What to Watch For: Eagles vs Patriots - Super Bowl 52
Sunday, February 04, 2018
Joe Calabro, GoLocalWorcester Sports Team
This will be the second time that the Patriots and Eagles meet in the Super Bowl, the first time coming in 2005 when the Patriots held off Philadelphia 24-21 in Jacksonville.
Overall, this will be New England's eighth Super Bowl appearance in the Brady/Belichick era and tenth overall.
"There are 30 teams watching this weekend and only two playing, and there is going to only be one team that’s happy at the end of this weekend. It takes a lot to win this game, for us, it has gone down to the last play almost every time. We are going up against a great football team, who has played great all season, dynamic in all phases of the game, so I know all across the country, those 30 other cities are not rooting for us, but that’s okay,” said Patriots quarterback Tom Brady during his media availability on Thursday in Minnesota.
The Eagles advanced to the Super Bowl after cruising past the Minnesota Vikings 38-7 in the NFC Championship game on Sunday night in Philadelphia.
"They look very well coached. They're top in the league defensively in two-minute, top of the league offensively in two-minute. Their situational football is great on third down, red area, so to me, you can tell they're going over a lot of those small things. Coaches are hitting them, the players understand them, and you can see they outscored their opponents offensively in really all four quarters," said Patriots safety Devin McCourty.
Game time is set for 6:30 p.m.
Eagles vs Patriots
The Patriots and Eagles last met in December of 2015 at Gillette Stadium with Philadelphia beating the Patriots 35-28.
Prior to that, the Patriots beat the Eagles 38-20 in 2011 and 31-28 during the 2007 season.
The Patriots are 4-1 against the Eagles in the Brady/Belichick era including the Super Bowl.
The Eagles lead the all-time series 7-6.
Pats Offensive Line
The Philadelphia Eagles come in with one of the best front fours in the NFL.
Fletcher Cox, former Patriot Chris Long, Brandon Graham and Timmy Jernigan combined for 22.5 sacks. The Eagles as a team have 38 sacks on the season.
Philadelphia will attack with those four, without blitzing, and drop seven into coverage on a consistent basis.
"Well, they're exceptional up front. Those guys are really good players. They play really hard. They have a great scheme. They come out upbeat every play for sure," said Patriots left tackle Nate Solder during media availability.
Historically the Patriots have struggled with teams that are able to do that (see two Super Bowls against the Giants).
The Patriots have given up 35 sacks so far this season.
The Eagles have the number one ranked rush defense in the league, meaning expect the Patriots to be throwing the ball 40 to 50 times in the game.
"They have a great defense. Their front four is really good. Obviously, they're one of the better teams to stop the run so we have to be on our A-game and, we should be alright," said running back Dion Lewis during Patriots media availability.
If the Patriots offensive line can't hold up against the Eagles pressure, James White, Lewis and Rex Burkhead could be big factors in the passing game.
In the AFC Championship, Lewis had seven catches for 32 yards, while White had three catches for 22 yards.
In each of the last three Patriots Super Bowls, it has been a running back who has had the biggest game.
Danny Woodhead led the Patriots in 2011, Shane Vereen led New England in 2014, and White led the Patriots in the Super Bowl last year.
The Eagles have the third best 3rd down defense in the NFL, forcing three-and-outs more than 40% of the time.
The Patriots offense has converted on third down 48% of the time this postseason, but they only went 3-for-12 in the AFC Championship game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Philadelphia's offense converted 71 percent of its third downs in the NFC title game against the Vikings and have converted on third down 59% of the time overall this postseason.
On the other side, the Patriots defense has allowed opponents to convert 36% of the time in the playoffs.
Kyle Van Noy
Linebacker Kyle Van Noy is a big key for the Patriots defense to have success.
The Eagles offense with Nick Foles run a lot of run-pass options (RPO), meaning that Foles has the ability to call a run or a pass at the line of scrimmage.
According to Pro Football Focus, the Eagles complete passes out of this formation 93% of the time.
Patriots safety, Devin McCourty explained during his media availability last week in Foxboro.
"When you have that run-pass option, pass players that sometimes turn into run players because a guy is blocking him, a receiver or a tight end. You can't free up and just go to the ball because you still have to cover your guy because he's not blocking. He's running a route. So for you, it's a pass play. For the six or seven guys in the box it might be a total run look, so you might not gain any help underneath because they're playing the run."
Van Noy will be an important part of diagnosing what the Eagles are going to do in these situations
Safety Patrick Chung will see a lot of time on Eagles tight end Zach Ertz in the game.
Chung has been covering tight ends for the majority of the season, but had an up-and-down AFC Championship game and will look to bounce back in the Super Bowl.
Ertz finished the season with 74 catches for 824 yards and 8 touchdowns. In the playoffs, he has 11 catches for 125 yards.
More than half of Ertz's catches, 46, resulted in first downs, while he caught 16 passes for 175 yards and three touchdowns on third down.
"He's savvy. He's savvy for a young tight end, and he's good, man. He has good routes. He's quick. He's fast for a tight end. He can catch and he's elusive with the ball. We've got to try and slow him down a little bit," said Chung during Patriots media availability.
If Chung can contain Ertz, the Patriots defense will be in good shape.