Thursday, February 10, 2005Super Bowl Fallout
- The Patriots survived the first half by allowing the Eagles to make some unforced errors. The first mistake was McNabb's interception in the first quarter with the Eagles driving. He was intercepted the play before but defensive holding was called. The refs were inconsistent with this call as both Rodney Harrison and Brian Dawkins were consistently chucking slot receivers throughout the game.
As for the interception, I'm not sure if the ball sailed, I think it did because Brian Westbrook was open as McNabb thought he had successfully looked Harrison off to L.J. Smith, who was running a center post. Needless to say Harrison baited him into thinking he was going to double Smith and McNabb threw a disgusting floater the other way that Harrison was able to jump in front of. A good, strong pass from McNabb would've resulted in a completion or at the worst a breakup from Harrison.
-- The Eagles defense played their best ball in the first 20 minutes of the game and it's arguable that if the offense doesn't screw up with its first two possessions that Philadelphia could've held anywhere from a 13-0 lead to a 21-0 lead before the Patriots got rolling. The base defense of the Eagles was good enough to stop the Patriots rushing attack for most of the game. Running to the corners fits into this defense's hands because they are a long group and very few teams can handle Jevon Kearse and James Burgess on the corners.
-- A real quick note on the infamous pick play. This is an exercise in getting it wrong, but still being right. On the dual cross Mitchell was supposed to get Tedy Bruschi's attention and he nudged Bruschi enough to get his attention. Meanwhile Owens runs by Bruschi (who has his back turned on the play) and catches the slant. Mitchell throws a shoulder into Randall Gay, pushing him into Bruschi and no one sees Owens going around the corner.
Now this happened right in front of the referee so I have no explanation of why he didn't call it. Mitchell missed the intended pick but distracted Bruschi from the play. The pick on Gay really wasn't one because he was dragging on the play. Had Bruschi turned around it would've just been a five yard gain. Still it was a block that took Gay out of the pattern and it was before Owens caught the pass, should have been called.
-- New England finally found success by spreading the field with four-wide and going to short passes (screens, crosses). Good downfield blocking led to some big yards. The Pats tried to come out in a mass protection scheme, but Philly's base defense was too good for it. By spreading it out, the Patriots were inviting Philly to blitz up the middle. It was a successful coaching one by Charlie Weis to go to the screen out of that formation because it was a new wrinkle.
-- For the third Super Bowl in a row the Patriots didn't get an offensive score until midway through the second quarter. After one first down on the first four drives, Weis went to the spread and they were able to move consistently.
-- The Patriots best running formation was an unbalanced line. Against the Steelers they went with a max protection scheme, in the Super Bowl to shifted a lineman over to which ever side Corey Dillon was going to run more.
-- For the game Kevin Faulk had the impressive and important runs that the Patriots needed, not Dillon.
-- Mike Vrabel has gotten a sack and a touchdown in back-to-back Super Bowls. I believe that mark will be very difficult for anyone to match.
-- Deion Branch had his second straight double-digit catch game in a Super Bowl. I have no problems with him as the MVP, however Rodney Harrison was a better choice. Harrison finished third in the game's MVP voting behind Terrell Owens.
-- Philadelphia should've gotten Greg Lewis involved much earlier in the fourth quarter. With Todd Pinkston out, Lewis was a fresh speedy body against a banged up Patriots secondary that lost Eugene Wilson to a broken arm in the first half. Lewis, who will most likely be insert in the starting lineup next season, beat Dexter Reid for a touchdown to cut the lead to three.
-- Of all the bad coaching moves Andy Reid made late, the onside kick was the worst. By trying the kick Philly backed themselves into a horrible corner. I'll explain:
The Patriots were going to run the ball twice regardless of position to force Philly to lose their timeouts. But 3rd and 5 at the Eagles 37 compared to the Patriots 31 (projected) is where things get funny. If it's 3rd and 5 at the Patriots 31, Weis has a decision. He could run the ball and punt, killing the clock but he's giving up field position and a potential return.
Or Weis could pass and try to get the first down. If he completes it the game is over, if not the clock stops. The onside kick took coaching out of the equation. And failing to put a return man on the play made a bad situation worse.
-- The Eagles will return to the Super Bowl next year. They are still two steps ahead of the NFC and they've got the cap room to improve. They need a power running back in the draft.
-- The Patriots have a great opportunity to return next year as long as Belichick doesn't lose all his staff. Weis is gone, Crennel is gone, Mangini is probably gone unless New England kicks up its salary offer. I would expect the Patriots to draft a linebacker as that group is slowly aging or the best cornerback available. I don't expect Ty Law to be back with the team and Tom Brady will get his big contract.