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Super Bowl 52: How the Eagles can de-throne the dynasty

By Evin Hartsock, Managing Editor

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     After an unexpected 38-7 blowout of the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship Game, celebrations exploded all over the city of Philadelphia as the Eagles earned their spot in the Super Bowl for the first time in over a decade. As greased light poles were climbed, beers were thrown and the streets flooded with fans, confetti rained down in Lincoln Financial field. While Eagles’ owner Jeffery Lurie was presented with the NFC Championship trophy, fans chanted “We want Brady!” Offensive lineman Lane Johnson said after the game that he wanted to dethrone “pretty-boy Tom” and a team that had come into that game with an underdog mentality suddenly seemed like the most confident team in the world.

     The Eagles will need to carry over all of the confidence from that night into this Sunday if they want a shot at getting revenge for their Super Bowl loss to Tom Brady’s Patriots in 2005. While confidence is going to be essential, they’ll also need head coach Doug Pederson to have a solid game plan in order to take down quite possibly the best quarterback the game has ever seen.

      Speaking of Brady, stopping him will be the first order of business that the Eagles will have to deal with in their pursuit of a world championship. Stopping a five-time Super Bowl champion is no easy task, but luckily the Eagles have a defense that might be able to do just that. The Eagles have had a top-five defense all season that has heated up and been quite formidable in the playoffs. In the divisional round, Philly’s defense held the Atlanta Falcons, who were eighth in overall offense in the regular season, to just 10 points, making reigning MVP Matt Ryan look pedestrian in the process. Similarly, they held the Vikings, who averaged 22 points a game to just seven points. They’ve also had the best run defense all year, pressuring quarterbacks on 40 percent of drop backs, which ranks first in the league.

     This Eagles defense has no problem getting pressure on the quarterback with a plethora of pass rushers such as Brandon Graham, Chris Long and Fletcher Cox, but they’ll have to do it a bit differently when dealing with Tom Brady.

       Brady can read defenses and pick up the blitz better than anyone in the game and can usually get rid of the ball before a pass rusher can even get a hand on him. Because of this, the only way to really get to Brady is to make him hold the ball longer. In order to even have a chance of that, the Eagles will need to drop seven back in coverage, leaving just four pass rushers up front. Looking back at the defenses that have beaten Brady, such as the 2007 and 2011 Giants, both New York units featured a very talented front four that could get pressure without and extra rusher, allowing their defensive backs to make plays. The Jacksonville Jaguars, who gave Brady quite a difficult go in the AFC Championship, have a defense similar to this as well.
While there might not be a definitive answer to completely shutting down Tom Terrific, there certainly is a scheme to slowing him down that the Eagles have been able to implement all season. With the likes of Timmy Jernigan, Vinny Curry, Cox, Graham, Long and Barnett, Philadelphia has a stable of interchangeable combinations of rushers that can get to the quarterback with just four on the line.

     When it comes to the backside of the defense, the Eagles’ secondary, a unit that was expected by many to underperform, has been quite formidable this season. Cornerbacks Jalen Mills and Patrick Robinson have both made clutch plays in the playoffs as has Ronald Darby. The Eagles’ defensive backs match up fairly well with New England’s receivers. No single Patriot pass-catcher has stood out as Brady’s dominant option since he lost Julian Edelman to an ACL tear early in the season.

     The Eagles’ biggest problem on defense will be finding out how to stop New England tight end Rob Gronkowski. Gronk is by far Brady’s favorite target and poses a big threat over the middle of the field; a threat that the Eagles’ linebackers will have to find out how to handle. Since losing Jordan Hicks to an achilies early in the year, then losing Hicks’ back-up Joe Walker, Philadelphia’s linebacker corps have become the weakest unit on the defense. Linebacker Mychal Kendricks will need to play at a high level and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz will need to come up with some schemes to get safeties Malcom Jenkins and Rodney McLeod involved to help neutralize Gronkowski as effectively as possible.

     Offensively, the Eagles should stick to a script similar to the one they used against Minnesota in which Pederson tailored the offense to fit backup quarterback Nick Foles. Pederson used the strength of his offensive line, which has been one of the best in the league all year, to establish the run early. This allowed Foles to settle in and open up the run-pass options that had some success in the second half of the first playoff game against Atlanta. Pederson then used some short, quick passes to get Foles into a rhythm, which gave him the confidence to throw the ball up and allow receivers Torrey Smith and Alshon Jefferey to make big plays.

     Get ready to see a swarm of dog masks overtake Minneapolis on Sunday as the underdogs will attempt to take down the dynasty in Super Bowl LII. While it certainly will be no easy task, this Eagles team, who has faced adversity and has been doubted all year, is certainly up for the challenge.

 

 

 

 

This will be Bill Belichick’s eighth Super Bowl appearance as head coach of the New England Patriots, the fourth this decade. The tandem of Belichick and Tom Brady have won five of their seven attempts in the big game.
 

 

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Super Bowl 52: How the Eagles can de-throne the dynasty