Leland Stein III

Posts Tagged ‘New England Patriots’

Eagles demand first Super Bowl title

In sports column on February 14, 2018 at 12:21 am

 

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Tom Brady tries to avoid a Bradon Graham sack. – Gary Montgomery photo

By Leland Stein III

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Leland Stein

MINNEAPOLIS, Mn. – No matter that the weather outside was hovering around zero, the over 67,612 fans in US Bank Stadium, and, the millions of television watchers world-wide were on fire as the Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots got set to engage in American gridiron football action.

The Eagles and Patriots both felt the heat of the moment too, as the two teams combined for a shocking 673 yards in the first half, the second highest total in Super Bowl history.

Oh the crazy/awesome offensive heat did not stop in the second half either, as both teams combined for 1,151 yards – the most in any modern NFL game.

The exhilarating and breathtaking contest was hot throughout – if one loves offense – as Philly indeed did just enough to outlast 40-year-old G.O.A.T Tom Brady and the New England Patriots to become NFL champions for the first time since 1960. The 41-33 victory was one for the ages.

Overzealous Philadelphia fans lost their minds back home as their owner lifted the Lombardi Trophy signifying that the Philadelphia Eagles really had did the darn thing in its third Super Bowl appearance.

“I am so excited for our locker room,” Eagles second-year coach Doug Pederson exclaimed, “and Mr. (Jeffrey) Luri he gave me the opportunity to coach this team. A lot of people counted us out, but the locker room believed, believed in each other, believed in me and together we found a way to get it done.”

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Ron Gronkowski corrals touchdown over Ronald Darby – Gary Montgomery photo

Pederson did not approach this game with his tail between his legs and he went for the win at all times. In particular Mr. Guts and Glory with 38 seconds remaining in the first half (Patriots had just scored and brought the score to a respectable 15-12), and the Philadelphia Eagles facing fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line, he went for a trick play – the “Philly Special.”

With a little bit more the one minute left running back Corey Clement pitched to tight end Trey Burton who flipped the ball to quarterback Nick Foles that engineered an important 22-12 halftime lead.

“Our coach has got some guts, huh?” Burton unleashed. “He’s got some big ones.”

When the Eagles needed a yard for a touchdown – when most coaches might have trusted their offensive line to just push their way forward – Pederson called a play on which his quarterback would ideally be the last of four people to touch the ball. It was a play the Eagles had practiced a total of six times.

“You never know what he’s thinking,” Burton said. “Here we are. Philly’s never won a Super Bowl. We’re fourth-and-1 on the goal line and he calls a trick-play pass to the quarterback? Come on, man.”

The play worked and Pederson did it again on fourth-and-one from Philly’s own 45 yard line with 5:39 left in the game. Again it worked as the Eagles keep the ball and eventually scored on the game winning touchdown on a 11-yard pass to tight end Zach Ertz that was sent to the replay official for review, but eventually was acknowledges as a score and it was a game changer as Philadelphia took a 38-33 margin they never relinquished.

It worked, of course. Pretty much everything Pederson and his Eagles did Sunday night work which is the reason why it’s no longer true that Philadelphia has never won a Super Bowl.

“You don’t just roll in with any old game plan and expect Foles to win a 41-33 shootout with Brady,” Pederson noted. “You don’t play it safe and expect to out-coach Belichick.”

Pederson continued: “I trust my players, I trust my coaches and I trust my instincts. I trust everything I’m doing, and I wanted to maintain that aggressiveness. In games like this, against a great opponent, you have to make those tough decisions that will keep yourself or the team aggressive.”

Coach may indeed have trusted his players; however, the Eagles made the clutch plays as they did just enough to coral the Patriots in a very tight game.

Fact is Foles guided the drive of a lifetime as Ertz made a bobbling touchdown catch that had to survive replay review, and then an exhausted defense came up with two defensive stands in the final moments.

That game-clinching defensive stance was initiated with a Brandon Graham strip-sack against Brady with Derek Barnett recovering, setting up rookie Jake Elliot’s 46-yard field goal for an 8-point lead.

Graham, “We knew we were playing Brady and those coaches in the biggest game. I knew I had a one-on-one with the guard. We had been doing something that had been working, but I acted like I was pulling, then I snatched the ball right off Brady’s arm and it changed the game.”

The breathtaking effort of the game was that quarterback Foles had been something of a journeyman in his six pro seasons, but he was spectacular in four career playoff games. He finished 28 of 43 for 373 yards and three TDs in the title game

The 40-year-old Brady finished 28 of 48 and picked apart the Eagles until the final two series.

Graham and his squad held Brady in check to win in the final minutes.

Said Malcom Jenkins: “We knew that in the two minute situation that most likely they were going pass the ball so in the two minute situation our d-line could finally cut it loose. The whole game they had us on our heels, but we did what we needed to coral that awesome team.”

Journeyman Foles taking the place of Carson Wentz, did the impossible, guiding the Eagles to the title, earning Super Bowl MVP.

“I am speechless,” exclaimed Foles, “All glory to God first and foremost. To be here with confetti flying and the greatest group of men, such a great city to play for and I am proud to be a Philadelphia Eagle.”

Brady got his team to midfield, but his desperation pass fell to the ground in the end zone.

“For us,” Graham exclaimed, “it was all about one stop we had to make. We went out here and made that one stop.”

The underdog Eagles (16-3), earned its first Super Bowl title after going 7-9 last season.

“If there’s a word (it’s) called everything,” Eagles owner Lurie said. “That’s what it means to Eagles fans everywhere. And for Eagles fans everywhere, this is for them.”

