Archive for February, 2018

CPAC 2018 Saturday Recap and Epilogue

Sunday, February 25th, 2018

CPAC 2018 Saturday Recap and Epilogue

CPAC 2018 Friday Recap

Sunday, February 25th, 2018

CPAC 2018 Friday Recap


CPAC 2018 Thursday Recap

Sunday, February 25th, 2018

CPAC 2018 Thursday Recap

Super Bowl (52) LII Recap

Monday, February 5th, 2018

Super Bowl LII Recap

The AFC Champion New England Patriots were trying to win an NFL tying sixth Super Bowl. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are in the conversation for greatest coach and quarterback ever.

The NFC Champion Philadelphia Eagles lost to these Patriots in the Super Bowl 13 years ago when the men in kelly green were led by 3rd generation West Coast Offense guru Walrus Lite Andy Reid. Now it was “little Andy,” 4th generation West Coast Offense guru Doug Pederson, leading the Iggles. Carson Wentz was out injured.

Nick Foles had an electric 2013 season under Reid, with 27 touchdowns and only two interceptions. Yet soon after that he regressed and was practically out of football. He returned in 2017 as a clear backup. Now he had to be the next Jeff Hostetler. He had to be the next Tom Brady, an unknown 6th round pick in 2001 who only took the field when Drew Bledsoe was injured.

The Patriots had overcome a 28-3 deficit third quarter deficit to win it all last year. They trailed 24-14 in the fourth quarter three years ago before coming back to win it all. The Eagles had not won an NFL championship since 1960, when Chuck Bednarik gave Vince Lombardi’s Packers their only loss in an NFL championship game. This was a total mismatch. As ESPN uber-announcer Chris Berman constantly reminds us, “That’s why they play the games.”

The only chance the Eagles had to win this game would have to come from their defense. There was no way they could win a shootout. Their only chance was a slugfest. Again, “That’s why they play the games.”

The Eagles got the ball first and moved 67 yards in 14 plays. They took 7 minutes off the clock. On 3rd and 4 from their own 32, Foles hit Alshon Jeffery for 17 yards. On 3rd and 12 from their own 47, Foles went to Smith for 15 yards. Yet on 2nd and goal from the 2, a false start penalty was followed by a pair of Foles incompletions. Jake Elliott hit the 25 yard field goal for a 3-0 Eagles lead. The Patriots on their first play from scrimmage saw Brady throw incomplete under heavy defensive pressure. It was the last time he would face pressure for most of the game as the New England offensive line gave him plenty of time. The Patriots moved from their own 25 to a 3rd and 4 at the Philly 8. Brady threw incomplete and Stephen Gostkowski hit the 26 yard field goal for a 3-3 game.

What seemed a glacial pace all of a sudden turned into a rapid fire pinball machine match. From their own 23, the Eagles moved rapidly. Former Patriots running back LaGuerrette Blount ran for 36 yards. On the next play Foles went deep to Jeffery for a 34 yard touchdown. Special teams were a problem for both teams despite the game being played indoors. Elliott missed the extra point as the Eagles led 9-3. The Patriots got it back and soon faced 3rd and 7 at their own 21. Brady went deep to Danny Amendola for a 50 yard gain. The Patriots began the second quarter facing 3rd and 2 at the Philly 9. Brandon Cooks got the carry and only gained one yard. Bill Belichick decided not to go for it, and Gostkowski came in for another 26 yard field goal try. The snap was fumbled, but somehow the Patriots still had enough time to spin the ball around. Gostkowski doinked it off the upright no good.

The Eagles then went 3 and out. The Eagles punted, which would normally be unremarkable except for one thing. It was the only punt of the entire game for either team. The Patriots took over at their own 37. Brady went deep to Brandon Cooks for a 23 yard gain. However, Cooks never saw Malcolm Jenkins, who blasted Cooks with a devastating legal block. Cooks stayed down, eventually got up, but did not return to the game. The Patriots soon faced 3rd and 5 at the Philly 35 when offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels went to the bag of tricks. A double reverse to Amendola saw him then throw the ball to a wide open Brady. The Patriots ran this very same play in a 2015 regular season game against the Eagles successfully. This time the ball was well thrown but Brady dropped it. It bounced off his fingertips. Michael Jordan was a lousy baseball player, and Tom Brady was not meant to be a wide receiver.

After the incompletion, the Patriots faced 4th and 5 at the Philly 35. After seeing the missed kick from 26 yards out, Belichick opted against a 53 yard field goal try. Brady threw deep incomplete and the Patriots turned it over on downs. A decade earlier Belichick passed up a 48 yard field goal try in a Super Bowl his Patriots lost 17-14. Time would soon tell if this was another mistake, especially since again the game was being played indoors. The Eagles soon faced 3rd and 7 at their own 38. Foles went to Zac Ertz for 19 yards and Jeffery for 22 more. Blount then broke free for a 21 yard touchdown run. Doug Pederson made the questionable decision to go for the 2 point conversion. Chasing points often backfires, and Foles threw incomplete. The Eagles led 15-3, but there were still 9 minutes left in the half.

After a touchback, a short pass from Brady to Ronny Burkhead went for 46 yards. Yet after that the drive died. Gostkowski hit a 45 yard field goal but the Patriots still trailed 15-6 midway through the second quarter. The Eagles soon faced 3rd and 4 at their own 31 when Jay Ajayi ran for a 26 yard gain. On the next play Foles went deep to Jeffery. Jeffery appeared to have the catch at the 2 yard line when things got bizarre. Jeffery somehow lost control of the ball from one hand, batted it up in the air with his other hand, and saw it intercepted pat the 2 yard line by Harmon. The Patriots took over at their own 10 and soon faced 3rd and 6 at their own 14. Brady threw incomplete but defensive holding kept the drive going. From their own 31, Brady went deep to Chris Hogan for a 43 yard gain. On the next play just before the 2 minute warning, White ran for a 26 yard touchdown. The special teams continued to struggle as Gostkowski hooked the extra point wide not good. Yet instead of trailing 22-6, the Patriots were only down 15-12. It seemed as if the Eagles best chance to win had evaporated.

Yet for all the talk about West Coast Offense dinking and dunking, Doug Pederson was going full pedal to the metal. He was also taking some of the boldest risks in Super Bowl history. On 3rd and 3 from the Philadelphia 37, a short pass from Foles to Corey Clement went for 55 yards. Yet on 3rd and goal at the one, Foles threw incomplete. This was a long one yard, closer to 2 yards. Pederson decided to go for it. He also called up the very trick play the Patriots failed to convert on. Foles lined up as a tight end. A double reverse saw Tim Burton throw to a wide open Foles in the end zone. Brady is a legend at quarterback, but on this day Foles was the better receiver. He caught the one yard touchdown as the Eagles took a 22-12 lead into the locker rooms. As bold as the calls was, by the end of the game Pederson would be taking an even bigger risk. Meanwhile, in another surprising move, with 3 seconds left from midfield, the Patriots opted against a Hail Mary. A short pass gained 23 yards, which meant nothing.

Justin Timberlake was the halftime show. I took a nap. Nothing against Timberlake, but halftime shows should be abolished and replaced with video highlights of past NFL games. Rather than try and force football fans to embrace pop culture, pop culture fans should learn who Vince Lombardi is. After all, it is his trophy the players are trying to win. The second half became an aerial show that turned this game into an instant classic.

After a touchback to start the second half, Brady went deep to Gronkowski for gains of 25, 24, 14 on 3rd and 6, for the 5 yard touchdown to get the Patriots quickly within 22-19. Yet every time it seemed the Patriots were poised to take the lead, the Eagles offense struck back. On 3rd and 6 from their own 19, Foles found Nelson Agholor for 17 yards. On 3rd and 1 from the New England 40, Foles hit Ertz for 14 yards. On 3rd and 6 from the New England 22, Foles went deep to Clement for the touchdown. Midway through the third quarter, the Eagles led 29-19. Yet after trailing last year by 25, a 10 point deficit was ho-hum for them.

After a touchback, Brady continued putting on a passing clinic. He hit Chris Hogan for 16 yards. On 3rd and 2 from the Philly 44, Brady hit Amendola for 18 yards. On the next play Brady went to Hogan for a 26 yard touchdown as the Patriots were within 29-26 with 3 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter. After a touchback, Foles went deep to Agholor for 24 yards and to Smith for 17 more. The fourth quarter began with the Eagles facing 3rd and 3 at the New England 16. This time Pederson did call a West Coast Offense play, and the short pass was blown up in the backfield for an 8 yard loss. Those who hate the West Coast Offense scream “throw it past the marker!” Elliott hit the 42 yard field goal to make it 32-26 Eagles, but now it was a one score game. What happened next was inevitable.

After a touchback, Josh McDaniels changed things up by calling 3 straight running plays by Burkhead, who ran for 5, 9 and 4. On 3rd and 3 from their own 46, Brady hit Amendola for a 7 yard gain. Brady then went deep to Amendola for a 30 yard gain. A third straight pass to Amendola gains d9 more down to the Philly 8 yard line. Brady went to Rob Gronkowski for the touchdown. This time the extra point was good. After trailing for over 50 minutes, the Patriots had their first lead of the game up 33-32 with 9 1/2 minutes left in regulation.

The Patriots took a timeout on defense with 8 1/2 minutes left with the Eagles facing 3rd and 6 at their own 29. It did not matter as both defensive coordinators Jim Schwartz and Matt Patricia saw their defenses gashed. Foles went to Ertz for 7 yards and a critical first down. Yet on 3rd and 1 from their own 45, Pederson again called a maddeningly frustrating West Coast Offense sideways pass. It went for no gain. Normally teams who run those plays have no running game. The Eagles had 2 quality running backs, but refused to play smash mouth. Now it was 4th and 1 with 5 1/2 minutes left. Pederson made one of the boldest calls in Super Bowl history.

The Eagles were at their own 45 yard line. Punting and playing field position and defense is what almost every coach would do. Yet nothing in this game suggested the Eagles defense was up to the task. Brady had led touchdown drives on 3 consecutive second half possessions. The New England offense did not punt the whole game. Neither defense at this stage had a single sack, much less a forced fumble. The only turnover of the game at this point was Foles’s interception, and that was a complete fluke. This game had no defense. So Pederson decided to go for it knowing a failure to convert would give Brady and his offense a short field. Yet a punt most likely meant the Eagles would never get the ball back. Going for it was the right call. As former Eagles hero Herm Edwards said, “You play to win the games.”

Foles fired high to Ertz, who was driven backward but not until after he had made the most critical 2 yard catch in Eagles history. From the Philly 48, Foles went to Agholor three straight times for gains of 10, 18 and 10. The Eagles held the ball for 14 plays and 7 minutes, forcing the Patriots to take their second timeout. On 3rd and 7 from the 11, Foles fired to Ertz inside the 5. Ertz caught the ball, took a few steps, and leaped over the plane of the goal. Once Ertz hit the ground in the end zone, the ball popped out, although Ertz caught the bobble. This led to an endless discussion of what constitutes a catch that the NFL still has not figured out.

Thankfully, the officials got the call right and clearly explained why they got it right. A receiver who catches the ball in the end zone has to maintain control of the ball all the way after hitting the ground. However, Ertz caught the ball outside of the end zone and took several steps. These were “football moves.” At that point Ertz was treated as a runner. One he broke the plane of the goal, it was a touchdown regardless of whether the ball popped out. Now it was time for the 2 point conversion try. Despite clear defensive pass interference, the pass was ruled incomplete with no penalty flag. Those who believe the Patriots get virtually every single call rom the refs had more ammo. With 2:21 left, the Eagles led 38-33. Yet a 5 point lead is not a 7 point lead. Then came the stunner.

On 2nd and 2 from their own 33 in a game with no defense, the Patriots finally became the victim of a defensive play. Brady had the ball knocked out of his hand by Brandon Graham. It bounced to Eagles defender Derek Barnett. 17 years after the Tuck Rule that started the Patriots dynasty, the refs were not able to bail out Brady this time. The entire world saw that when he finally moved his arm forward, it was with an empty hand. This fumble call stood.

With 2:09 left from the New England 31, this time Pederson played it very safe. A first down run forced the Patriots to take their final timeout. Another run took the clock to the 2 minute warning. With 1:56 left, on 3rd and 5 from the 26, a first down would end the game. However, a completed pass would stop the clock. A runner takes 45 seconds of time off the clock. This was a no-brainer. You must run the football in this situation. You don’t even think of throwing it. Blount got the carry and lost a yard. Elliott came in for a 46 yard field goal try. He would not be Ray Finkle. The kick wad perfect and the Eagled led by 8 points with one minute remaining. Yet a touchdown and 2 point conversion would tie the game.

A horrendous decision on the short kickoff resulted in the Patriots trying a lateral on the return. The decision failed miserably and the Patriots took over on their own 9 yard line. With 42 seconds left after 3 Brady incompletions, it was now 4th and 10. Yet Brady then found Amendola for 13 yards and then spiked the ball to stop the clock with 27 seconds left. Brady went to Gronkowski for gains of 11 and 16 yards as the Eagles took their final timeout on defense with 13 seconds left. After an incompletion, 9 seconds remained. The Patriots were just shy of midfield. It came down to one final Hail Mary from a quarterback who at age 40 still had a rocket arm. Brady went to the end zone, and everyone had a shot at it. Just like six years earlier, this heart-stopping attempt that seemed to hang in the air forever finally fell incomplete. The Evil Empire of Football had been defeated.

These teams combined for 1,151 yards, an NFL record not just for Super Bowls or playoffs but for any NFL game. Game MVP Foles finished 28 of 43 for 373 yards, 3 touchdowns, and the one interception. Foles also caught a touchdown pass as well. The Eagles also ran the ball for 164 yards and had 538 overall net yards of offense. Last year Brady had a Super Bowl record 466 yards passing, but that game went into overtime. This year Brady was 28 of 48 for a mind-blowing 505 yards. Brady had 3 touchdown passes without an interception, but he did have the fumble with the game on the line. Had Brady’s Hail Mary been completed, he would have broken Norm Van Brocklin’s record of 554 yards passing in any NFL game. The Patriots had 613 years of total offense.

The Eagles finally have their first Super Bowl after 2 prior losses, and their first NFL championship 57 years. The Patriots have won 5 Super Bowls, but have now lost 5 as well. It was the third Super Bowl loss with Belichick and Brady at the helm. In a bizarre move that will be questioned, Patriots defensive back Malcolm Butler did not play a single snap on defense. He was the hero of the Patriots Super Bowl win three years ago with his goal line interception. This year before the game he was crying during the national anthem. Apparently he got the news right before the game that he would not play on defense. He did play on special teams. There was no explanation given for his benching other than a terse statement by Belichick that it was not a disciplinary issue. Butler’s replacement was torched most of the game.

Also being torched is the Patriots staff. Belichick is losing both of his coordinators. Defensive coordinator Matt Patricia is headed to Detroit to be the head coach of the Lions. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is headed to Indianapolis to be the head coach of the Colts. Rob Gronkowski said he was contemplating retirement, but that could be the emotion of the moment. He had 116 yards receiving in this game. Chris Hogan had 12 8 and Danny Amendola had 152. Yet despite all these yards, the Patriots lost. The idea that defense wins championships seemed to fly out the window on this night, the late sack-strip-fumble of Brady notwithstanding. Belichick and Brady both said they would be back next year, and they have a meeting with owner Robert Kraft to iron out some tensions that have developed over time.

The offseason begins, but leatherheads can take joy in knowing that the NFL Draft is barely 10 weeks away. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will announce that the 0-16 Cleveland Browns are now on the clock. Yet this night was all about the Philadelphia Eagles. Foles knows that he is a backup to Carson Wentz next year. Yet on this night, he became a Super Bowl champion and MVP. Doug Pederson was once an average, non-descript career backup. He backed up legend Brett Favre, and most people cannot remember a single game Pederson played in. He was an assistant coach to Andy Reid. Now he has as many Super Bowl wins as Favre and one more as a head coach than Reid. The 2017 NFL season is now in the books, and the Eagles are the 19th of 32 teams to win it all. Super Bowl (52) LII and the season are now history. 41-33 Eagles

NFL 2018 Pro Football Hall of Fame Prequel

Friday, February 2nd, 2018

2018 SOTU Recap

Friday, February 2nd, 2018