The New England Patriots lost the Super Bowl to the Philadelphia Eagles. Bet you never thought you’d hear that sentence in the Brady-Belichick era, perhaps ever. Never thought legal Super Bowl betting lines would include these two, did you? However, that is exactly what happened in Super Bowl 52. The Pats were -4.5 favorites to beat Philly, so what happened?
The Defense Gave Up Too Much
New England’s defense has been their biggest liability all season long. It wasn’t much of a liability, as they went 13-3 in the regular season, but shaky enough to be worrisome. They gave up 20 points at home to the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC Championship. New England’s defense came out looking like their usual selves on the opening drive of the Super Bowl. They tend to let teams drive down the field and then suddenly become a brick wall at the goal-line. New England will happily give you field goals all day knowing they have Tom Brady on deck.
The defense couldn’t hold out for long, as QB Nick Foles was able to hit up receivers left and right. He also threw some deep passes that looked Brady-esque. Foles, the Super Bowl MVP, finished 28/43 for 373 yards and 3 touchdowns. Not a single sack was recorded by the Patriots rush. In terms of running, the Pats’ defense gave up 164 yards and a rushing touchdown from their former teammate, LeGarrette Blount.
Their biggest lapses came at the most crucial moments. For example, on a fourth down goal line stand, the Pats fell for a trick play that saw Foles haul in a receiving touchdown. Then, in the fourth quarter, on fourth-and-one on a potential game-losing drive, the Pats allowed TE Zach Ertz to make a play. If someone could’ve stepped up and made a huge tackle or play more often, perhaps Philly wouldn’t have had the ball for as long as they did.
Cooks Was Out
Brandin Cooks was a solid pickup for New England. The wide receiver finished just under Gronkowski in terms of regular season numbers. He was a lethal deep threat and constant target for Brady. Cooks only managed 1 catch in the Super Bowl before getting laid out by safety Malcom Jenkins. He was taken off the field and diagnosed with a head injury. Cooks never returned to the game. Without him, the Patriots lost one of their best players. Thankfully, they had Gronk, Danny Amendola and Chris Hogan to step up.
Not Enough Runs
The Patriots needed more of a running game. No Pats rusher exceeded 50 yards, whereas 2 Eagles’ backs did. Dion Lewis had 39 yards on 9 carries. James White had 45 yards on 7 with a touchdown. We must give credit to the Eagles defense, but there needs to be more production than that. Rex Burkhead provided an x-factor, but had more contributions as another receiver option than a running back.
Poor Clock Management
Clock management will be debated until the last day of the NFL’s existence. It is tough to navigate how to run the clock when up against the wall, but the Patriots seemed to not do well in this regard. Coach Bill Belichick was left with 0 timeouts as Philly drove down the clock. When the Pats did get the ball back, they had to run a no-huddle offense in panic mode.
No Malcom Butler
In an interesting decision, coach Belichick left Malcom Butler, the star cornerback from Super Bowl 49 MVP with the red zone interception to seal the game, on the bench. Butler was reportedly ill earlier in the week, though he dressed out for the game. This was the first time Butler had not played in the first quarter since that 2014 Super Bowl. Instead, Eric Rowe got the start. Rowe struggled early and gave up 3 catches for 66 yards. This included the Eagles’ first touchdown to Alshon Jeffery. It is unclear whether Butler would’ve made that much of a difference, but he is someone you’d want on the field for at least a few plays and not on the bench the entire time.
New England’s offense did their part. They never punted the ball and came back to regain the lead. It also gave up no turnovers in the first 3 quarters. The Patriots’ downfall lies in their defensive woes.
It’s possible this is the last we saw of this current Patriots lineup. OC Josh McDaniels and DC Matt Patricia are likely off to head coaching gigs and coach Belichick may be retiring. Tom Brady could also retire, but that’s not likely. In any case, this Patriots team is no doubt a dynasty, they just got outplayed by the better team on this day.