By Joseph Santoliquito
MINNEAPOLIS, MN (CBS) — As the Eagles get ready to face the New England Patriots on Sunday in Super Bowl LII, there are a few apparent facts that need to be taken into consideration:
1. These Patriots aren’t as good as other Tom Brady-led teams that have reached the Super Bowl. The New England defense has been leaking all season, finishing the regular season ranked 29th in total defense, giving up an average of 366 yards a game. The Pats’ defense was also among the worst on third downs, allowing teams to convert 39 percent (82 of 208) of the time, which was ranked 12th overall in the NFL. This postseason, the Eagles have converted an NFL playoff-best 59 percent (16 of 27).
2. In New England’s three losses this season to the Chiefs, Panthers, and Dolphins, the opposing team’s average time of possession was 28:15. The Eagles led the NFL in time of possession this season, averaging 32:41 a game. In New England’s 13 regular-season victories, it averaged 31:10 a game.
3. Physically, the Eagles appear on paper to be the better physical team.
Strong indicators point in the Eagles’ direction.
“It’s why we play the game,” Patriots’ left tackle Nate Solder said. “We believe in what we do. We have confidence in who we are.”
What does that mean?
Simple, the Patriots know and believe in the game plan their future Hall of Fame coach Bill Belichick gives them. Further, they believe their resident guru and his staff will outwit Eagles’ coach Doug Pederson and his staff to win.
The Patriots certainly have proof, when you consider the errors opposing coaches have made against Belichick in past Super Bowls. Against Seattle, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll outwitted himself by going with that pass near the goal line that the Patriots practiced against all week, instead of just pounding Marshawn Lynch into the end zone.
Last year against Atlanta, then Falcons’ offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, now head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, thought he would be one step ahead of Belichick when he decided to pass with the ball at the New England 23 with less than four minutes to play.
A field goal would have guaranteed the Atlanta Falcons a Super Bowl championship. Instead, Shanahan called a pass, thinking New England was expecting run. Matt Ryan was sacked for a 12-yard loss, and the following play Atlanta was called for a 10-yard holding penalty. Atlanta went from sitting at the 23 to the New England 45 in a blink. Ryan then was forced to pass and threw an incompletion. The Falcons had to punt and the Patriots rode off into history with the first overtime Super Bowl victory.
Will Pederson out think himself? Or will he stay with what got him and the Eagles here? One very strong answer the Eagles’ second-year coach made leading up to this game was this, “You know what? If I make this all about them, we’re in trouble,” he said. “Honestly, we’re in trouble. Everything’s going to be written about it—everything has been written about it—talked about it, debated, and it’s about us. I’ll keep saying that. It’s about what we do and how well we execute, and I can’t worry about that.”