Patriots Truly Reign Supreme

Three seems to be the magic number for the Patriots. Three Super Bowls each won by a three-point margin have paved the way for the modern era NFL dynasty.

It is my firm belief that if the two teams played ten times, this is the closest that the game would actually be. The Eagles turned their best overall performance, all things considered, vs. a top-10 scoring defense that they have all season. On the flip side, this was one of the weakest performances against a top-10 scoring D that the Patriots have put up on the season.

How and why a team can utterly shut down a team such as Indianapolis, a team stronger in all facets of offense than the Eagles were, and then struggle to stop a team such as the Eagles with no running game worth mentioning, remains a real conundrum.

Big props to the Eagle front-7 are in order. Typically, when teams blitz Tom Brady and the Pats, they suffer the fate of Brady's "butter knife" whereby he spreads the ball around to his receivers like warm butter over a piece of bread. Blitzing is necessary to beat the Pats however, when done, it is rarely successful. The Eagles, at least for portions of the game yesterday were very successful at it, usually from only their front-7.

Given that the Eagles were entirely ineffective at running the ball, it is surprising that they amassed the 369 total net yards that they did. The Eagle rushing game ran 16 times for 45 yards with a long of 22. After that long run, the Eagle RBs were a useless and noncontributing 15 carries for 23 yards, most of which came in the first half.

Donovan McNabb, for all of the offense he provided, was largely aided by many of his receivers making very nice catches of balls often thrown behind them or otherwise not accurately. He did little to cement notions that he should be considered among "the greats" of the NFL.

The Patriots came out in the first half playing very "un-Patriot like" failing to move the ball at all on any of their first four drives. On those drives, the Pats gained a net 27 yards with only one first down on the first play of the game. On the next drive that Pats began to take charge and drove down to the Eagle 4-yard line only to see Brady fumble the ball away on an unforced fumble which appeared to be resultant from a poor play-action fake.

The Pats scored on four of their next four drives however putting up the 24 points that propelled them to the win. David Givens caught the first pass to tie the game heading into the tunnel at the half on a very nicely designed and executed play with Brady finding him on the sideline of the end zone. Mike Vrabel once again in the Super Bowl demonstrated his athleticism and versatility by catching a 2-yard TD pass while being held to put the Pats up 14-7 on the first drive of the 2nd half as the Pats emerged looking much more like the Pats that brought them to this game than they had in the first half. Corey Dillon ran the third TD at the onset of the fourth quarter to give the Pats 21.

For as much offense as Donovan McNabb provided, he also did so while making many poor (over, under, behind) throws. He was the "anti-Brady" in this game. His receivers contributed as well. Brady found his open men when it mattered and his throws resulted in key gains. McNabb, while at times making similar throws, also found Rodney Harrison twice and Tedy Bruschi once.

The Pat receivers also finished nicely with the highlight of the game having been Deion Branch's grab through the hands of one defender. The Eagle receivers simply did not make the same types of catches.

Terrell Owens turned an outstanding game however. Terrell Owens surprised many in the football world by defying the odds and showing that he was in fact 100% as he had promised. He was easily the Eagles' offensive MVP providing a third of the Eagles' net offense. He was only bested by Deion Branch offensively speaking. Had Owens not played and been 100%, this game likely would have been a disaster and rout for the Patriots.

Defensively speaking, the Eagles' front-7 deserves the MVP of the game for holding the Pats to the yardage and points that they did. Yes, they had help from an unforced Brady fumble in the 2nd quarter which otherwise would have likely resulted in another seven points for the Pats and which would have threatened to put this game away for the Pats much sooner. They only sacked Brady twice, both times in the first half. Without the pressure that they exerted however, the Eagles would have seen the Pats put up well into the 30s and perhaps even 40s for points.

The Eagle front-7 played better than most if not all defenses have on the game as a whole throughout this season. The Patriots are a very difficult team to stop, so slowing them down is an achievement in that way. With the addition of Corey Dillon this season they are perfectly balanced in any way one would care to measure it. The Eagles limited that Pats to the extent that had the Eagles been able to establish any semblance of a rushing game, then they likely would have won this game.

What was no surprise was that the Eagles' rushing game was held to fewer than 50 yards. With Brian Westbrook as the team's leading rusher and geriatric Dorsey Levens as the team's second rusher, the Eagles were simply not slated to do much running the ball. Westbrook, while useful in the passing game, is no standout rusher to be kind.

Westbrook rushed for 100-yards only twice on the season and had not done so since early October and only did so against the 25th and 28th ranked rushing defenses. He was not about to post a hundred yard game, or come even close, here in the Super Bowl vs. the Patriots who understand how vital it is to shut down the opponent's rushing game.

Then there was the lackadaisical clock management demonstrating absolutely no sense of urgency late in the 4th quarter whereby the Eagles yet needed two scores to either win or tie the game sending it into overtime. Donovan McNabb and the Eagles appeared to be more like Grateful Dead fans leaving a concert than NFL football players in the biggest game of their careers. Perhaps a urn full of coffee on the Eagle sideline late in the game would have served the team better.

In the end, Brady was very good, McNabb was erratic and simply not good enough, the defensive effort of the Eagles was valiant, but again, not quite enough, and the offensive balance of the Patriots as well as their balance from offense to defense were simply too much for an overmatched Eagle defense and utterly one-dimensional Eagle offense to overcome.

While the margin of victory was smaller than most expected, certain far less than I had prognosticated, the overall tone of this game, once a steady-state momentum on the game was established, pretty much had the game go as scripted. The Patriots ran well, turned the ball over only once on an unforced fumble, threw well, and generated takeaways.

As a Bills fan, I envy the team oriented approach that the Patriots have applied and consistently win with. It is a diametrical contrast to the methodologies applied by the current Bills management. Say what one may about these Pats, but they were 17-2 in each of the past two seasons and 14-3 after starting 0-2 under Drew Bledsoe in 2001 and with Tom Brady taking over. That's 48-7 in the three of the last four seasons during which the Patriots have reigned supreme!

It is my firm belief that if this game were played ten times, that this is the closest that the Eagles would come to victory with the Pats winning all ten of the ten meetings. When one factors in the fact that both of their starting cornerbacks were out for the season and that those two cornerbacks are not simply your typical or average cornerbacks, this season becomes all that much more impressive. Ty Law, arguably the best cornerback in the NFL, along with Tyrone Poole, also a top corner, if in the game, would have shut down the Eagles' one-dimensional McNabb-Owens dominated offense in spades.

The Patriots are very deserving of the claims and statements as to their being a dynasty as well as other claims and statements supporting their current greatness. To borrow a phrase from the great one, Ronald Reagan, "all in all, not bad!"


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