Eagles, Patriots Set to Clash in Super Bowl LII
The Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots are set to do battle in Super Bowl LII this Sunday in Minnesota. For many pundits, it was the Super Bowl they envisioned for much of the year as each team built an impressive record and separated themselves from conference opponents. That is, however, until Carson Wentz, QB of the Eagles and then-probable MVP, suffered a torn ACL in Week 14. But the Eagles carried on, earning the top seed in the NFC and logging two playoff wins at home behind former starting QB Nick Foles to earn the chance to try to upset New England, who themselves needed a classic Patriots comeback to earn yet another Super Bowl berth in their already-historic reign of dominance.
Super Bowl LII is a rematch of Super Bowl XXXIX, played at the culmination of the 2004 season. The Patriots won that game 24-21 behind the play of QB Tom Brady, one of his five Super Bowl victories since taking over as the Patriots starter in 2001. Now, at age 40, he is the only player left on either roster who was a part of that game.
The Patriots historic success over the last two decades has had little constancy, with a revolving door of roster turnover seemingly every season. But what has remained the same — Brady and head coach Bill Belichick — are both certain future Hall of Fame inductees and arguably the greatest at their respective jobs of all time. Though often tinged with controversy, their record and pattern of success on the field is one of the greatest in NFL history. Naturally, then, the Patriots’ chances of hoisting yet another Vince Lombardi trophy will likely hinge on the play of Brady. But he will need help. Of late, his greatest asset has been TE Rob Gronkowski. Combining nearly the size of an offensive tackle with the route-running and athletic ability of a wide receiver, he is a match-up nightmare for any defense. A WR corps featuring speed threat Brandin Cooks and classic Patriot precision route runners like Chris Hogan and Danny Amendola will pose a challenge for Philadelphia’s secondary.
For the Eagles, though, they understand none of them were there in the team’s last Super Bowl appearance back in 2005. And this team does not lack confidence. Despite being hailed as one of the league’s elite teams all season, much of the external confidence disappeared as Wentz was carted off the field with a season-ending injury. And while losing a starting QB, especially one playing at such a high level, is usually hard to overcome, the Eagles had a rather unique backup.
Nick Foles went to the Pro Bowl in 2013. After starting the season as the backup, he became the starter when Mike Vick went down with injury. He went on to have a historic NFL season, throwing 27 touchdowns against just two interceptions. The Eagles won the NFC East before losing a close game in the first round of the playoffs. But the Eagles — and Foles — never replicated that level of success. After the 2014 season, he was traded away. A year later, the Eagles fired their coach and began rebuilding.
But this season, after some good and some very shaky moments in the team’s final regular season games, Foles has, thus far, silenced his critics, guiding the team to a close 15-10 victory over last year’s NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons and then giving a master class performance in the NFC Championship game, dissecting the league’s best defense in a 38-7 dismantling of the Minnesota Vikings.
He will be aided by a host of players on both sides of the ball. Tight end Zach Ertz was a rookie in Foles’ magical 2013 season. This year, he was voted to his first Pro Bowl. Left tackle Lane Johnson was also a rookie in 2013. This year, he’s first team All-Pro. Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, and Nelson Agholor have given the Eagles a dangerous WR corps. In the backfield, former Patriot and Super Bowl LI winner LeGarrette Blount was joined mid-season by Jay Ajayi who, running behind one of the league’s best offensive lines, have given the Eagles an agile and versatile running attack.
But the Eagles defense, which also ranked near the top of the league, has been their best weapon. Led by All-Pro defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, they will be looking to stop one of the very best in Brady. Chris Long, another former Super Bowl winner, joined the Eagles just this season. After announcing that he would donate his entire season’s salary to charity, he has been part of a fierce pass rushing rotation and wreaked havoc in the NFC Championship game. Pro Bowl safety Malcolm Jenkins will anchor a secondary that has far out-paced expectations all season long.
The Eagles know the task at hand is a difficult one. Many millions of dollars have been lost betting against Tom Brady, who led his team back from a ten point deficit against Jacksonville in the AFC Championship game. But they were underdogs against both Atlanta and Minnesota too. In fact, they have taken their role as underdogs to heart, as evident in the “Dogs” masks and “Underdog” tees popularized by Long and Johnson, the proceeds of which benefit Philadelphia public schools.
It will be a hectic media week leading up to the game. But on Sunday, the story will be written on the field. Will Brady and the Patriots add yet another chapter to their historic dynastic run? Or will a proud Eagles team defy expectations and bring the first Lombardi trophy in franchise history back to Broad Street in Philadelphia?
Whoever you’re rooting for, capture this historic moment with great gear from NFLShop.com. Get Super Bowl LII gear for both teams including Super Bowl patch jerseys, tees, hats, hoodies, collectibles, and more. Shop for all your favorite players and be ready for what promises to be a great game.