Typically, I will go over my thoughts and predictions from a “Crunching The Numbers” article in the next game’s preview, but there isn’t a “next game” because THE EAGLES JUST WON THE FUCKING SUPER BOWL!!
So it’s getting its own separate post instead. I actually wrote two different articles about the Super Bowl last week: one covered some scattered thoughts I had about the Super Bowl, while the other was a more standard “Crunching The Numbers” post. Additionally, a full archive of my “Crunching The Numbers” series can be found here.
I’ll unpack each post one at a time, and toss in my own thoughts as the game went along for good measure. First up is the “scattered thoughts” article.
On Nick Foles, Doug Pederson, and the Super Bowl
This was a long, 2000+ word piece, but here are the highlights:
- The Eagles have too many contributors on offense to shut down (plus the RPO). Someone in the comments pointed out that the Patriots’ tendency to “shut down a team’s biggest playmaker” actually didn’t apply to them this season, and I’ll take that at face value since I didn’t watch too many Patriots games. It was certainly the case on Sunday, as the Eagles running backs averaged over six yards per carry, Agholor made some incredible catches to move the chains, and Jeffery and Ertz both had big games. As for the RPO, I said that it would only become stoppable if it was predictable. Lo and behold, Doug switched this up by using fades and outs as the “hot routes” for the RPOs in the Super Bowl, as opposed to the quick slants he showed on tape in the first two playoff games. Add in that the Eagles routinely won their matchups in man coverage, and it’s not hard to see why the RPO remained successful against the Patriots in spite of the extra time to prepare.
- Nick Foles’ high-variance play makes preparing against him difficult. This one was pretty straightforward. I felt that Belichick would assume Foles’ performance against the Vikings was an aberration and prepare for a “game manager” quarterback, leaving them susceptible on the back end and daring Foles to beat them with the deep ball. Foles responded beautifully, as the Eagles’ first touchdown was a gorgeous 34-yard strike to Jeffery. He continued to sling it down the field all game, forcing the Patriots to respect the deep ball, which in turn opened some things up for the run game. Even after adjustments, Foles was fearless, delivering a 22-yard touchdown pass in double coverage to Corey Clement midway through the third quarter.
- The Eagles’ desire to impose their will on their opponents is the perfect mindset when playing New England. This is a little bit more abstract, but I think Tom Brady summed it up pretty well:
“We had our opportunities,” Brady said. “But we never got control of the game. We never played the game on our terms.”
Tom Brady, arguably the greatest quarterback of all time, said this after throwing for 500 yards, 3 touchdowns, and no picks. He said this after a game in which his team never punted. But here’s the kicker: all of those insane in-game accomplishments, the records, the yards... none of that happened while the Patriots had the lead. Every single one of the Patriots’ 613 yards were gained in an attempt to wrest the lead away from the Eagles (or at least break the tie).
If that’s not the definition of imposing your will, of taking the fight to them, of forcing them to play the way YOU want them to play... I don’t know what is.
- The Andy Reid coaching tree has had success against the Patriots. Here I pointed out how Andy Reid’s Super Bowl coaches have played well against New England. Ron Rivera’s Panthers have never lost to them, and John Harbaugh is 2-2 against them in the playoffs (all in Foxborough) as coach of the Ravens. Andy Reid himself, during his time with the Chiefs, had the two highest-scoring games against Bill Belichick’s Patriots, and in the 2017 season opener gained the most yards against them ever, with 537.
That is, until this past Super Bowl, when Doug Pederson’s Eagles gained 538.
Crunching The Numbers: New England Patriots
Some of my “game plan” highlights for the Eagles included the following:
- Clock control, clock control, and more clock control. Statistically, the Patriots bested the Eagles by almost every measure. Yards? 613 to 538. First downs? 29 to 25. Goal-to-go efficiency? 100% to 50%. But the one place where the Eagles annihilated the Patriots was in time of possession. Their offense was on the field for an absurd 34:04, leaving New England with only 25:56 to frantically keep pace with a unit that was scoring at will. To their credit, they did just that, but that extra 4:04 essentially amounts to a lost possession that they needed to win the game. That’s how you beat Tom Brady, especially when your attempt at “the formula” (consistent interior pass rush) isn’t working for most of the night.
- Establish the run and dominate the line of scrimmage. The running game was kind of lost in the shuffle between Nick Foles’ big night and the fact that Doug likes to establish the run “backwards” by stretching the field early with some deep shots to thin out the box. Even then, the running back committee had a great day at the office. The 164 yards the Eagles gained on the ground was the most a Belichick team has ever surrendered in a Super Bowl, and they accomplished that at over 6 yards per carry. On the passing front, Nick Foles was barely touched and consistently had clean pockets to survey the field. In a night highlighted by trick plays and polished skill position players, it was the men in the trenches who really made this possible for the Eagles. The Patriots front was much less talented and athletic than the Eagles, and it showed.
- Don’t settle for field goals. There are only two words that need to be said here:
(Also, no reaction AT ALL from Chris Collinsworth when they ran that play? Fuck that guy.)
All of these bullet points were from the offense because... well, the defense decided to take the day off for 3 1⁄2 quarters. They came up big when they needed it most, though: the Eagles were the first team since the 2015 Broncos to increase their pressure rate on Brady in the fourth quarter during the playoffs. Jim Schwartz’ unit was lights out in situational football all year long, and as I continually said to my dad each week, “A defense that wins situational football will win you a championship.” And boy, did they ever.
Here are some of my favorite lines (in hindsight) from those two articles.
If Nick comes out slinging it the Patriots could find themselves in a hole early.
The Eagles should see plenty of opportunities early on in the game to take shots deep, and they should be prepared to take them.
Speaking of defense, if you’re worried about Gronk, don’t be.
Strangely enough, as much as the defensive line has been hyped for this game, this is the side of the ball I am most worried about.
If they can do all of this right now, with Wentz on the sideline in street clothes... What are they gonna do when they have him for a full season?
That was me preparing for a loss, not a win. But man does it ring even truer now.
Just for good measure, here’s one last link back to my rant after the Chiefs loss as a reminder that everyone thought the sky was falling at one point this season. Funny how things can change so quickly. (And yes, I’ll happily eat crow for saying Kelce “needs to go” in that article.)
Savor this win, ladies and gentlemen. We’ve earned it, and we sure as hell deserve it. I love you all.
Savor this win, and then buckle the fuck up, because it’s time to get ready for the new norm in Philadelphia.
Fly Eagles Fly.