Plus a mea culpa on Nick Foles and what Corey Clement and LeGarrette Blount should tell us. Super Bowl LII was sensational, especially for those of us who love offensive football
We saw the misery of a city tormented by their losingas it seemed like most of the Philadelphia fan base made it to Minneapolis to watch the game. The rest Sunday night.
It will go down as one of the best Super Bowls of all time, but it’s one that was filled with lessons for all. Here are four that I took from the game.
Lesson No. 1: Let it rip
The first lession: Coaches need to follow the style of Eagles coach Doug Pederson. When the Eagles gathered for their Saturday meeting, Pederson had a message for his team: He was going down swinging.
“Coach told us was going to be aggressive,” Eagles tackle Lane Johnsonsaid. “He wasn’t going to change for anybody.”
Most coaches in the NFL play not to lose, but . Even on the biggest stage against the best coach in league history, he let it rip. His aggressive approach is why the Eagles won and why Nick Foles .
Foles was sensational in the playoffs and was even better Sunday night when he threw for 373 yards and three touchdowns. But if the Eagles came into the Super Bowl with the idea of protecting Foles, which means running the ball and playing it conservatively, he would have failed.
I still think some of that approach by Pederson stems from when both he and offensive coordinator Frank Reich were backup quarterbacks in the league. They went into games and didn’t want things to change. So they didn’t change things when Foles took over as the starter in Week 15 after Carson Wentz was lost for the year with a knee injury.
The most aggressive call came on a fourth-and-goal from the 1 at the end of the half. Not only did Pederson go for it, but he did so with a play that resulted in Foles catching a touchdown pass.
It’s a play that Foles used in high school, and the Patriots actually ran a similar version against the Eagles in 2014.
“For a coach to call that play in that situation,” Reich said. “Are you kidding me?”
It takes big ones for that call. Pederson didn’t stop there. He went for it on fourth-and-1 from his own 45 with 5:39 left and the Eagles trailing by one. Most coaches punt there.
He went for it and Foles his Zach Ertz for a two-yard gain and a first down that led to the game-winning touchdown.
This wasn’t the Jacksonville Jaguars taking a knee in the AFC Championship Game with 55 seconds left with the league against the Patriots or sitting on the lead in the second half. This was a coach being true to himself.
For that, Pederson is to be lauded.
For that, Pederson is now a championship-winning coach.
Lesson No. 2: Mea culpa on Foles
I was wrong about Nick Foles, but be careful.
Foles was sensational against the Patriots, hitting some impressive tosses while making timely throws and great decisions. He deserved to be the MVP, but let’s slow the roll a little bit.
Foles once had a season where he threw 27 touchdown passes and two interceptions, leading some to say he was a franchise passer for the Eagles, but then he tailed off. It was an aberration.
That’s what some have to realize now. The playoff run could be an aberration. I am not saying it definitely is, but the notion thatCarson Wentz to be the starter is absurd. The idea that he should be a franchise passer , coming in a trade, is a little fast too.
Maybe he’s just a backup who got hot at the right time. It takes a lot more than that to be a long-term starter in the NFL.
It wasn’t like teams were racing to sign him last year when he was a free agent.
Foles was magical Sunday night, and it will define him the rest of his life in terms of football, but it’s not a reason to get impractical when it comes to his evaluation as a player.
He seems like a grounded kid, who appeared to have an aw-shucks type of way about beating the Patriots, but let’s not go out and think one game — or even a playoff run — has changed who he is.
Lesson No. 3: Find value at running back
You don’t need to draft running backs high to win in today’s NFL.
Take a look at the backs in the Super Bowl this year. The Eagles won with two undrafted runners in LeGarrette Blount and Corey Clement and a guy they acquired in a trade who was drafted in the fifth round.
The Patriots’ featured backs in the game were: James White, who came in the fourth round in 2014; Dion Lewis, a fifth-round pick by the Eagles; and Rex Burkhead, who was a sixth-round pick of the Cincinnati Bengals.
Despite that, we saw 74 points scored and only one punt in the game. The reason is the two coaches have adapted to the modern game. They use the backs as weapons in the passing game. Sure, they run it to set up play action, but those running backs are pawns in offenses tailored on being aggressive.
Baltimore Ravens safety Eric Weddle told me at the Pro Bowl that backs in coverage who have a two-way go are almost impossible to cover. He also said the Patriots are the best in the NFL at using their backs in the passing game. The New Orleans Saints are good at it too, and so are the Eagles. Clement had 100 yards receiving against the Patriots.
Rams running back Todd Gurley is a great player taken in the top 10 of the draft, and he was deservedly the NFL Offensive Player of the Year this season, but his ability in the passing game is also a big part of their offense.
Backs don’t win titles by just lining up and rushing the football anymore. So why draft them early in the first round? I wouldn’t, and Super Bowl LII reminded us of that.
Lesson No. 4: It’s still players over coaches
Belichick is arguably the game’s greatest defensive mind ever. His ability to scheme a defense is second to none.
And he came into the Super Bowl with a unit that didn’t have a lot of talent — especially up front — yet schemed them into a solid group.
Then the Eagles exposed them badly Sunday night, bringing back into focus something I’ve preached for a long time: New England has let too many good football players on the defensive side of the ball get out the door.
I know he would have been expensive, but I bet a sack-fumble-game over play in the final five minutes might have been worth it.
The Pats were without star linebacker Dont’a Hightower because of injury, but it’s clear this idea that Belichick can scheme around a lack of talent all the time isn’t so real anymore.
If not for a major collapse by the Falcons in last year’s Super Bowl, it would be even more of an issue. But, almost like he did against the Eagles, Brady bailed them out in that one.
It’s time for Belichick the personnel man to get more talent on his front seven. They just aren’t good enough.
by Pete Prisco – cbssports.com