Monday, February 5, 2018

Eagles - Patriots Super Bowl Takeaways: Today, Now, Forever

20) Hope you enjoyed my Expert Level Reverse Jinx. I believed in Nick Foles the whole time! (No, not really.)

19) Here's how hard this was. The Patriots were called for one -- one! -- penalty all night. (Offsides on TE Rob Gronkowski. They also had a hold on a made field goal that was declined.) No holding calls on the Patriot OL, a unit that kept the best defensive line in the NFL to a single, incredibly meaningful, sack. No defensive holds on pass interference calls on a unit that the Eagles still somehow managed to annihilate on third downs. They also gave up over half a thousand yards on pass "defense". Didn't force a single punt all night. And, um, still won.

18) Patriot Fan might pule about the two offensive touchdowns that took time for the refs to confirm. The first to RB Chris Clement was close; the second to TE Zach Ertz would have been an absurd travesty of the spirit of the game. I've also heard that the refs might have missed a call on Fourth and Foles for an illegal formation on the offense, because whatever, I think the refs were too blinded by the awesomeness of that play to sully it with a flag.

Anyway, if you hear these people complain about those calls, there is one answer: the Patriots had one flag for five yards all night.

We can put any conspiracy issue to bed.

(And Patriot Fan? By all means, keep on crying the world a river. I want people to remember how regrettable you are.)

17) It says something about the greatness of QB Tom Brady that he did what he did tonight without, well, being at full strength due to the hand injury, and being 40 freaking years old in a game where people in their late 20s are lucky to still be around. Passes lacked zip tonight, he was behind on a number of throws, and many of the big chunks he got were just reading coverage and exploiting with his mind.

I grew up with Joe Montana, and have a hard time saying anyone can ever be as good as he was. Brady's better.

Even though he's lost nearly as many Super Bowls as anyone ever.

16) I'm still kind of amazed that the Patriots' Hail Mary at the buzzer wasn't caught. It hung in the air forever, the ball was deflected back and forth, and I'm pretty sure our lives all passed before our eyes. I watch replays of that play just to be sure it hits the ground. Probably will do that forever.

15) So much great work in this game from WR Alshon Jeffery. His touchdown was insane, the way he tracked balls over his shoulder was world class, and the only blemish on his record was the batted luck ball that led to the offense's only turnover. The organization made one hell of a move by locking him up in mid-season.

14) One day, fairly soon, we're going to learn why Patriots HC Bill Belichick put his best CB (Malcolm Butler) on the pine for everything but special teams play tonight. It made no sense to me, but as an Eagle Fan, thanks for that, Bill. Especially for sticking with the decision as your defense was getting torn apart.

13) It's all water under the bridge, but man alive, the defense was terrible tonight. I didn't think they could win a close game, or a game where the defense was bad, or a game where the special teams weren't airtight. They did. Still not sure how.

12) If Gronkowski actually is considering retirement after this game, he goes out as the best TE in NFL history, at least in peak value. His fourth-quarter score was absurd, and the Patriot offense went into Killing Mode as soon as he got going. Total nightmare matchup.

11) Doug Pederson, fourth down stud. Not just the unspeakably balls out trick play where Foles became the first guy in SB history to catch and throw a TD in the same game, but the call to go for it and execute to Ertz to keep it in the fourth on his own side of the field. I hated his failure to try a pass play just before the two-minute warning, and the visor look will never look good on anyone, but otherwise, the guy just hit on everything.

10) K Jake Elliott's habit of missing PATs is maddening in the extreme, but his 46-yarder to put the team up 8 with a little over two minutes left was absolute money. I don't know how to get the kid to stop derping away points, but credit where due. He didn't miss a kick they really needed all season.

9) National sports radio wanted to go down the path of Awful Philly Fan with police blotter action as soon as the game was over because the national media is never going to tire of the story that Philly Fan Is Awful. In this as in many other things, Who The Hell Cares. Game matters. Not Game does not. If some asshat wants to punch a horse, some asshat is going to punch a horse. It doesn't define the freaking city, except of course it does, because people who want to talk Not Game are always going to talk Not Game.

8) Similarly, there is much talk about how this might have been the End of the Patriot Dynasty, what with Gronkowski talking retirement, coaches getting hired away, Belichick possibly moving on due to Butthurt Moments with Bob Kraft, and so much more noise. Not believing any of that until it happens, or that anyone in the AFC LEast will ever put together two coherent thoughts and actually get good enough to make them work for a top 2 seed next year. But if this was the stake in the vampire's heart, so happy to have been the Slayers.

7) More on Pederson. So many times this year, I second-guessed his decisions; all in on Foles, put Hali Vaitai on an island at tackle with little help, keep feeding LeGarrette Blount even after getting the shiny new Jay Ajayi toy, keep playing Torrey Smith when it seemed like there were better options on the bench, and become the most aggro fourth down guy ever, even after QB Carson Wentz went down.

