The Eagles have a sturdier defense than the Patriots. They have the superior running game. Their front four, led by Fletcher Cox, should be able to crash New England’s offensive line Sunday and punch Tom Brady in the mouth.
The Eagles should win Super Bowl VII. Unless . . .
. . . Unless they run onto US Bank Stadium Sunday afternoon and are overwhelmed by the mystique of the Patriots.
That’s it. That’s the pitfall. If Doug Pederson’s team can avoid getting google-eyed when the Evil Empire emerges from the mist on Sunday, the Good Guys will be flying home with the Lombardi Trophy.
Hey, I’m not minimizing the NFL’s greatest dynasty. Brady and Cheatin’ Bill Belichick have combined for five titles since 2001 – included the one that Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb upchucked 13 seasons ago.
Brady is the greatest player in football history. Belichick, despite being a walking case of dyspepsia, is up there with Lombardi, Walsh and Noll on the coaches’ Mt. Rushmore.
The Patriots have 41 players who’ve been on this stage before. The Eagles have eight, none of whom, of course, have done it in midnight green.
But more so these days, half of the Pats greatness seems just in showing up. Jacksonville clearly was intimidated by the aura in the AFC Championship, and went into a preventive shell while still in the first half. The Falcons, even up 28 in last year’s Super Bowl, heard that train coming and dissolved into warm spittle in the second half.
That’s New England’s psychological edge, and it’s real. As Ray Didinger pointed out to me, most of the Eagles players started watching Brady and Belichick win Super Bowls since junior high. Now they’ve got to slay the legends whose posters may have once adorned their bedroom walls.
“If we make this all about them, we’re in trouble,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said last week. While acknowledging the Patriots’ aura as “a real issue,” Pederson has told his team to look at the guys in blue-red-and-silver “as a faceless opponent.”
“It’s about what we do and how well we execute,” he said.
That sounds great in theory. But can the Eagles really look at No. 12 in the Pats uniform think of Matt Cavanaugh, the guy who wore that jersey before Brady was beamed in from space?
Even though Pederson has 256 fewer NFL coaching wins that Hoodie, I like the Eagles chances. If nothing else, Pederson has shown during his two-year tenure that he coaches without fear. Fourth-and-three? Let’s go for it. An aggressive deep-ball offense with a backup QB? Sure, why not?
New England may still have Brady, and Gronk and. . .well, their only two other Pro Bowlers this year are a fullback and a special teams gunner. Their defense was 29th in yards allowed this season.
The Eagles are New England’s equal, and actually more talented at most positions. If they can play Sunday’s game without the glare of past Patriot greatness blinding their vision, they can topple the dynasty and end the 57-season drought.