With a chance to win a third Super Bowl in four years for the second time this century, the New England Patriots ironically faced off against the Philadelphia Eagles.
In typical Patriots fashion, it was another heart attack Super Bowl for New England. It was a back and forth affair, especially in the second half. Ultimately it came down to execution. That was the difference in this game. In a crucial moment, the Eagles executed better than the Patriots did.
- One – One play. That’s it. One play. All it took was one play. Philadelphia didn’t make a single play on defense until New England’s second to last possession of the game. Brandon Graham came through with a strip sack on Tom Brady. That was the only play the Eagles defense made the whole game and it was the play that clinched a Lombardi Trophy for Philadelphia.
- Defense Optional – This goes without saying with a final score as high as it was, but neither teams’ defense showed up in this game. The two offenses racked up a Super Bowl record 1,151 total yards in the game. That mark is good for a Super Bowl record. Not only was the yardage being piled up, but the third down defense was equally putrid. The two team’s combined to go 15-26 on third downs in the game.
- Trick Plays – Both teams tried their own trick plays. Coincidentally, both trick plays involved passes being thrown to their quarterbacks. When the Patriots attempted theirs, Tom Brady dropped his with plenty of room to run. On the Eagles attempt, Nick Foles managed to haul in his pass in the end zone for a touchdown. Was that the difference in the game? Who knows, but its is certainly interesting to think about.
- Depth – All season long the lack of depth in the linebacking corp was apparent. In the Super Bowl it reared its ugly head again. There was so little depth in the linebacking corp that safety and special teamer Jordan Richards was seeing significant playing time in crucial moments. That tells you all you need to know about the state of the New England linebackers.
- No Big Play – In the past two Super Bowl victories for the Patriots there were a handful of defensive plays that stood out. Whether it was Dont’a Hightower making an arm tackle on Marshawn Lynch at the one yard line, Malcolm Butler getting a game saving interception in the end zone, Hightower making a strip sack on Matt Ryan, or Trey Flowers sacking Ryan to knock the Falcons out of field goal range. Those plays weren’t made by New England tonight. Instead it was the aforementioned strip sack that Graham had on Brady.
- Team Speed – All season long, and even at times last season, the Patriots weren’t fast enough. That showed up again on defense in the Super Bowl. With the season now in the rearview mirror and the offseason rapidly approaching, getting faster on defense needs to be a focus for Bill Belichick.
There really shouldn’t have been any question about whether Brady would return for the 2018 season or not. In fact, Brady said himself he’d be returning next year. But following a game in which Brady threw for 505 yards and three touchdowns with zero interceptions there should be zero doubt now about whether Brady will return. A competitor like that will not want to go out with a taste like this in his mouth. Brady will be back next year and he’ll likely be angry.