Patriots come up short in SBLII

Official Patriots Reporter

By Traci McCartney // @traciamc

New England fans know what it’s like to lose again. The Tom Brady led Patriots came up short in their 41-33 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII on Sunday. Favored by almost everyone in the media and everyone polled, the underdog Philadelphia Eagles, with backup quarterback Nick Foles, outcoached and outplayed the defending Super Bowl champions.

Was I surprised? No. The Eagles had a Cinderella feel to this season. When Carson Wentz got hurt and Foles came in, a lot of people counted them out. They never counted themselves out. It reminded me of another backup who ended up coming in after a season ending injury to the starting quarterback and took his team all the way to the Super Bowl – and won.

And now here that same quarterback was, 5 Super Bowl wins later, looking for his 6th. But it wasn’t meant to be – not this year.

In a game where there was very little defense and a whole lot of offense, it’s hard to imagine that the Patriots, with 613 yards of offense including a Super Bowl record 505 yds passing, 3 touchdowns and no interceptions by Brady could lose a game – but they did. The Patriots never punted. Not once. Some thoughts on this….

There Was No Defense – The Patriots defense couldn’t get a stop to save their lives. They forced the Eagles to punt exactly once, and the tackling was atrocious in the secondary. According to Doug Kyed, the Patriots’ beat reporter for NESN, there were eleven missed tackles. Eleven. And Malcolm Butler, the hero of Super Bowl XLIX was nowhere to be found.

There are several theories as to why he was sitting, but Ian Rappaport reported this: 

Bill Belichick has been known to bench players before for violating rules, etc., but unless there is something more to this than anyone knows, this seems excessive. Butler could have given them a much better chance to stop the Eagles offense.

Special Teams – A Stephen Gostkowski missed field goal and a missed extra point didn’t help. A mishandled snap by punter Ryan Allen contributed to the kick bouncing off of the left upright no good. That’s 4 points left on the field.

Doug Pederson took chances that paid Off – in the second quarter, with Philadelphia up by only 3, instead of kicking a field goal after Foles threw incomplete at the New England 1 yd line, he decided instead to run a trick play. Foles snuck into the end zone, not one Patriot defender keeping an eye on him, and received a pass for a touchdown.

The Patriots also ran a trick play – a Danny Amendola pass to Tom Brady from the Philadelphia 35 that was incomplete. The Patriots ended up going for it on 4th down and turned the ball over on downs, giving Philly the ball at their own 35. They scored a touchdown on their next drive.

Brandin Cooks was knocked out of the game – In a similar hit to the one Rob Gronkowski took in the AFC Championship game, Brandin Cooks was leveled on a helmet to helmet hit by Malcolm Jenkins. He was knocked out and didn’t return. There was no penalty on Jenkins. Cooks has been a valued addition to the Patriots offense, and a deep threat go-to guy for Brady. During the regular season, he averaged 16.64 yds per catch, amassing 1082 receiving yards on 65 catches with 7 touchdowns. He was missed.

4th quarter comeback fail – The Patriots came back to go ahead for the first time in the game in the 4th quarter on a Brady to Rob Gronkowski touchdown with 9:22 left in the game making the score 33-32. But, the defense allowed the Eagles to convert a 4th down and let them march right down the field to end in a controversial touchdown catch by Zach Ertz to put Eagles up 5 after a failed 2 point conversion attempt, 38-33. That put the ball back in Brady’s hands with 2:21 left in the game, plenty of time to do what he’s done so many times – engineer a game winning drive.

But Shaq Mason, who had played great all game in protection of Brady, allowed a sack where the ball was stripped and recovered by the Eagles. They went down to kick a field goal and with the score 41-33, the Patriots just weren’t able to get the job done. Eagles win. 

Could the Patriots have won this game? Absolutely, but the Eagles seemed to want it more, and they certainly did exactly what they needed to do to succeed. But I have no doubt Tom Brady and the Patriots will be back next year and will be contenders.

Looking ahead, Belichick and company have a lot of changes coming their way. Both Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels and Defensive Coordinator Matt Patricia have accepted head coaching positions in Indianapolis and Detroit respectively, so their positions will need to be filled. In addition, there are several roster decisions that need to be made with free agency and the draft upcoming.  But the Patriots and their fans should hold their heads high – it was a great season and there is a lot to look forward to.

There’s always next year….

Talk Patriots Football with Traci on Twitter // @traciamc

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