compiled by Andrew Potter
Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around emails about the games that each of us are watching. We share information about the games that the rest of the group might not be watching, ask questions, and keep everyone else informed about which games they might want to tune into (if they can).
On Monday, we compile a digest of those emails and produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.
While these emails are generally written with Audibles in mind, they do not represent a standard review of all the games each week. That means we aren't going to cover every game, or every important play. We watch the games that we, as fans, are interested in watching, so your favorite team's game might not be covered to your fullest desires or even at all. (If you are a Steelers or Patriots fan, you are probably in luck; if you are a Browns fan, not so much.) We have no intention of adding new authors solely to cover every game on a given Sunday, nor will we watch a different game from the ones that we're personally interested in watching just to ensure that Audibles covers every game.
Philadelphia Eagles 41 over New England Patriots 33
Aaron Schatz: Eagles march down the field fairly easily on the first drive, but the Patriots stiffen in the red zone -- what else is new? -- helped by a false start penalty. 3-0, Eagles. The good sign for the Eagles is that the blocking was really good on the whole drive. The bad sign for the Eagles is that Nick Foles has been off on a couple of passes. Third-and-12 conversion was behind Torrey Smith, great catch. Third down in the end zone that led to the field goal was off. Feel like the Eagles play designs here are better than the quarterback.
Bryan Knowles: Apparently, any play fake counts as a run-pass option today. So says Al Michaels.
It will be interesting to see how Malcolm Butler is used today. He didn't start, with Eric Rowe getting the nod instead. Rowe was the closest defender in coverage on each of the third-down conversions, so that may not be a thing for much longer. Have the Pats used Rowe in the big nickel package for most of the year? It would make sense if they went to that a lot as a way of shutting Zach Ertz down, but swapping Butler for Rowe feels like a downgrade.
Carl Yedor: On the third-and-long to Smith, it looked like the defensive back would have been in position to break up the pass if Foles had led the receiver. Still a great catch by Smith. The New England bend-but-don't-break defense shows up again.
Dave Bernreuther: That false start penalty was a great example of a drive killer, and an entirely preventable one. Procedural penalties are pretty inexcusable when you're not the road team, and the difference between second-and-short and second-and-8 is huge. And we saw it in the play calls after, both of which appeared to be of the quarterback-hiding variety: single-read rollouts with instructions to get rid of it rather than throw into a tight window.
With how this Pats defense plays, a touchdown from the 2-yard line was still no sure thing, but backing the Eagles up after that Ertz penalty could very well have cost them four points. Not optimal against these Patriots at all.
Aaron Schatz: This much Rowe is very new. All year long, it was Butler and Stephon Gilmore starting, and then Jonathan Jones was the nickel most of the year, but he got injured, and was replaced by Rowe.
Derrik Klassen: New England marching down the field felt like a significantly more sustainable approach than Philadelphia's. Nick Foles was often under pressure and inaccurate on the first drive, but the Eagles were able to find some yards after catch and make tough catches. Tom Brady and the Patriots looked as smooth as ever, spreading the ball around to everyone with ease. Both offenses were stifled inside the red zone, but I suspect New England will be able to build on their success, while Philadelphia will stumble some.
(Eagles immediately drive 77 yards in three plays for a touchdown.)
I was so wrong, so fast. Yikes.
Aaron Schatz: Foles looked a lot better on the second drive ... on the couple of throws that actually were there. Beautiful throw on the Alshon Jeffery deep touchdown.
Bryan Knowles: Who needs long, methodical drives when you've got the bomb!
Eric Rowe in coverage again, though I think it'd be a bit of a stretch to call it bad coverage -- Jeffery made a heck of a catch.
Dave Bernreuther: I'm not a hundred percent certain that ball placement was by design, but yeah, it ended up in a place where only Jeffery could make the play on the ball, and that wasn't on Rowe at all.
Missed extra points never come back to haunt teams in playoff games. Ever. Just ask New England.
Scott Kacsmar: Good first quarter. Only penalties were a false start on each team. Eagles left five points out there with mistakes, but they look competent so far. Should be a track meet where situational football decides things. Agree with notion that offense seems to be coming easier for the Patriots so far.
