By Joseph Santoliquito
MINNEAPOLIS, MN (CBS) — It won’t work this time. That place Tom Brady has called home, with the Super Bowl in his grasp and scant seconds on the clock, won’t be so comfortable late Sunday night.
That’s because the Eagles’ pass rush, which has wreaked havoc this whole season, will still be coming after Brady with fresh legs, while the withering New England front line tries staving off another attack.
Brady will step up, look downfield feeling the heat and…
The Eagles have a good chance to win their first Super Bowl Sunday night in Super Bowl LII. They’re going to do it with a defense that has been the best against the run all season, giving up an average of 79.2 yards a game. They’ve only allowed seven touchdowns rushing.
They’re going to do it by making the Patriots completely one-dimensional. Brady can be Brady all he wants, but with a limited Rob Gronkowski, his options will be scant. Brady will probably look for Brandin Cooks downfield and screens to tailbacks James White and Dion Lewis.
Remember in 2004, when the Patriots screened the Eagles to death in the second half. Jim Schwartz will pull back and adjust.
Defensively, the Patriots ranked No. 30 against the pass. Granted, most of that is from New England’s first four games of the season, when they were giving up 32 points a game. Since then, it’s been whittled down to 13.7 points over the last 14 games, including the playoffs. An important stat here is the Patriots have only given up two fourth-quarter touchdowns in their last eight games.
But they haven’t faced an offense with as many important parts as the Eagles—even after they lost Carson Wentz and moved in Nick Foles.
“I don’t think the Eagles’ offense has really changed [from Wentz to Foles],” said Patriots’ defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said. “If you look at it, it’s a very consistent offense. They have a system in place that they have been able to keep and improve on, and I think they’ve done a great job coaching.”
Another important key is the play of Foles. If the Foles that showed up at the NFC Championship arrives, this game will be over quickly. If a hybrid version of Foles shows up instead, it could still be good for the Eagles. He completed passes to seven different receivers in the Eagles’ 38-7 NFC championship victory over a Minnesota defense that may be far better than New England’s. Foles connected on passes of 35 yards or more to four different receivers.
The Eagles also converted 10 of 14 third downs.
Could that happen against the Patriots?
But something remotely close will propel the Eagles, who are the better team.
What can happen is the Eagles build an early lead, force Brady and New England to do their comeback bit, and with the championship in his hands and time winding down, a desperate Brady forced up into the pocket throws an incomplete pass.
The Eagles run out the remaining time.
Prediction: Eagles 27, Patriots 23