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Sports Today: Takeaways from a classic Super Bowl


Big thanks to the Eagles and Patriots for putting on a great Super Bowl, eh? 

I predicted a Philadelphia win, but I think that’s the only part I got right. 

I thought it would be more of a defensive slugfest like the games the Pats lost to the Giants, but Nick Foles and New England’s offensive line outperformed expectations. 

RELATED: Local connections on the Super Bowl champion Eagles

Philly finally got to Tom Brady in the end, though, and Brandon Graham’s strip-sack on his fellow Michigan Man proved to be one of the decisive plays. 

The numbers from this one are pretty mind-boggling. 

The Patriots had a 500-yard passer, three 100-yard receivers and averaged over five yards per carry and lost. 

Tom Brady threw three touchdown passes but had a crucial fumble. 

Nick Foles threw three touchdown passes and caught another. The interception on his record was a pass deflected into the air by his receiver. This was no game of rope-a-dope. The Eagles gave him the keys and let him go. 

Malcolm Jenkins was not the MVP as I predicted, but he had four tackles and broke up a pass. He also helped prevent James White repeat his huger Super Bowl LI performance, although everyone else seemed to be open most of the time. 

 

The Eagles had a great plan, great roster and great poise. 

Lots of people seemed to think going in that Philadelphia would have an advantage physically. I thought the Patriots’ game plan in the first half was an indication they agreed. Lots of misdirection from New England’s offense, something perhaps Philadelphia prepared for. 

In the second half, Brady just went after various matchups and put his team back on top, but the defense that stunk to start the year before righting itself couldn’t hold on. 

  

Remember before the season how the Patriots were a trendy pick to not just win the Super Bowl but go undefeated? 

That seems pretty baffling now, doesn’t it? I was buying into the hype, but I have to admit since I cover a variety of topics and sports, I was no expert on their roster last summer. 

Upon closer inspection, it’s not that inspiring. 

As great as Brady is, he can’t do it himself — and you really can’t fake it with inferior talent on defense. 

A side effect of the NFL’s overwhelming popularity seems to be a lot of media people who want to talk about the game don’t know much about it I guess, at least when it comes to actual Xs and Os and talent evaluation. 

Anyway, I guess that helps fuel upsets? 

Of course, Vegas installed the Pats as a favorite, but that was probably heavily influenced by the belief Brady would simply overcome any and all adversity. Or it was a sucker bet. 

Nonetheless, this game was far more won by the Eagles than lost by the Patriots. 

That much is evident by the general lack of mistakes by either side (kicking game notwithstanding) . 

Philadelphia was rewarded for having a great roster, using it optimally and staying aggressive from start to finish. 

Doug Pederson was masterful other than an ill-fated decision to go for two way too early in the game, one that was more than made up for by his fourth down trick play for a touchdown late in the second quarter. 

So, the obvious question around here is… what can we learn about all this that can be applied to the Cincinnati Bengals? 

Well, start with the coach-quarterback combo. 

We’ve looked into this before, but there’s not a lot of difference between Nick Foles and Andy Dalton

They’re both good enough to beat you or good enough to break your heart if you’re rooting for them. 

They have to be used correctly, too, because both their accuracy and their decision-making can run hot and cold. 

That takes us back to the coaches. 

Marvin Lewis rarely, if ever, coaches with the aggressiveness Pederson showed in the Super Bowl. Are we to expect that to ever change? 

I don’t think so.

 

Pederson’s approach not only paid off with some successful gambles but also seemed to infuse his team with confidence. That probably played no small role in the team’s ability to recover after losing the lead to the Patriots in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl. 

There have been seasons the Bengals had an offense as diverse and well-constructed as Philadelphia’s, but the guy who put it together is in Cleveland, so the offense is a wild card heading into this season. 

Bill Lazor has a year to figure out what his guys do well and how to put them in position to succeed. 

He does not have the luxury of an offensive line nearly as good as Philadelphia’s, but again at least there’s a chance it gets better with a new mentor for that group and presumably some new players in the room when they begin OTAs. 

RELATED: NFL draft could offer exactly what Cincinnati needs

Bottom line: The Eagles victory proves a team can win with a great roster and an average quarterback. 

That’s pretty much been the plan for the Bengals since drafting Dalton, and by far the best chance for it to succeed was torpedoed by his injury in 2015. 

Except they came closer to winning a playoff game that year than the ones when Dalton was healthy, and these Eagles also lost their starting quarterback late in this season and went on to win it all. 

What was it we were saying about the coach? 


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