Andrew Potter: Rodney McLeod has made the two biggest plays of the game for the Eagles defense thus far: the tackle on Rob Gronkowski on New England's opening drive that was a guaranteed touchdown if he didn't stick the impact, and now staying upright to stop Brandin Cooks on a third-and-2 sweep. One missed field goal later, Eagles have the ball back up six.
Vince Verhei: Tremendous catch by Jeffery on the touchdown. I wasn't impressed by Foles' throw -- I thought it was underthrown and Jeffery just made a tremendous catch outjumping Rowe for the score.
Then Rodney McLeod powerbombs Brandin Cooks for a third-down stop, and Gostkowski misses the field goal after a bad snap. Pair that with Philadelphia's missed extra point and the false start at the goal line, that's a lot of mistakes in scoring range by both teams already.
Bryan Knowles: That spinebuster on third-and-2 must have been a tribute to the Minnesota Wrecking Crew; Arn Anderson would be proud.
And now both teams have exchanged misfires from close range in the kicking game. I'll admit, I did not see that coming.
Andrew Potter: I'm horrified that a player with Brandin Cooks' speed, one-on-one with a safety in the open field, thought that hurdling was the correct play.
And now Cooks is knocked into next week by Malcolm Jenkins on a play where Cooks again should have headed directly upfield instead of dancing around. It will stun me if Cooks returns to the game.
Nothing remotely illegal about that hit, incidentally. He was established as a runner, and just didn't see Jenkins coming.
Carl Yedor: Agree with Andy that I can't see Cooks coming back in. Those are the kinds of plays that make football dangerous. Jenkins is flying at him full speed and can't adjust his trajectory to react to Cooks changing direction. Hope Cooks is OK.
Bryan Knowles: Cooks has been officially ruled out, as you would expect.
Ahhhhhh, we had a reverse pass option, Brady gets wide open ... and the throw's a tad too long. Don't quit your respective day jobs.
(I love the call, because they were going for it on fourth anyway, so why not try to break something huge?)
Andrew Potter: Turns out, it is actually possible to overestimate Tom Brady's deep speed.
Vince Verhei: I was very confused by the Patriots' trick play on third down -- until they went for it on the ensuing fourth down. Obviously they knew they would go for it if the trick play failed. That said, Brady was open for a big play and Danny Amendola missed him -- add it to the list of missed opportunities.
Aaron Schatz: Patriots gonna go crazy with the screens. 47 yards by Rex Burkhead on a screen, but then on a third down, the Eagles pass rush was so intense that they knocked James White off his swing route and Brady had to throw the ball into a big empty space.
Vince Verhei: Oh, wow, wow, wow. Jeffery almost cinches up the MVP award in the first half, but he can't quite hang on to the one-handed grab, and it turns into an interception instead. This game is just two teams taking turns dodging bullets.
Aaron Schatz: Eagles backs are doing a great job picking up the blitz, but Nick Foles just launched a deep pass a bit high and Alshon Jeffery tipped it up into the hands of Duron Harmon. That's the Patriots' first takeaway in five games.
Bryan Knowles: First turnover of the game, and it's an odd one. If Jeffery had given up on the play, it's an incomplete pass -- I hate it when great effort leads to bad results.
James White, rumblin', bumblin', stumblin', and the Patriots capitalize on the turnover. You have to feel that any mistake against New England gets exploited.
...And we have another short kick miss! Stephen Gostkowksi misses his second of the day. What a weird freaking game.
Vince Verhei: Uh, you don't capitalize on a turnover on a 90-yard drive. Give the offense 100 percent credit for that one.
Bryan Knowles: Oh, by no means do I mean to take anything away from the offense. Just that it seems, subjectively, like Patriots turnovers never lead to a three-and-out.
Vince Verhei: Hey, a swing pass to a running back (Corey Clement) for Philadelphia's biggest play of the first half. If only someone had predicted New England would be vulnerable to that.
Bryan Knowles: Trey Burton, college quarterback. Direct snap, handoff to Burton, pass to Foles, touchdown. On fourth-and-goal, with seconds left in the half. Doug Pederson, I think I love you.
Dave Bernreuther: Doug Pederson just called an end-around pass from the backup tight end to the quarterback. On fourth down. In the Super Bowl.