All of it worked out.

That can't ever really happen again, just from the sheer laws of, well, Math and regression to the mean. But for this year, Doug Pederson was the best damn coach any of us have ever seen.

6) I don't know about the rest of you, but by the end of this game, I was feeling like I had been through an insane emotional wringer. I was certain that after they finally gave up the lead that it was all going to come to tears; instead, the offense just kept on executing and moving the chains. I was certain the Ertz touchdown was going to be called back, or ruled a fumble into the end zone and somehow a Patriot touchback. That's how beaten down you become when you are a fan of a team that has never won a championship in your lifetime.

Up five with two minutes left and Brady with the ball, I was certain doom had arrived. Instead, Brandon Graham finally got to the QB, and Derek Barnett scooped up his second chance at the hop for the all-important late-game turnover. The first three Patriot drives and touchdowns in the second half were all incredibly easy, so much so that I started hoping for onside kicks with a lead, just because 40 yards of live surgery seemed less objectionable than 75. If this had someone gone to overtime, I don't know if I'd have slept in my bed tonight. And so on.

5) I watched the game at the home of a friend of nearly 20 years, and he marked out for the Eagles nearly as much as I did, such was his distaste for the Patriots. (He's a Bears fan.)

I also did ride share work this week with over a hundred pick ups (my usual workload, actually) and didn't find a soul who was rooting for New England.

(The Bay Area may be the least football-crazed part of America, though. I had to explain to several people today that the game was happening and all. Yes, seriously.)

4) The play that will live forever from this game, to me, is clear: the go for broke fourth down gadget play, Chris Clement to Trey Burton to Nick Foles for seven, en route to a 10 point lead at the half. When you look at it again (and you will), keep your eyes on Foles the whole time, as he sells out that he's just a bystander in this play for several beats before leaking out to open space. The discipline to do that, rather than just race out to the flat ASAP and blow up the timing, might have been his best play of the night. And I have no idea how he did it, other than he was incredibly present and in the moment for the entire damned game. And for the Vikings game before that, too.

3) Some other people will have to talk about ads, because I was WATCHING MY GODDAMNED TEAM WIN A SUPER BOWL FOR THE FIRST TIME. So, um, yeah, there were some commercials. Hooray. A very similar thing can be said here for Justin Timberlake's halftime show, which sadly did not feature guest star Janet Jackson ripping his pants off in cold revenge. Not sure why he needed to bum the world out by reminding us all that Prince Is Dead, but anything that gets more Prince in our lives is a win.

2) It's all kinds of wrong to talk about this stuff this early, but... this team could be *better* next year. You might have full time Wentz, let alone Jason Peters, Jordan Hicks, Darren Sproles, a draft pick, another off-season of Howie Roseman tinkering (we can all agree he's smart now, yes?) and all of those guys are really good. You aren't losing anyone of note to free agency (again, Howie Roseman). The team didn't win on a gimmick offense or luck; most games were clear ass kickings.

Regression to the mean is a powerful force, and there's only one direction for a 16-3 team to go. They also are going to have to deal with the half dozen guys who played out of their minds when their number was called, and might not want to go back to the pine. But it might not be inevitable.

Oh, and they deserve their own bullet and aren't getting it, but what a performance by the offensive line. Best unit in the league, with their best performance of the year. For everyone who ever doubted C Jason Kelce especially, he was phenomenal. For anyone who ever wondered if Lane Johnson was worth the high draft pick, he was everything they could have hoped for. For anyone who ever wondered if Brandon Brooks was worth the money because guards aren't worth lots of money, he was dominant. For anyone who wondered why Steve Wiesnewski was so important after not sticking with Oakland, he just was. And for Hali Vaitai, who merely stepped in when the unit's best player, having his best year, was hurt? He was perfect tonight.

1) Finally, Foles. Couldn't have been more wrong about him, couldn't have asked for more from a player, and can't imagine that this performance won't wind up with him moving on to another team, because doing what he did in this game means he can't really be anyone's QB2 again. But that's another problem for another day.

Later, there will be stuff

The best team in franchise history is the best team, period. No qualifications.

Today, now, forever?

I'm reminded that things don't always have to turn out badly, and that hope isn't for suckers and chumps.

Today, now, forever?

I get to forget about all of the Andy Reid losses when the money was on the table. I can forget about so many other coaches who never even got to the point when real money was on the table. I can forget about so many draft picks and signings and players who were on the spectrum of terrible to tragic, all washed away by the gentle good force of the team finally winning.

I can if I choose to, stop blogging about sports altogether, and stop watching. Even if Wentz becomes the new overlord, and the team rattles off wins like the factory that New England has been, nothing will be better than this season and this team.

And I can just be happy.

We can all just be happy.

Or, in the rallying cry of the team that would not be denied...

We're all we got.

We're all we need.

Today. Now. Forever.

1 comment:

DougH said...

Well done Dave - captured it perfectly! Go Birds!

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