What We’re Reading: February 8

When the final whistle blew last Sunday night, it was the Eagles that were left standing on top of the NFL world. The team prevailed over the New England Patriots in a fast-paced game that broke multiple records. These records included most total yards in a game ever (1,151) and most yards thrown for by a quarterback in Super Bowl history (Brady – 505).  However, Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles, proved to be a worthy competitor for Brady on this night posting 373 yards passing, which placed him in the top 5 for yards thrown in a Super Bowl. All in all, after adding up all of the numbers from one of the most statistically impressive championship games ever, the Eagles won 41-33. As we reflect on the Eagles upset win in the Big Game, we find it interesting to trace how both the Eagles and the Patriots found themselves in the championship contest. It is clear that the teams traveled very different paths.

  • For example, the Eagles famously embraced the under-dog identity throughout the post-season. They reveled in the “us against the world” mentality they assumed following the injury to their young rising star quarterback Carson Wentz. On the other hand, the Patriots ,who many, including USA Today, predicted would go undefeated throughout the 2017 campaign, found themselves playing on Super Sunday for the eighth time since 2001. While these two teams met in Super Bowl XXXIX, the Eagles looked far different from the McNabb-Reid led squad that took on Brady and Belichick in 2005.
  • The biggest similarity between the two teams may have been that the Eagles starting quarterback, Nick Foles, became the first back-up quarterback to win a Super Bowl since 2001 when it was done by Tom Brady himself. Foles’ path to becoming the Super Bowl MVP was a unique one, having even considered retirement not too long ago, but the Eagles adjusted accordingly to play with their new signal caller. Not many people predicted that a quarterback of his stature would be able to take down who many considered to be the greatest quarterback of all time in Brady.
  • Despite the Patriots’ advantage in experience, it was the Eagles who rolled in to Super Sunday after defeating the Vikings handily, while the Patriots closed out the upstart Jaguars in a nail-biter. Interestingly enough, however, the numbers have shown that teams’ performances in their conference championships are not a good predictor of their achieved outcomes in the Big Game. Given how the Patriots prepare in practice, it should not come as a surprise that they have perfected the art of the comeback. The Patriots coaches have designed training regiments for their players in order to ensure that they are physically ready for specific in-game situations, especially when the game is on the line in the 4th This makes the Eagles victory even more impressive, as it was the Eagles that were able to make the key plays down the stretch, most notably forcing a fumble on the Patriot’s attempted comeback drive.
  • Furthermore, the two teams’ paths diverged even further throughout the 2017 season in their coaching styles. Much has been made of Doug Pederson’s adoption of analytics in his coaching tactics. In fact, the Eagles went for it on 4th down more than other team except the packers during the regular season. An Eagles coach explained saying that “where it’s all [decided] is in the offseason, done with mathematics,” when speaking about much of Pederson’s in-game decision making. As a result, it should not have come as a surprise when the Eagles’ coach went for it on fourth down multiple times on the game’s biggest stage. For example, Pederson’s call on the trick play that ended with Foles catching a touchdown on 4th and goal came down to the use of basic analytics.
  • Of course, on the other sideline on Sunday stood Bill Belichick who when asked how much he takes analytics in to account has responded by saying “not much.” However, some believe that Belichick has simply talked down on the use of analytics in the past so as to not show his hand to competing teams given that his actions do not always agree with his words. In fact, this Super Bowl included only 1 punt, which came from the Eagles, and the Patriots became the only team to not punt a single time in the Big Game.

The two different paths that the teams took to the championship goes to show that there are numerous ways to enjoy success in the NFL, and this unpredictability is a main reason why the league remains the most popular in America. Nonetheless, one thing that we could have been sure of going in to the championship game was that it would be an exciting one. The one constant over the Brady-Belichick dynasty has been captivating Super Bowl games. Lucky for us fans, the 2018 version did not disappoint even though this dynamic duo was not so fortunate.