That said, I'll go ahead and say that was an illegal formation. Nelson Agholor was more than a full yard off the line of scrimmage on right end, if you ask me...
Aaron Schatz: Yes, Matt Chatham points out here, it was an illegal formation.
The fourth down trick play TS to Nick Foles was an illegal formation, should have been called back...extended WR to the top of the screen is off the ball (needs to be on the line with just the OT on inside him). #SB52 #Eagles #Patriots pic.twitter.com/tdX7hIpiGu
— Matt Chatham (@chatham58) February 5, 2018
No conspiracy against the Pats. No conspiracy to favor the Pats. Sometimes refs just miss stuff.
Derrik Klassen: Doug Pederson going for that fourth down is what it takes to beat New England. Too often coaches cower against Bill Belichick (and Nick Saban, like in the national championship), but you have to be aggressive. That first half of offense was as good as Philadelphia could have hoped, and better than I imagined they would sustain.
Vince Verhei: That was the most insanely great touchdown I've ever seen for like a dozen reasons. I saw the direct snap coming but figured it would be to set up the dive they should have run on third-and-1. Doug Pederson is one hell of a football coach.
Also, important: getting that touchdown instead of taking the field goal pretty much makes up for all the scoring-range missteps they had earlier in the game.
Aaron Schatz: It's always hard to see specific coverage on television, but whatever the Eagles are doing to cover Gronkowski, it's working wonderfully. 22-12 at halftime.
Vince Verhei: What a bizarre but fantastically entertaining first half of football. If you had told me the Patriots would average 9.7 yards per play in the first half, I would have been sure they would be way ahead -- but they're 2-of-7 on third/fourth down, they're completing less than half their passes, and they're down by 10 at halftime.
Andrew Potter: I don't think I've ever seen Gronkowski so ... well, timid. He's lost a couple of possible receptions at the catch point, contested receptions he would usually make. A fortnight removed from a concussion, it makes one wonder.
(I am not suggesting impropriety from the Patriots, incidentally; just that the effect of a concussion does not go away the moment the player passes the examinations.)
Bryan Knowles: So. What do the Pats do in the second half to get back in this? It's only a 10-point deficit and they start with the ball, so if anything, they're doing better than they were last year.
I'm honestly not sure they have to do anything differently -- just execute what they currently are doing a little cleaner. As Vince pointed out, they're averaging 9.7 yards per play, so they're not exactly sputtering out there. I wouldn't mind seeing more no-huddle out of them, though -- really wear out that Philly defensive line and keep them from rotating.
Rivers McCown: Halftime thoughts:
- The two quarterback passes made me think of this Ian Boyd piece on the concept of "total football" coming to college. Might this be the start of even deeper hybrid concepts?
- Damn are these two teams well-coached. I must admit I was lukewarm on the Doug Pederson hire after his offense played zero catch-up against the Pats a few playoffs ago. But wow has he done a great job this year. I think we're going to enter into a segment of NFL history where coaching matters more than ever.
- The Pats aren't getting their running backs involved in the passing game at all. That's what worries me more than anything about their offense in comeback mode. The Rex Burkhead catch was nice. They need more.
- Brandin Cooks has a concussion. Concussion. Not head injury. Concussion. Say it, NFL partners.
Scott Kacsmar: We never spend a sentence talking about a quarterback's ability to catch the ball, and we somehow have a Super Bowl where one quarterback caught a touchdown on fourth down and the other dropped a third-down pass. Hard to find a game where both offenses are over 320 yards at halftime, and a 22-12 score is also super unique. Just a really fun half of football and I can't wait to see how it plays out. Eagles obviously can't get too confident after what the Patriots did last year, and they are getting chunk plays like crazy tonight, but definitely have to feel good about their performance so far. Foles looks pretty dialed in and the running game has hit some big ones too. As long as Pederson continues to bring it like this, good chance for the Eagles to capture that Lombardi.
Aaron Schatz: I wonder if the Cooks injury in a Super Bowl will bring more discussion of the idea that when you make a hit that causes a concussion, the defensive player has to miss the same amount of time as the injured offensive player.
Of course, sometimes it's the ground. You can't suspend the ground.
Andrew Potter: I could get behind that for a foul, but not for a legal hit.
