Super Bowl week is just ramping up with media day and an endless barrage of distractions before the NFL’s two remaining teams take the field. As everyone expected in August, Tom Brady’s Patriots will be taking on Nick Foles’ Eagles. There’s odd history going for and against both teams. Tom Brady is attempting to become the first quarterback to lead the league in passing and win the Super Bowl in the same season. It’s mind boggling that this has never occurred before. On the other side, the Eagles haven’t won a championship since 1960, haven’t ever won a Super Bowl, and lost to Tom Brady the last time they reached the sport’s biggest stage. They’ll also be wearing green while New England wears white. 12 of the last 13 Super Bowl Champions wore white. The only team to wear a different color? Green Bay, in Super Bowl XLV. That team wore green, just like the Eagles will be.
If the passing leader curse or white jersey charm isn’t enough to convince you one way or the other, there’s always Madden. I’ve run a Madden-simulated Super Bowl to compare to my own thoughts on the game. Let’s see how both will stack up to reality.
My Take: Eagles 24, Patriots 21
Tom Brady has never won or lost a Super Bowl by more than six points. In fact, before the classic overtime victory last year, he hadn’t won or lost by more than four. This game is going to be close, and it’s more likely to be a low scoring affair. There aren’t a ton of good reasons to select Philadelphia over such a consistently phenomenal behemoth, but we can find enough scraps to at least predict an ending that makes 31 fan bases happy (give or take a few in the NFC East).
Hearing the name Nick Foles won’t make most defenders go into hiding anytime soon, but he’s far more capable than detractors would have you believe. He holds a 22-17 career regular season record with 61 touchdowns and 29 interceptions. He played superbly as a backup in Kansas City and, aside from a poor rookie year (1-5), has gone 16-5 as an Eagle. That’s not bad at a glance. It’s even better when you consider the fact that our collective perception of Foles is largely tied to his one forgettable year under Jeff Fisher. Is he the 27 TD-2 INT quarterback from 2013? No, but he’s far better than the 7 TD-10 INT quarterback that he was on the Rams. Most importantly, he’s more reliable than Blake Bortles.
The Eagles possess the defensive manpower (4th overall scoring) and the running game (3rd overall) to follow Jacksonville’s blueprint: rattle the legendary Brady just enough to contain him and use time of possession to keep New England off the field. The Jaguars did almost everything they needed to win the AFC Championship. They held a 20-10 lead with nine minutes remaining. It’s easier said than done when facing New England, but one more solid drive by Blake Bortles during that timeframe would’ve iced the game. If the Eagles hold a similar lead come Sunday, Foles can be trusted to supply the dagger.
Philadelphia will win its first Super Bowl by the inverse score of their loss 13 years ago – just to make it symmetric.
Madden’s Take: Eagles 26, Patriots 29
The Patriots received the opening kickoff. They wasted no time moving down the field for a touchdown on a six-yard Chris Hogan reception. This would be the first time New England scored in the first quarter of a Super Bowl since the Drew Bledsoe era. Yes, you read that right. Bad Nick Foles, the one from the regular season Raiders game, showed up initially. He tried to get the points back all at once with what can only be described as a prayer bomb to Torrey Smith. Smith was well covered, and the ball popped high in the air. New England’s Patrick Chung tracked it down just before the sideline.
New England did nothing with the free possession. Nick Foles adopted a more methodical approach that included seven Jay Ajayi runs, three passes to Alshon Jeffery, and a 15-yard penalty against New England. The Eagles’ adjustment was rewarded with a touchdown on a two-yard revenge score by LeGarrette Blount.
FIRST QUARTER SCORE: PHI 7 – NE 7
Tom Brady opened the second by doing something even stranger than not scoring in the first 15 minutes of seven straight Super Bowls – he converted a six-yard rushing touchdown. The Eagles countered using their heavy Ajayi-Jeffery approach to put a field goal on the board. Later, Philadelphia looked primed for a huge third down stop with 2:30 remaining. Brady tore their hearts out instead on a 65-yard touchdown heave to Rob Gronkowski. The Eagles traded yet another field goal for a touchdown but appeared to do so too quickly when Brady engineered a quick drive to Philadelphia’s 32-yard line. Not so fast… Mychal Kendricks picked him off for six on a horrendous throw to Gronk.
The Patriots would have likely run out the first half if Dion Lewis didn’t electrify the crowd with a 42-yard kick return. Brady immediately threw another pick to Malcolm Jenkins and the Eagles capped the second quarter with a field goal.
HALFTIME SCORE: PHI 23 – NE 21
Following a Philadelphia three and out to open the second half, Tom Brady threw his third interception of the game (and third in four passes) to Malcolm Jenkins on a tipped pass. The Eagles drove it down to the one before New England delivered a crucial goal line stand, stuffing Ajayi on several occasions. The Eagles settled for a chip shot field goal. Defenses won out for the rest of the quarter.
THIRD QUARTER SCORE: PHI 26 – NE 21
After a high scoring first half that nearly matched my predicted score for a full game, things came to a dead stop. Tom Brady eventually broke the monotony by starting a long drive from his own ten. Somehow, someway, he tossed a fourth interception deep in Philadelphia territory. He’s thrown five total in his seven previous Super Bowls. To his credit, he likely prevented a second pick six by tackling linebacker Dannell Ellerbe. The Eagles only managed to melt the clock down to 2:39. They settled for a 47-yard field goal attempt. New England had other ideas and miraculously blocked the kick.
You can already see how this story ends. Tom Brady completed six consecutive passes to bring New England down to the seven. A second down sack pushed them back to the 15. He then connected on an impossible 13-yard pass to Chris Hogan to set up 4th and 2. The Eagles called their final timeout. Brady. Gronk. Touchdown.
New England tacked on a two-point conversion just for good measure. The Eagles did nothing with their final 35 seconds as the world witnessed another insane Patriots’ Super Bowl.
FINAL SCORE: PHI 26 – NE 29