The New England Patriots pulled off the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history last night, overcoming a 25 point halftime deficit to defeat the Falcons and hoist the Lombardi trophy. The game itself was incredible and there were plenty of moments that the Eagles would have been wise to take note of.
Balancing an Offense is crucial:
The game looked as if it was way out of reach when the teams headed to their locker rooms at halftime. Not only was Atlanta dominating on the ground and making life easier for Matt Ryan, but the Patriots struggled to create any momentum.
In the first half, the Pats had just 35 yards of rushing after continuing to try and punch the ball up the gut. This only put more pressure on Tom Brady, who ended up throwing 62 passes during the game. That number is frankly ridiculous, but one Eagles fans will resonate with.
There were times where rookie quarterback Carson Wentz was forced to put the Offense on his back during his rookie season..with the loss to the Bengals being the most prominent memory.
When the Eagles committee effort was thwarted, the Offense struggled to find any kind of rhythm, especially when playing from behind.
Without a stable rushing attack, the Offense is forced to rely on their quarterbacks and if there is anything we can take from last night’s game, it’s the importance of establishing the run.
Two successful 2-pt conversions in the second half sent the Patriots careering back into a game which many deemed to be lost. Continued deep shots as the second half progressed were a stark contrast to what we saw from McDaniels in the first half, who insisted on running the ball and trying to burst through the brick wall Atlanta had put up in the trenches.
With receivers dropping passes and a massively time consuming drive to start the second half, the Patriots had to get aggressive. Onside kicks, vertical looks and deeper routes were all features of a gameplan that screamed “never say die”..and it worked a charm.
Doug Pederson was often villainated for his coaching decisions during his rookie year. But it was exactly that, his first season as a Head Coach and one spent with an incredibly young team. It was all about finding his feet and towards the end of the year, the Eagles did begin to find a rhythm to their Offense, balancing it well and mixing deep shots in with simple checkdowns.
If the Patriots had dinked-and-dunked their way down the field in the second half, effectively rolling over, the criticism would be ripe. Instead, it’s the prowess of Bill Belichick that’s catching all the headlines and the greatness of a quarterback.
It’s the same scenario with Doug Pederson, if the Eagles had won their 6 games lost by one possession, he would be facing a completely different scenario heading into year two and all of the previous mistakes would have been forgotten by many. If there’s one thing Pederson should continue to be next season, it’s aggressive. Putting the team in situations to make the impossible, possible. Giving them a chance of scoring at every opportunity and refusing to lie down as they had previously.
Last night may be the finest example yet of playing the “Patriot way”. Down 25 points at the half, the team refused to get complacent and attacked every drive with the same mentality. It’s this culture that’s embedded so deep into the hearts of players that enabled them to share that same vision, even when the road was at its darkest.
A 53-man roster is a large team to motivate..but if they all perform as a cohesive unit with the same mindset, the sky is the limit. If one player begins to doubt or question the situation, that’s when things start to snowball. The loss to the Bengals showed that perfectly as Doug Pederson questioned the effort of his players during the following week. Once riled up, the team were playing with a new attitude on both sides of the ball.
With a new direction, new coaching staff and a new era, instilling culture early is something the Eagles had to do in 2016. Releasing Josh Huff, calling players out if their effort lacked and bringing an emotional side to the locker room that Chip Kelly lacked all played vital roles in doing so. But now it’s important for Pederson to ensure that every single player sees the same sky. That they all believe in themselves, trust the coaching staff and trust their teammates.
The base of a gritty Philadelphia culture has been laid and if anything, last night’s incredible game should be a prime example of what can be achieved if the team can build on that culture every single day.
Cornerbacks are cornerstones:
Although the tables turned at halftime, the narrative turned with them. In the first half, the Falcons cornerbacks were simply outstanding. Some huge plays from Robert Alford including a pick six and 11 tackles from Jalen Collins, saw the team completely silence the Patriots Offense. Bracketing the likes of Amendola and Edelman in, Brady was forced to do Tom Brady things in order to create any kind of momentum.
In the second half, it was the Pats cornerbacks who had their day. Despite some big plays early on and an incredible catch from Julio Jones against Eric Rowe, the Patriots corners did well to cover well enough for their pass rush to emerge and swing the pendulum back their way.
The Eagles cornerbacks began to struggle during the heart of the 2016 season and it hurt the pass-rush tremendously. Jim Schwartz touched upon it during a press conference and the effects were evident. Offenses began to gameplan around the Eagles lack of playmakers on the outside, utilizing the middle of the field and trusting their receivers to create separation on deeper routes. The quicker the ball came out, the less time that the dominant pass rush had to reach the quarterback.
Consistency at the cornerback position was something that came round to bite both the Falcons and the Patriots, but the Eagles were able to contain both teams during their last meetings. As Tom Brady surged to put up 466 passing yards and hit big play after big play, the value of consistent cornerbacks rose dramatically. The absence of Trufant hurt the Falcons, but for the Eagles, it should be a sign that bolstering the CB position should be of the upmost priority.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Liam is a 25-year old sports journalist from the UK and founder of the Philly Sports Network. In just five years he turned a hobby into one of the fastest-growing Philadelphia sports sites in the world, amassing 7,000,000 views and writing over 3,000 articles. Drawing attention from the likes of CSN, NJ.Com and Bleacher Report in the process, Liam is set on changing the way Philadelphia sports teams are reported on forever.
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