Vince Verhei: There was nothing remotely punishable about the Cooks hit. Cooks had the ball and was (sorta) looking for running room and a defender tackled him. The only way to remove concussions on hits like that is to just go to two-hand touch or flag football.
Scott Kacsmar: I checked the ESPN database and this is the first NFL game since at least 2001 where both offenses had 320-plus yards at halftime. Only the third game period in that time where both offenses had even 300 yards at halftime. This is quite the track meet.
Bryan Knowles: I think it's safe to say, whatever Philadelphia was doing to take away Gronk in the first half? Yeah, the Patriots have adjusted.
Vince Verhei: Kind-of amazing. He gets wide open on the first play of the second half and Brady flat-out misses him -- then he catches four passes for 68 yards and a touchdown on the rest of the drive.
Tom Gower: Philadelphia's defense didn't really do much of a job of stopping the Patriots in the first half, except in the red zone. The Patriots scored a touchdown, had three field goal attempts, and failed on fourth down inside the 40 after a wide-open player failed to catch a pass on third down. Brady missed a couple throws and has looked falling back under the pressure of the front on some others, but that wasn't a sterling defensive performance. Sure, most of it wasn't Gronk, and the Patriots showed the first drive of the second half they could use him more often. But that was just a couple plays. The real story was on the other side of the ball, when Philadelphia had the one drive that was actually stopped but scored three actual touchdowns while Foles and Jeffery played well and Pederson had some great designing against a defense that you can beat player-for-player.
Bryan Knowles: Butler had an illness this week, so I would think that maybe it was worse than advertised, and he's there only for emergencies ... but I'm fairly sure he's been playing special teams, so that's out.
Dave Bernreuther: Any time anyone uses the "Brady has never had weapons" argument, show them that drive.
Aaron Schatz: Nobody sane has made that argument since 2006.
Dave Bernreuther: My apologies; too much reading Scott's Twitter...
Bryan Knowles: More from Illegal FormationGate. Jeffery clearly checked with the line judge before the play, who gave him the OK beforehand. It wasn't a missed call so much as it was the ref confirming that it was legal before the play started. I'm not sure how the rule is written, but I think calling a penalty on that after the official had already cleared it would have been a wee bit controversial.
Aaron Schatz: I really thought that Foles' receivers were saving him on the first drive, but since then he's been fantastic.
Vince Verhei: Foles really has been outstanding for most of this game.
(Corey Clement catches a 22-yard touchdown pass from Nick Foles. The play is reviewed, and the call stands.)
Bryan Knowles: Thank God that catch stood. If they had overturned it, Philadelphia might have rioted. I wouldn't blame them!
Andrew Potter: The way the rule has been called this season, it should not have stood, but I'm too tired of these controversies to care that much.
Bryan Knowles: If either defense would like to arrive to Super Bowl LII, that would be more than welcome.
Aaron Schatz: Patriots march right back down the field easily, touchdown Chris Hogan, 29-26. Do we just send the punters home at this point?
Andrew Potter: I would hope so, because both teams need to be of the mindset that every possession is four downs all the way until somebody proves they can make a stop.
Rivers McCown: How in the hell did the Eagles score just 15 on the Falcons?
Andrew Potter: Doug Pederson, unexpectedly, blinks first after a loss on third down, and kicks the field goal to go up by six. The Patriots respond with a touchdown drive to take their first lead of the night. Four-down territory all the way, guys.
Tom Gower: It was fourth-and-11. I get the field goal. The problem was losing 8 yards on third down.
Aaron Schatz: I'm not going to fault Pederson for kicking a field goal on fourth-and-11. That's an awful lot.
Remember when we thought the Eagles would be able to pressure the Patriots with just their front four? That's not happening. Brady has all day to throw. I feel like Foles is making more difficult throws than Brady is; Brady seems to have time and totally open guys, Foles is dropping dimes and sometimes under pressure. No sacks in this game so far from either defense.
Bryan Knowles: There have been 1,025 yards in this game so far, after that Gronk touchdown. That means this game has the 41st most yards in NFL history. We still have nine minutes and change left in the game.
Gronk and Brady have now caught Montana and Rice for most touchdowns by a quarterback-receiver duo in Super Bowl history.
You basically have to talk about this game in superlatives, because it has been a wild one.
Andrew Potter: Safe to say that Gronkowski's second half has been anything but timid. He has taken over on a bunch of plays in the second half, and turned the Patriots offense back into the machine to which we're accustomed.
With eight minutes left, we get back into metastrategy: if you're the Eagles here, are you trying to score quickly or take your time? You want to score, of course, as your first priority, but you don't want to give New England the ball with the chance to drive for the win -- unless you think you will also have time to match.
The Gostkowski field goal miss, incidentally, could be critical: it's the difference between a field goal and a touchdown to take the lead for the Eagles.
Bryan Knowles: Love Doug Pederson going for it on fourth-and-1 with six minutes and change left. Punting isn't going to win this game, and even if you fail and the Pats score again, you'd still be down just eight in the worst-case scenario. Drain the clock, score late.
Vince Verhei: Way too early to think about the clock. It is exactly the right time, though, to talk about going for it on fourth-and-1 in your own territory, down by one point late in the game. Conventional wisdom says you punt. Most of us would say go for it. But Brady and the New England offense have been so dominant, even Cris Collinsworth said they had to go for it there. And they did, and converted the first down on the completion to Ertz.
Bryan Knowles: The Patriots need 29 yards on this drive to break the all-time record for most yards in one NFL game, which has stood since 1950. Again, this is the Super Bowl.
Aaron Schatz: The first sack of the game just ended the game.
Vince Verhei: I'm seeing a lot of debate that on his go-ahead touchdown, Ertz should have gone down at the 1 and the Eagles should have run out the clock and kicked a field goal. Would that have worked? 2:20 to go, with the two-minute warning and one timeout left, Patriots still would have had time to drive for a field goal, right?
It's irrelevant now, with the first sack of the game leading to a fumble and Eagles ball. Actually, not irrelevant -- the clock is critical now, but the equation has definitely changed.
Bryan Knowles: First sack of the game. Fumble. Eagles ball. Wow. The Pats could get the ball back with a stop, but that might well be the dagger.
Andrew Potter: I am not a fan of going down at the 1 while trailing. Stuff can go wrong, and the kicking in this game hasn't exactly been clinical. Tie game is a different story.
The Patriots have not punted once, and are going to lose this game. That is just incredible.
Bryan Knowles: Let's not speak too soon -- Pats get the third-down stop, and they're going to get the ball back.
The decision to go for two each time was right, but the misses loom large now.
Vince Verhei: Hated, hated, hated the decision to run on third down there. A first down wins the game. A run and a field goal does not.
Bryan Knowles: Alright, show of hands -- who thought for sure Gronk was going to catch that Hail Mary? I certainly did.
Most yards in a game in NFL history. The Pats gained 613 yards, never punted ... and lost. Wow.
Vince Verhei: That was one of the very best games I've ever seen Tom Brady play. Unreal that wasn't enough to win. If I was a Lions fan, I'd be really uncomfortable about my new head coach turning Nick Foles into a Super Bowl MVP.
Aaron Schatz: Congratulations to all the Eagles fans. I know how much this means to them. This is the equivalent of the Red Sox winning the World Series in 2004 more than it is the equivalent of any recent Super Bowl title by the Patriots or anyone else. The entire city lives and breathes with Eagles football and has been waiting for this for longer than the Super Bowl has actually existed.
The only member of the Patriots defense who can still hold his head high after that performance was Stephon Gilmore, who shut down Alshon Jeffery for most of the game after the Pats put him on Jeffery exclusively. Otherwise... ugh. So little pass rush.
Oh, and if we're going to have the "best Super Bowl argument," again, I'm partial to Super Bowl XLIII (Steelers-Cardinals). Unlike this game it had both offense and defense. Or Super Bowl XLIX.
Bryan Knowles: Yeah, this wasn't the best Super Bowl ever, because that requires all three phases of the game to be on point, and neither the defense nor special teams made much of an appearance in this one. But I'd argue it was better than last year's game, because it was tense the whole way through. LI feels a lot better in retrospect, because we know now the Patriots came back -- but it felt dead at 28-3. This was exciting, baffling, amazing, a bunch of other superlatives all the way through.
