Nick Foles played lights out in Super Bowl 52. The biggest game of his career was also his most impressive, with the six-year veteran carving up the Patriots defense, throwing for 373 yards, 3 touchdowns and a pick. But while Nick Foles stole the show and went toe-to-toe with the greatest to ever do it, there’s one group of players who Foles should be taking to Dinner before his trip to Disney World.
The offensive line.
Officially named the best offensive front in Football during the NFL honors, this group took flight in the Super Bowl with one aim and one aim only; dominate. Nick Foles was given a clean pocket all night long, with pressure rarely affecting his throws. The Patriots were able to amass just five quarterback hits on Foles and no sacks whatsoever. Sure, Foles had his moments of dancing around the pocket like the playoff Gazelle he has become, but the Eagles offensive front did a brilliant job of keeping the Pats pass-rush silenced.
If we’re talking about pass-protection too, then Halapoulivaati Vaitai deserves a very special mention. The TCU product who has filled in valiantly in the absence of Jason Peters was tasked with handling James Harrison on 68 of 75 snaps on Sunday night.
Harrison’s involvement in the defense was certainly surprising given how little he’s played since being acquired by the Patriots. However, the 39-year old brought plenty of experience to the table and that’s most likely the reason why. In the biggest game of the season with a sophomore left tackle filling in, the Pats tried to exploit that weakness…and failed. Vaitai wasn’t perfect by any means, but keeping Harrison to just 2 quarterback hits was a very impressive feat given the magnitude of the day. Helped by the Eagles where possible, Vaitai never wavered and held his own from start to finish.
It wasn’t just pass protection where the unit thrived, however. The Birds averaged a stunning 6.1 yards per carry on the ground. Deciding to roll with LeGarrette Blount as their lead back, the offensive line paved the way for the bruising veteran to some astonishing runs, including that decimating 36-yarder to drive the Eagles deep into enemy territory. Blount was a man on a mission against his former team, but it was the offensive line that helped him complete it.
This wasn’t coincidental, either. The Eagles ran formations with 6 offensive linemen just 5% of the time during the regular season, but did so 14% of the time last night, averaging a stunning 6.0 yards per carry. The extra girth along the offensive front certainly helped the Birds drive their way through the trenches and control the line of scrimmage all night long.
Lane Johnson and Jason Kelce showed just how athletic they can be when pulling and getting to the second level, while the interior guards did a fantastic job of sustaining blocks and carving open those gaps for the backs to run through.
What stood out most however was the depth. Once again, the Eagles were tested. For a brief stint in the game, left-guard Stefen Wisniewski was off the field, feared to have picked up an injury. Second-year guard, Isaac Seumalo, was dropped into the game and performed as soundly as could be expected until Wisniewski returned.
No matter which lens you view this unit through, the offensive line was a huge reason behind the offenses success last night. Brilliant from start to finish, just as they have been all year long, Football is won and lost in the trenches…and the Eagles just won it all.
Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports