Score: Patriots 28, Eagles 20.
And then there were reasons, and justification.
Keys to Winning: Iggles
1. We'll start with the Eagles, since they clearly aren't going to win now that I've picked the Patriots. The absolute most important thing that the Eagles must accomplish in order to give themselves a shot at winning that Vince Lombardi trophy thing is: stop Corey Dillon from making a big run. Seems kind of anticlimactic, no? But it's not. Both the Colts and the Steelers still stood a chance before Dillon finally found a seam and busted huge runs against each of them. Against the Colts, Dillon turned in the touchdown himself; against the Steelers, it took a mere play more to swing it out to Patten for the TD. Both plays were the backbreaker, the point of no return, for each of those two respectable clubs. The Eagles must hold Dillon to two, three, six yard gains each time he touches it, because the very instant that the threat of a sprint down the sideline by Dillon is locked in the minds of the Eagles D, the play action passes become deadly, and the game, for all intents and purposes, ends.
2. Speaking of passing, there's that Brady fellow. I hear he's decent. And as such, the Eagles line and linebackers need to find a way to rattle him. Sacking him doesn't do it; the Steelers sacked him several times, and where are they? A sack is only as good as the plays that follow it, and if Brady is allowed to bounce back, it's like the sack never happened. The Eagles need to find a different way to get into Brady's skull, whether it be consistently piercing the line and force him out of the pocket and off his rhythm, or putting hands in the way of his passes, or I don't even know. But they have to (know), and they darn well better pull it off.
3. I don't know if anyone remembers way back to, oh, two-three years ago, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were going up to Philly in the divisional playoffs. And one of the Bucs, might've been now-Bronco John Lynch, called Donovan McNabb a "running back with an arm." Yes kids, you heard right: there were "running backs with arm"s before the mighty Michael Vick. Gasp, screech, etc. The point being this: the Patriots haven't had to face that yet this playoff, or even regular, season. The Patriots are used to a guy who wants to drop back and either gun it somewhere or hand it to a bigger guy; a QB who can run, but only as far as the pursuit can allow him. The Patriots, simply put, have not had to face a guy who did to Dallas what McNabb did on that fateful Monday night. Y'know, scrambling around for about 20 seconds, trailed by the entire Dallas' defense minus the secondary, then heaving a perfect 60-yard pass? Pretty nasty. The Eagles should look to use McNabb to his fullest effect; let the Patriots figure out whether he's going to run, pass, or scramble around for about two minutes and then decide.
Keys to Winning: Patriots
1. Run a tight ship. This hasn't historically been a problem for the team, and it shouldn't be here. The Eagles showed in the last two games that they aren't a huge threat to run the ball, and the Patriots should keep this in mind. Their collection of corners and safeties that Freddie Mitchell apparently can't name have played pretty darn well all season, even converted wide receiver/kick returner/cotton candy vendor Troy Brown, who at one time co-led the team in picks. If TO plays, and TO is actually TO and not some mangled-ankle-alternate-universe TO, then the Pats secondary's job obviously gets a touch harder. Which isn't to discredit Mitchell and Pinkston, who've stepping up big en route to this Super Bowl. But even the threat of a TO touchdown dance, Super Bowl style, is enough to get the blood boiling. The point is that the Pats must not get sloppy and allow McNabb throwing lanes down the field, as the potential to get beaten by big plays is too great.
2. The Patriots, by virtue of having a slightly decent running back, need to play the role of ball control team here. If it comes down to a slugfest (because those are so common in Super Bowl games), I actually like the Eagles chances. The Patriots need to be patient and let Dillon pick up five to six yards on first and second downs, run down the clock, and break the Eagles' spirit by finding ways to convert those Third and mids. Plus, there's always the possibility that Dillon will pull a Superman and win the game by himself, a definite plus.
3. The Eagles have proven that they are very good defensively when they know what to expect from their opponents: they stopped the pass beautifully against the Vikes, and stuffed the run similarly brilliantly against the Falcons. So the Pats need to throw them off as much as is possible. Use play actions, delays, bootlegs, and fleaflickers. That cagey New England coach guy's got some crazy plays going, and now would be the time to run'em. Don't play conservative just because it's the big show. Run that fake field goal again; Vinatieri missed two field goals in last year's Super Bowl anyway, chaff that he is (we'll ignore his two game-winners for the sake of my own personal happiness and well-being). That old adage about having fun in sports is totally applicable here; when the Pats have fun, they win. Plain and simple.
How the game goes: The Eagles jump to an early start behind the Mighty McNabb (re-taken rightfully from Vick), scoring an early touchdown while the Pats try to key in on him. The just-mentioned keying-in takes place, the Pats run-run-pass-punt, and the Eagles find themselves doing the same, but with worse field position. Brady finally connects on a shortened field, and then Harrison (or even Brown, go nuts) grabs a tipped McNabb pass and returns it to the house. The Eagles sneak in a field goal and we go into halftime with the Pats up, 14-10.
The Pats come slow-and-steady out the gates, not forcing the tempo. The Eagles get another field goal, but the Pats then score a touchdown in the capable hands of Dillon as the third quarter winds down. The Eagles return the favor, but the Pats wait a few drives, then hit the endzone again with about ten minutes left in the game (the score is now 28 – 20, for those of you not paying attention). The Eagles go into desperation mode, turn it over once more or so (to no fruition, point-wise), and then eventually are unable to get it done. A dynasty is formed. Blah blah blah etc. At least Vinatieri isn't the hero this time.
And that, folks, is most of what she wrote.
Nick Falgout. Nick Falgout was bored one day and decided to change his Chips staff information. And now, for a touching song lyric: "I'm a reasonable man, get off my case Get off my case, get off my case." ~ Radiohead, "Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd … More »