Andrew Potter: Doug Pederson has had an incredible year, and is a deserving champion. He has been aggressive in the right spots, overcome adversity with creativity, and he and Frank Reich called a fantastic game tonight.
For the Patriots, concerns about the defense proved very well-founded. 41 points allowed in any game is unacceptable, but in the Super Bowl against an Eagles team missing its starting quarterback, that might have been the worst I have ever seen a Patriots defense play. Even in those early weeks, they would at least get a couple of sacks and force a handful of punts. Here, they barely ever looked like they could stop anything the Eagles wanted to run.
Derrik Klassen: I recall some people trolling FO for DVOA having New England's defense so low. As it turns out, that defense gave up 40-plus and squandered a good offensive performance.
Of course, credit to Doug Pederson and the Eagles offense. I did not expect Nick Foles to play well throughout the whole game, but he did, and what he provided on top of a monstrous run game was all Philadelphia needed for the win.
The way the game progressed was not exactly predictable, but the demise of New England at the hand of their own defense was not surprising.
On another note: My word, what a game -- start to finish.
Tom Gower: Yeah, I see the argument in favor of Steelers-Cardinals, and made it last year (which was like Titans-Rams in that large chunks of it weren't exciting). But this one was back and forth. There weren't many good defensive plays aside from the strip sack, no, but there were a number of huge potential inflection points that can reasonably be said to have affected how the game went. The touchdown right before half, the missed kicks, the two-point conversion. There was a lot that's going to get overshadowed by the fact that both teams kept moving the ball and scoring points. But we only know that now, at the end of the game. These teams could have figured something out. We know now that they didn't, really, but that doesn't change how I experienced the game. And, while we didn't get the same huge plays at the very end of the game, like Pittsburgh-Arizona, we got multiple lead changes in the fourth quarter. Philadelphia's drive just took a long time.
Vince Verhei: New England allowed 41 points to a team missing its starting quarterback AND starting left tackle AND starting kicker AND third-down back.
I can only imagine the trade offers for Foles are going to come flooding in soon. He'll be 29 next year, which is older than I would have thought, but hardly old for a quarterback. And his ceiling is obviously higher than any other veteran who would be available -- it's now one great year and one great postseason on his resume. But there will be time to discuss that later.
All in all, much better than last year's game and one of the very best ever. I get the no-defense argument -- I said the same thing about that famous Green Bay-Arizona wild card game -- but there were still enough twists and turns to keep things interesting, that's for sure. Best ever? I don't know if I'd say that, but if someone else did, I wouldn't argue with them.
Tom Gower: Yeah, I probably pushed the "best ever" argument harder and quicker than I normally like to. But after some epic games, I feel the need to go away and process things for a while. Maybe because I wasn't as into some of the micro details or maybe for other reasons, I don't really feel that same way tonight. The macro-level issue for me remained Philly's offensive success against New England's defense. They had played better, but they were the 31st-ranked defense for a reason. They needed to win schematically and/or have the Eagles screw up. We've seen a lot of Nick Foles play and he was quite capable of screwing up, which is why I thought New England would win. But Philly won schematically and Foles played fantastic, as well or better than you could reasonably expect from him. Doug Pederson coached intelligently aggressively, something the past two Patriots playoffs games showed was definitely not a given even in the postseason, and the Eagles scored and kept scoring. Eventually, they got the one really big defensive play and that proved to be enough because they had kept scoring.
Rivers McCown: This was by far the best Big 12 Super Bowl.
So there was a lot of great coaching in this game. But. But! ... I'd be a little concerned to be a Lions fan after this performance from the Patriots defense.
Aaron Schatz: Games since 1978 where a team lost despite never punting:
Carl Yedor: I'll be interested to see if Pederson's aggression (e.g., aggressive call on fourth-and-short in his own territory in the fourth quarter) combined with the Browns hiring John Dorsey and Scot McCloughan results in the general populace beginning to label the Eagles as the "analytics" team instead of Cleveland. Foles made some huge plays down the field when it mattered. Wildly entertaining for fans of offensive football and aggressive play calling (fans of defense, not so much).
Cleveland is on the clock.
Scott Kacsmar: Thought I might get to bed at a decent time, but that game left a hell of a lot to take in. Yards upon yards devoured all night long. Incredible job by the Eagles to never blink even when the Patriots kept answering. A true shootout.
