With Super Bowl LII set for Sunday, here are three things the Philadelphia Eagles will need to do to beat the New England Patriots to claim the franchise’s first Lombardi Trophy:
1. Pressure Brady
This will be the biggest key for the Eagles, a must, however one wants to put it.
If they can’t get to Tom Brady, it’s going to be a long night for Philadelphia and a rather easy Super Bowl for the Patriots.
New England comes into the game ranked second in scoring (28.6 points per game) and passing yards (276.1) and first in total yards per game (394.2) with Brady as the key reason why.
The 40-year-old is coming off another MVP-caliber season after completing 66.3 percent of his passes for 4,577 yards and 32 touchdowns to just eight interceptions. That being said, expect the Eagles to attempt to apply plenty of pressure to a quarterback, whose offensive line has had trouble keeping offing the ground at various points this year.
Overall, Brady has been sacked 35 times this season. And Philadelphia has shown it is more than able to get to the opposing signal caller. The Eagles ranked 15th in the league with 38 sacks and have four in two playoff games. Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox is a deference maker, but the Eagles also rotate their line - consisting of Brandon Graham (led the team with 9½ sacks), rookie Derek Barnett, Timmy Jernigan, Vinny Curry and former Patriot Chris Long - to keep the group fresh. Outside of Curry, the others had five sacks or more this season.
To New England’s credit, the offensive line has played better as of late. Over the team’s two playoff games this season, the unit has given up three sacks (all against the Jaguars), while giving up eight quarterback hits and five pressures.
2. Win the turnover battle
While getting pressure on Tom Brady is going to be the No. 1 priority, a close second will be winning the turnover battle.
Bill Belichick, Brady and the Patriots are among the best, if not the best, in the league in capitalizing on other’s mistakes. In other words, New England often makes you best yourself. This is something the Eagles are going to have to avoid if they want to come out with the franchise’s first Lombardi Trophy.
The good thing for Philadelphia is its ability to win the turnover battle is a factor in the team’s 13-3 regular season record and No. 1 seed in the NFC. As a team, the Eagles finished fourth in the NFL in takeaways with 33 - 19 interceptions and 14 forced fumbles - and have a +11-turnover differential in the regular season.
In two postseason games, Philadelphia has forced three (two interceptions and a forced fumble), all of which came against the Vikings in the NFC title game.
The Patriots on the other hand, ended their regular season with a +6-turnover differential and are -1 in the playoffs.
But Brady isn’t prone to making mistakes. He has yet to turn the ball over in the postseason with five touchdown passes and only threw eight interceptions in the regular season with one fumble.
Safety Malcolm Jenkins and corners Patrick Robinson, Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby will have to play their best games if they want the Eagles to be successful.
3. Spread the ball around
The Eagles finished out the regular season with the third-highest scoring offense in the league in terms of points per game with 28.6 and seventh in total yards at 365.8. A major reason for that has been Philadelphia’s ability to keep opponents from focusing in one specific player, particularly in the passing game.
The Eagles had three different players finish the season with at least 57 catches, 750 yards and eight touchdowns and only two players go over the 100-yard mark this season.
Tight end Zach Ertz led the team in catches (74) and yards (824) with eight scores and should pose matchup problems for New England’s linebackers and secondary. The Vikings (with the top ranked defense) learned that in the NFC Championship as Ertz finished with 8 catches for 93 yards.
Alshon Jeffery finished next in terms of yards with 789 on 57 receptions (13.8 yards per catch led the team) and a team-high nine touchdowns, which only the Texans’ DeAndre Hopkins and the Packers’ Devante Adams had more. He caught five passes for 85 yards and two touchdowns against the Vikings.
Perhaps the most surprising of the three is third-year wide out Nelson Agholor, who had a breakout season with 62 catches for 768 yards and eight touchdowns and provides an excellent complement to Jeffery.
Then there is Torrey Smith, the team’s deep threat, who had 430 yards and two touchdowns and brings Super Bowl experience when he won Super Bowl XLVII with the Ravens as well as tight end Trey Burton, who finished with five touchdowns.
If the Patriots are able to take away one receiver, which Bill Belichick is known for doing, there should be plenty of other options for Nick Foles to throw to.
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org