Eagles? I think the consensus goes the other way on that. The two best players in the game are Patriots, but on a unit-by-unit basis, don’t the Eagles have the edge in everything except maybe the skill positions and special teams?

  23. I guess so, but I didn’t know we were talking about outcoaching in general, just out-tricking

    They’re not necessarily the same. We could use a better term, but do you understand what I meant? Think of the UNC example I gave above. Winning in that way is different from winning when you’re talent is just way better than the opponent’s. To use a extreme example, think of a Varsity team beating the JV team.

    And you think the Patriots have superior talent or are a better team overall than the Eagles?

    More of the latter. The key here to me is Foles. That he started playing so well is a major shock to me–so much so that I think it’s more of the playcalling and play design that are the reasons for his success. (Similar to Alex Smith.) What I mean is that if Foles is a bad QB, the Patriots would clearly be a superior team overall in my opinion. If the Foles who I saw against the Raiders showed up, I would expect the Patriots to have blown them out.

  24. Just watched the game, up to Brady’s fumble near the end of the game. Some thoughts:

    • The first thing that stands out to me: The Patriots OL. I don’t know what other analysts have said or how the Patriot OL is ranked or scored, but at some point in the season I thought they had one of the best OLs in the league; I sort of feel like this is one of the best OLs they had in a long time. The pass protections are consistently good. They’re almost never seems to be pressure up the middle (except for that fateful strip), and the pockets are textbook. (Brady moves in the pocket well, too, especially stepping up to avoid the outside rush, just at the last minute. He’s great at that.)
    • The Eagles INT with about 5 minutes in the first half, with Eagles up 15-on the Patriots 43, was a big deal. Eagles had a good chance of scoring at least a FG, which would have made it 18-6. Instead, the Patriots drove down and scored a TD, making it 15-13.

      I also should mention that while the Eagles defense gave up explosive plays they were bending but not breaking, holding the Patriots to two FGs. Here’s eating time off the clock could have really helped. At some point, the defense started breaking.

    • Yes, the defenses weren’t terrible, but they were far from great, too– it seemed a little too easy for both offenses to move the ball. Eagles gave up quite a few explosive plays, but the Patriots gave up a share of their own to (including on 3rd down). The defenses seemed just OK to me, and overall, this is not the type of game I really care for. (In a way it reminded me of the Colts-Saints Super Bowl.) For one thing, neither team really tried to establish the run–running the ball was an afterthought, a change of pace type of play. (It seems pretty clear that the Eagles aren’t a run-based team.) The basketball equivalent would be like watching a championship game with two uptempo, perimeter teams with mediocre defense and no serious interior game.
    • I watched the game in condensed form, and it’s very difficult to tell when a team is playing uptempo. Collinsworth, at one point, mentioned that the Patriots were going uptempo. How often did they do that? If they did it a lot, this probably contributed significantly to neutralizing the Eagles pass rush. The decision to use a lot of play action (which the Patriots seemed to use) also probably helped a lot.

      Being able to run the ball well and grind out the clock could be great counter to this situation, threatening to push their opponent into a death spiral. The fact that both teams played passed the ball so much kinda took that off the table.

    • I heard Peterson say he wanted to stay aggressive and wanted Foles to play aggressively, and I could see that–throwing the ball deep, also going for it on 4th down, twice. The second time was also a really big play in my opinion–4th and 1 with 5:39 in the game on the Eagles 45 wit the score 33-32, Patriots. This is super aggressive. It almost felt like Peterson was thinking, “What have we got to lose? We’re the under-dogs, we’re not supposed to be here, so let’s go for it.”
  25. I don’t remember the Pats defense playing all that badly. The Eagles gashed the Pats upfront on the Blount’s long run and the long passes were great plays by the offense (especially by Foles). I cannot say the same of the Eagles secondary, which had plays where they seem completely befuddled.

    Just wanted to add that Tom Curran (New England beat writer) said he thought even before this Super Bowl that this was the worse Pats defense to ever go into a Super Bowl. And I’ll add that pundits say that Butler’s (who played the highest percentage of defensive snaps on the team this year) absence made a difference.

  26. It’s not that the Pats defense played badly so much as it seemed a little too easy for the Eagles to move the ball up and down the field. At the same time, Foles did make really good plays with his arm and with his feet (scrambling; I was a little surprised at the effectiveness of the Pats’ pass rush).

    The Eagles did have more egregious-looking lapses, but the Pats gave up explosive plays and not only because the Eagles made great plays.

    Just wanted to add that Tom Curran (New England beat writer) said he thought even before this Super Bowl that this was the worse Pats defense to ever go into a Super Bowl.

    I wouldn’t argue this–especially if you factor in the way the defenses played at the end of the season. If I recall some of the previous defenses, especially when the offense ran a lot of hurry-up, looked bad early in the season, but improved in the playoffs (Think 2007 and 2010).

  27. Interesting breakdown:

    According to this, Butler was screwing up basic play calls, which I could see a big no-no. My sense is that Belichick will take players that physically might struggle–as long as they know the plays and have intelligence that gives them versatility run a variety of schemes or even notice little things. I feel like he’ll take that type of player over one that is physically superior.

  28. Re Butler:
    I heard Butler was practicing all week as if he was going to play and was only pulled on game day. This meant Rowe had no reps with the first team defense all week, and thus would bring into question whether Butler was pulled for performance or on-the-field issues.

    The question I have is if Butler was pulled for off-the-field “stuffs”, wouldn’t it be beneficial for Belichick to let everyone know that. There are some pundits who say the Pats lost can be attributed to Butler not playing. Doesn’t that stuff somewhat erode the players confidence in the coach. I know I’m talking about Belichick who has built so much equity it almost doesn’t matter, but it’s still odd to me. The other comments I heard is punishing Butler for the entire game hurts the entire team. This is a slippery-slope but there is at least some truth to it.

  29. I heard people saying it makes sense for Belichick not to let Butler know he wasn’t playing until right before they took the field, so that the Eagles couldn’t game-plan with no Butler in mind. Which is pretty consistent with the Patriots’ being tight-lipped about all personnel stuff.

  30. I heard Butler was practicing all week as if he was going to play and was only pulled on game day.

    You mean, on the first team? I actually heard he wasn’t practicing on the first team all week (but this was a Seattle talk show, so I have no idea how accurate this is).

    Here’s something that I thought was interesting:

    Last spring, Belichick was the keynote speaker at Ohio State’s annual coaching clinic. In introducing him, Buckeye coach/Belichick friend Urban Meyer shared a life lesson he’d gotten from the Patriots coach.

    “I’m always amazed how he takes these non-stars and makes them stars,” Meyer said. “He takes these players you haven’t really heard much about and all of a sudden they’re making great plays in the biggest games of the year. I started asking him about it and he made the point to me and I shared it with our team. He said, ‘At this point in my career, I want to coach guys I like. I want to coach guys I want to be around and that’s it.’ He said, ‘I don’t want to coach anybody else.’”

    There’s a lot in the article, but this stood out for me. It makes me wonder if this is was a big reason Butler didn’t play.

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