Leland Stein can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com or Twitter @LelandSteinIII

 

 

Patriots shock the world with amazing comeback

In sports column on February 6, 2017 at 1:51 pm

Super Bowl LI saw the first overtime game in its 51 year history.

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Tom Brady orchestrates classic victory. – Gary Montgomery photo

By Leland Stein III

HOUSTON – Not only I, but the 70,807 in NRG Stadium, as well as, millions world-wide watching the televised broadcast, were left in shock as the New England Patriots fought back from a 25-point deficit after a surprisingly inferior and feeble performance over the first three quarters of Super Bowl LI.

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Leland Stein III

Then, out of nowhere the Patriots regrouped, just as I had placed them in the football graveyard, amazingly and shockingly they came to life and produced an astonishing 34-28 overtime victory over the shell-shocked Atlanta Falcons.

In the first Super Bowl to go into overtime, one of the most important breaks happen when the red-hot Patriots won the coin toss and promptly drove 75 yards in eight plays giving the Patriots their fifth Lombardi Trophy. Running back James White scored the winning touchdown and the celebration was on.

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Dont’a Hightower’s (54) strip of Matt Ryan fueled Pats fourth quarter rally. – Gary Montgomery photo

The win officially makes Tom Brady the most decorated quarterback in modern football history, having surpassed his own idol Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw who each had four Super Bowl wins.

Said Brady in the post-game press conference when asked if this title was sweeter than the previous ones because of how they won it: “Every title is special. Two years ago it came down to Malcom (Butler) making the play to beat Seattle and this year down 25 points, I could see why it was hard for anyone to imagine us winning.

“The one positive was we went into halftime down, but we had the ball for 20 minutes. As the game goes on, that gets tough on a defense. In the Super Bowl, everyone is expending a lot of energy and once we got it rolling there in the second half it was tough to slow us down.”

Brady continued: “There was a lot at stake tonight. We played our tails off all season to get to this point and it’s hard to win games in the NFL. To beat this team after getting down 28-3, it was just a lot of mental toughness by our team and we’re going to remember this for the rest of our lives.”

Coming into NRG Stadium for the big game, I predicted an offensive scoring fest between Atlanta and New England.

So much for my prognostications, in the first quarter both teams produced goose eggs giving all the appearance that defense was going to rule the day.

After the 0-0 first quarter, from the start of the second quarter to halftime the Falcons produced a scoring barrage.

Collectively the teams finished one and two with the least turnovers in the NFL this season. However, it took a LaGarrette Blount fumble that halted a New England drive, and, ignited the stagnate Falcons’ offense as it came alive and drove 67 yards for the game’s first score at the start of the second quarter.

The Falcons ended the first half up 21-3 after three touchdowns, including one from cornerback Robert Alford that came from quarterback Brady’s only pick-six interception of his postseason career.

Having covered all seven of the Super Bowls coach Bill Belichick and Brady have participated in this one just left me completely fibergastic.

Why?

Well, I have never seen this team play so poorly in a big game. No, I amend that statement. Maybe it was the Falcons that made Brady and the Patriots look like they did not even belong on the same field with them.

Atlanta did everything right for three quarters using the same formula that looked similar to the teams that have knocked New England out and issued them some painful playoff defeats: No running game to help settle things down, an offensive line that was having trouble holding up against the Falcons’ very quick pass rushers, and, too many mistakes.

The defense had its struggles, too, laboring to strike the balance of being stout enough against the run in their nickel package (six players in the box), but not vulnerable in the secondary against the high powered pass Falcon’s passing game.

Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan, just named the NFL 2016 MVP, played like it for three quarters. In fact, a precision strike to star receiver, Julio Jones for 27-yards down to the Patriots 22 with a little over 4 minutes left in the game could have sealed the game.

“I felt like we were in good position after that great catch by Jones,” lamented Ryan. “I felt like we put ourselves in a good position to come away with points on that drive after his catch. It didn’t end up working out, which was disappointing. There’s nothing you can really say. This was a tough loss. Obviously very disappointed, very close to getting done what we wanted to get done, but it’s hard to find words tonight.”

Ryan continues a crazy trend that for the last 16 years, since 2000, no NFL MVP has won the Super Bowl.

After a magnificent season, Ryan might be remembered most for the game he lost. The loss for the Falcons marked the biggest collapse in Super Bowl history and is sure to leave an empty feeling in the stomach of Ryan and his teammates the entire off-season.

The gritty Falcons should use this disappointment to fuel their fire going into the 2017 regular season.

The lost surely put a damper on what was a spirited effort for Atlanta sparked by a young defense that made plays early and often. Rookie linebacker Deion Jones set the tone early with a strip and forced fumble that was recovered by cornerback Robert Alford. Then Alford read Brady as he was pressured by Dwight Freeney, picked off the pass and returned it 82 yards for a touchdown at 21-0 lead.

Dan Quinn, in his second season as the Falcons head coach after winning a Super Bowl as defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks, lamented the team’s inability to get a stop when they needed one during the Patriot’s late rally.

“I think for sure we ran out of gas some,” Quinn said. “The Patriots executed terrifically. When they got hot, it was hard for us to deal with.”

That said, Quinn was proud of the way his team battled together in their quest for their first NFL title in the 51st season for the Falcons.

“I am proud of the fight that these guys have.”  he said. “The brotherhood that this group has built, it’s as strong as I’ve seen.”

Leland Stein can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com or Twitter @LelandSteinIII