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Super Bowl pits the Eagles against the Patriots

Posted on Sunday, February 4, 2018 at 4:30 am

It’s a lot like deja vu all over again for Philadelphia Eagles fans. The last time their team went to the Super Bowl, they were up against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, who had earned a trip to the big game for the second consecutive year.

That was 12 years ago, and the Eagles came up short 24-21.

Of course, with only a handful of exceptions, the teams that will travel to U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota on Feb. 4 are entirely different.

Brady is one of the only players returning from that Super Bowl. Preparing for his record eighth career Super Bowl appearance, the Patriots quarterback has racked up more than 4,500 passing yards this season, including 37 touchdowns.

Brady and head coach Bill Belichick are looking to make history, not only by capturing a sixth Super Bowl trophy, but by becoming the first team to win back-to-back Super Bowls twice.

Easily the biggest question mark in regards to the Patriots’ offense for this Super Bowl is Rob “Gronk” Gronkowski. A force on offense, and the team’s top receiver, Gronkowski has tallied 1,186 yards this season from 76 receptions, with nine touchdowns to his name.

After missing out on Super Bowl LI last year following an operation to repair a herniated disk, Gronk was back in full force for the season. Until Sunday’s American Football Conference title game, that is.

A hard hit to the head from Jacksonville Jaguars’ safety Barry Church resulted in Gronk being removed from the game with a concussion. Following the National Football League’s concussion protocol, Gronk is out until he can pass a series of steps to see if he’s fit to play. As of press time, there was no word on whether he would be active for the big game.

Even if he’s not, Brady still has options on offense to help the team win their sixth Super Bowl trophy. Wide receivers Brandin Cooks (74-1,214, 7 TDs) and Danny Amendola (79-855, 4 TDs) have proven to be valuable assets on the Pats’ offense. Amendola was a particular standout in the AFC title game, catching two touchdown passes against Jacksonville, including the game winner in the fourth quarter.

On the ground, the Patriots are led by Dion Lewis with 992 yards over 204 carries and six touchdowns. Lewis doubles as  receiver from time to time, with 48 receptions for 325 yards and three touchdowns on his resume for the 2017 season.

The Philadelphia Eagles haven’t been to a Super Bowl since their last matchup with the Patriots in 2005. Quarterback Nick Foles, who has 106 completions of 164 attempts for 1,135 yards and seven touchdowns this season, has led the team through the post-season.

If those numbers seem lopsided compared to Brady’s, it’s because Foles has been the starting quarterback only for the last few weeks. The Eagles’ first string quarterback, Carson Wentz, was injured in the week 14 game against the Los Angeles Rams on Dec. 10.

Foles has led the Eagles to a 3-2 record since that game, including a decisive 38-7 National Football Conference championship win over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.

Leading the offense on the ground for the Eagles is former New England Patriot LeGarratte Blount, who was a member of both the 2015 and 2017 championship Patriot teams. For the Eagles, he’s carried the ball 188 times for a total of 806 yards and four touchdowns.

In the passing game, Foles has a wide variety of options at his disposal. Zach Ertz has led the team in receiving yards with 806 over 85 receptions, including eight touchdowns. Alshon Jeffery (66-435, 11 TDs) and Torrey Smith (44-538, 10 TDs) are also forces to be reckoned with.

Defensively, the Eagles are a tough match for running teams, giving up an average of 79.2 yards per game this season to lead the league. They are also ranked third in turnovers with a season total 21 interceptions and 12 recovered fumbles. Their ability to cover New England’s passing game, and to do so late in the game, will prove to be vital in their search for their first Super Bowl win.

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