Upstart Eagles Flying High
13 years ago, the Eagles and Patriots met in Super Bowl XXXIX. After beating the Vikings and Falcons, the Eagles advanced to Super Bowl XXXIX where they dueled the New England Patriots. Coincidently, this postseason has seen the Eagles go the same route. The Eagles were the underdogs. The Patriots had won the previous year’s championship.
During this time, Philadelphia was helmed by head coach Andy Reid, and quarterbacked by Donovan McNabb. Before the 2004 season, the Eagles acquired playmaking wideout Terrell Owens. He was a controversial player, as his sideline and touchdown celebrations made him divisive, prowess on the field made up for that. Although McNabb threw 3 touchdown passes and 357 yards in the game and the score was tied 14–14 going into the fourth quarter, the Patriots outscored the Eagles and scored ten straight points. McNabb completed a 30-yard touchdown pass, and the Eagles defense held the Patriots to a 3 and out, but a crucial interception with 46 seconds left on the clock secured their fate.
The Eagles improved their 7–9 record from 2016, reaching a record of 13–3, tying the best record in franchise history, also achieved in 2004. Their win against the Los Angeles Rams allowed them to clinch the division title for the first time since 2013, but came with the loss of Carson Wentz to a torn ACL. A close win against the New York Giants in Week 15 helped the Eagles clinch a first-round bye for the first time since 2004.
After Wentz went down, Nick Foles stepped in to start at quarterback. Foles, a former 3rd round pick of the Eagles in 2012 out of Arizona, has done a remarkable job leading this team. In 2013, he made his first Pro Bowl appearance after finishing the 2013 regular season with 27 touchdown passes and only 2 interceptions, surpassing Tom Brady's 2010 season posting of 36/4 for the best TD-INT ratio in NFL history. On March 10, 2015, the Eagles traded Foles, a 2015 fourth-round pick, and a 2016 second-round pick to the St. Louis Rams in exchange for Sam Bradford and a 2015 fifth-round pick. He was then released by the Rams after they drafted Jared Goff. He then signed with Kansas City, and reunited with former coach Andy Reid. In March, he signed with the Eagles.
A Monday Night win over the Oakland Raiders allowed the Eagles to clinch home-field advantage for the first time since 2004 as well. The Eagles defeated the Atlanta Falcons 15–10 in the Divisional Round and won the NFC Championship game against the Vikings 38–7. The win against the Falcons in the divisional round was their first playoff win since the 2008 season, but the Eagles were the first No.1 seed in the playoffs since 1970 to be an underdog in the Divisional Round, as well as in the Conference Championship. In total 6 players were selected for the Pro Bowl, including 4 receiving it for the first time. They will face the New England Patriots in their first Super Bowl appearance since 2004, where they also played against the Patriots.
The Philadelphia Eagles entered their first playoff game since 2013 as the first ever number one seeded team to be an underdog in the playoffs. The Eagles relied much on their defense all game as the offense moved the ball much. On a last-minute play on their own two yard line, the Eagles stopped the Falcons on 4th & Goal to seal a 15-10 win. The win kept the Eagles alive and gave them a spot in the NFC Championship game.
The Eagles once again entered the game as the underdogs to the NFC North champions, Minnesota Vikings. This was the Eagles first NFC Championship appearance since the 2008–09 NFL playoffs. The Eagles kept the Vikings to only seven points, which came on the opening drive touchdown pass. The Eagles scored 38 unanswered points to win 38-7 and advance to Super Bowl LII, their 3rd ever Super Bowl berth. The Eagles will be playing their Super Bowl XXXIX opponent, New England Patriots and will be looking for their first ever Super Bowl win.
The Brady Bunch
The New England Patriots have been the undisputed best team in the league for almost 2 decades. The combination of head coach Bill Belichick, and quarterback Tom Brady, the Patriots are undoubtedly the most dominant dynasty in football. Belichick, who has coached the Pats for 18 years, is a guru with his “Next Man Up” philosophy. His coaching style prepares players in practice for even the most unlikely event on gameday. He also is the team’s general manager, and he handpicks personnel who fit his scheme. He has a very no-nonsense approach when it comes to player work ethic and discipline.
The New England Patriots entered the season as the defending champions of Super Bowl LI. They failed to match their 14-2 record from last season with their Week 14 loss to the Miami Dolphins. Despite that, in Week 15, the Patriots secured their 9th consecutive AFC East title, their 15th of the last 17 seasons, with their victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Following their win over the Buffalo Bills in week 16, the Patriots obtained their 8th consecutive 12-or-more win season stretching all the way from 2010, an NFL record. Their Week 17 victory over the New York Jets clinched their top seed in the AFC for the second straight year, thus giving the Patriots home-field advantage throughout the entire AFC playoffs for the second year in a row. They defeated the Tennessee Titans in the Divisional Round 35–14, and the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC Championship Game 24-20, claiming their second AFC title in two years. This would be their seventh consecutive AFC Championship appearance, adding onto their record from the previous year. The win also made Tom Brady the oldest quarterback (40 years, 163 days) to win a playoff game, surpassing Brett Favre for the record. It is also the second time they advanced to the Super Bowl two times in a row since 2004. They will face the Philadelphia Eagles in a rematch of Super Bowl XXXIX. This also makes the Patriots the only team in NFL history to appear in 10 Super Bowls, and have a chance to repeat as back-to-back Super Bowl Champions for the second time in franchise history. In addition, they have the chance to tie the Pittsburgh Steelers for the record of most Super Bowl wins in NFL history with 6.
The keys to an Eagles victory are simple: Pressure Tom Brady. Brady is most comfortable in the pocket, so the Eagles need to rattle him. They have a ferocious pass rush consisting of Fletcher Cox. Brandon Graham, Timmy Jernigan, Chris Long, and rookie Derek Barnett. They also need to keep Brady off the field as much as possible.