Dave Bernreuther: I'll disagree with Vince a bit here by saying that despite the raw totals, I don't think that was one of Brady's best games ever, or even this year. I thought he was better two weeks ago against the Jaguars, and that their offensive success tonight was a near masterpiece of play design and game-planning, just one that wasn't rewarded.
That sounds like anti-Brady bias, which makes it a hard position to defend against anyone who assumes that, but I say that because despite the fact that we can't point to too many blatant failures in coverage or execution by Philly's defense, the Pats spent the whole game with clean pockets and receivers running mostly wide open. Even the inaccurate throws were often completed for first downs. I'm not sitting here trying to pretend Brady didn't execute extremely well, just that the ease with which their offense operated was much more indicative of a top-to-bottom brilliantly played and coached game.
And the exact same thing is true on the other side too. We as fans can only hope that Doug Pederson's game plan and play calling and analytic conclusions and just plain big balls will be noticed by other teams and other owners, because hot damn. That game had all the excitement of a Big XII game (as someone else mentioned) but without the crappy play or athletic mismatches of the college game; it was mostly well played all around, even on defense, which is an awfully strange thing to say after one team gave up 41 and the other failed to force a punt. But it was masterfully game-planned and called from start to finish by both teams, and Rivers is right to note/hope that this could be the start of a newer trend of smarter coaching. (Meanwhile, the analytics-led team in Cleveland... kept Hue Jackson. Sigh.)
Man, what a game. It really did have everything. It was exciting from the very first drive to the last. There was brilliant coaching on both sides and there were amazing plays on both sides. There were heroic efforts, but no real goats. (Aside: Did Butler ever get on the field? For all the worry some had about the Eagles being hurt by the flu, could it be that its greatest impact was on New England?) Even at whatever outlandish $2,000-plus cost there was per ticket, those fans got their money's worth.
Not bad for a game featuring the NFC team most of us were least likely to expect to give the mighty Patriots a game. Hell of a way to wrap up a weird-as-hell 2017 season.
Benjy Rose: Question I can't get out of my head: was first-half Gronk a Belichick rope-a-dope?
Bryan Knowles: Dave, Butler got on the field quite a bit ... on special teams. He played no defensive snaps.
Dave Bernreuther: That's really, really strange. Especially since even when Patrick Chung briefly went out, he still didn't go in.
I had no idea he played special teams (obvious joke: sans punts, I had no idea there was special teams in this game), but that feels a lot like someone pissed off the coach and needed to be knocked down a peg or two. But it was the Super Bowl! I do wonder if there's more to that story than "we do what gives us the best chance to win."
I realized I didn't continue with my coaching praise in my last email: apparently I'm a bit of a contrarian here, but I'm excited for the Josh McDaniels era in Indianapolis. I know he was a bit arrogant in Denver, but this a coach who is one of only a few of the non-stubborn types willing to change the game plan from week to week -- whether it's 50 passes or 75 percent runs; full Bruce Arians mad bomber or all wide receiver bubble screen short dumpoff or West Coast-y; or between-the-tackles running, entirely based on the opponent -- who can scheme castoff receivers wide open at or near the line of scrimmage; who can make great play calls in the most pressure-filled moments ... all about to be teamed up with a quarterback with more physical talent than Brady, a diabolical mind, and health permitting another decade or more of football in him. The possibilities are endless. Maybe it'll still go poorly. Or be unlucky. But the sky is the limit for Andrew Luck and McDaniels. Colts fans should be ecstatic.
Mike Tanier: FLY EAGLES FLY
ON THE ROAD TO VICTORY
FIGHT EAGLES FIGHT
SCORE A TOUCHDOWN 123 (ONE! TWO! THREE!)
HIT 'EM LOW
HIT 'EM HIGH
AND WE'LL WATCH OUR EAGLES FLY
FLY EAGLES FLY
ON THE ROAD TO VICTORY
(Mike is a Football Outsiders alumnus who now writes for Bleacher Report. He has been through so many high and low points in Philadelphia sports history that he once wrote a book on the subject. We are very happy for Mike, as we all for all Philadelphia fans on their team's win. Congratulations!)