Here are 10 Super Bowl observations with an Eagles slant.
1. Let’s start with a history lesson for the young bucks in the audience. This is what the Super Bowl used to look like. From 1984 to 1996, the NFC won 13 straight titles, and only two of those games were decided by seven points or fewer. We’ve been spoiled as of late with some great Super Bowls. Five of six (prior to last night) were decided by seven points or fewer. But the Seahawks’ 43-8 pounding of the Broncos was an old-school blowout – from the botched snap/safety in the first quarter to the Gatorade dump on Pete Carroll in the fourth. Let’s hope this is the exception and not the start of a trend. With expectations high for a great game matching strength vs. strength, we were instead left with a snoozer.
2. The truth is the real Super Bowl was played two weeks ago between the Seahawks and 49ers. I maintain that if those two teams played 10 times on a neutral field, it’d be five and five. Which reminds me: Guess which division the Eagles get in 2014? That’s right, it’s the NFC West. Once a laughingstock, the Seahawks, Niners, Cardinals and Rams now present the toughest draw in football. But that’s going to make for an entertaining 2014 season for the Birds. Chip Kelly scheming and adjusting against some of the most talented defenses in football. In case you’re wondering, the Seahawks and Rams travel to the Linc, while the Eagles play at San Francisco and Arizona.
3. A couple weeks ago, we gave you a new hipster draft complaint. Brandon Graham over Earl Thomas is too mainstream. At the time, we suggested Daniel Te’o-Nesheim over NaVorro Bowman. But here’s a new one: Clay Harbor over Kam Chancellor. Or Mike Kafka over Chancellor. Or Keenan Clayton over Chancellor.
OK, let’s just get to the entire list of players the Eagles took ahead of Chancellor in 2010: Graham, Nate Allen, Te’o-Nesheim, Trevard Lindley, Clayton, Kafka and Harbor. A total of seven guys taken over the two-time Pro Bowl safety who had a strong case for Super Bowl MVP last night.
Chancellor had nine tackles, two pass break-ups and an interception. Linebacker Malcolm Smith ended up winning the MVP, but Chancellor set the tone early with his crushing hits and his first-quarter pick. The Seahawks’ coaching staff has done a brilliant job of playing to his strengths. At 6-3 with 33-inch arms, Chancellor is truly a big person who beats up little people on a weekly basis.
4. Back in November, Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis was asked about his team’s lack of sacks.
“I think the sack is overrated in the NFL right now,” he said. “I think we make too much of it on both ends. I think the pressure a quarterback feels – we always talk about can we get the offense off-rhythm and the quarterback uncomfortable in the pocket? And I think we’re doing that. Even though the sack numbers aren’t as high as we would like… there’s pressures, there’s batted balls, there’s errant throws sometimes, just a matter of keeping the quarterback uncomfortable.
“If the sack numbers are high, that’s great. If they’re not, that’s OK, as long as he’s uncomfortable. It’s when he’s sitting back there with a real comfort, comfortable look in his eye that I get uncomfortable.”
I have a feeling Davis is going to drive that point home next year and use last night’s Super Bowl as an example. The box score shows just one sack for the Seahawks, but the story of the game was their ability to make Peyton Manning uncomfortable all game long. Defensive coaches often use the phrase: getting him off his spot. That just means forcing the QB to move off of his initial throwing platform. Seattle did that all game long against Manning.
5. The good news coming out of last night’s game is we can retire the lazy “No mobile QB has ever won a Super Bowl” argument. To be honest, I don’t even know what qualifies as a mobile QB anymore. Russell Wilson carried three times for 26 yards. But he played a typical Russell Wilson game, completing 18 of 25 passes for 206 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, while escaping pressure whenever necessary.
Wilson was not asked to carry the Seahawks on his back, and he didn’t try to do too much. He was a good fit for the way the team was set up with Seattle’s strength being an elite defense and a dangerous rushing attack.
Sometimes a QB is able to perfectly execute what the coaching staff is asking of him. Wilson did that last night and for much of the season. You could certainly argue that was the case to a large extent with Nick Foles and Kelly in 2013 as well.
6. The bad news coming out of last night’s game is that we are in for an offseason’s worth of Manning legacy talk. And part of me gets it. After a historic regular season, he averaged just 5.7 yards per attempt and threw two interceptions on the game’s biggest stage. The Broncos’ first seven possessions finished in two punts, two interceptions, one fumble, a turnover on downs and a safety.
This much I’ll admit: It doesn’t seem right that the guy who has put together the greatest 16-year stretch of QB play we’ve ever seen only has one Super Bowl ring. And there’s no doubt that he struggled against Seattle.
But I think we sometimes underrate how difficult it is to win a title. If Adam Vinatieri doesn’t nail a couple of fourth-quarter field goals from 40+ yards, what’s the conversation nowadays about Tom Brady? Would you believe that going into yesterday’s game Manning actually had a better postseason passer rating than Brady for their careers?
At 37, Manning rehabbed through four neck surgeries and put together an amazing 18-game stretch. In the 19th game, he ran into an elite defensive unit and did not play well. That might not be the “hottest” take you’ll hear in the coming days, but it’s the truth.
7. I think Tommy Lawlor nailed this point:
The Eagles must get faster in the middle of the field on defense. You can give up short catches, but players must be able to fly to the ball
— Tommy Lawlor (@lawlornfl) February 3, 2014
Danny Kelly over at Field Gulls wrote a terrific piece on the Seahawks’ defense and Carroll’s philosophy leading up to yesterday’s game. One of the main points was that Carroll’s scheme does a brilliant job of not giving up big plays. Then again, no defensive coordinator wants to give up big plays.
But the Seahawks do an amazing job of limiting yards after the catch on underneath routes. Part of that is scheme/coaching, and part of it is personnel.
The Eagles did a poor job on in-breaking routes and underneath passes in the middle of the field in 2013. It’s fine to be willing to give those up, but you have to limit the YAC damage and make offensive players pay when they make those grabs in between the numbers. That’s an aspect of the defense which needs to be addressed in the coming months.
8. There will be many calls around these parts for Howie Roseman and company to follow the Seahawks’ blueprint and build up a great defense.
Much easier said than done.
Thomas was a first-round pick, but look at the other players in the Seahawks’ secondary. We mentioned Chancellor (a fifth-rounder) already. Richard Sherman was also a fifth-round pick. And right cornerback Byron Maxwell was a sixth-rounder. Corner Walter Thurmond was taken in the fourth round. Linebacker K.J. Wright was a fourth-rounder too.
Seattle has had six first-round picks in the last five years. Those selections have produced two starters (Thomas and offensive tackle Russell Okung). That’s not a great percentage. They added key pieces through trades and free agency – Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and Chris Clemons. And they built the era’s best secondary largely on the last day of the draft.
There are different ways to build championship-caliber teams. But there’s also a reason Seahawks GM John Schneider receives the praise he does. To whiff on some of those early picks and still build arguably the most talented team in football is remarkable.
9. In many ways, I am a Super Bowl Grinch. I can’t stand the two-week buildup, the complaints about the halftime entertainment, the seven-hour pre-game shows, etc.
The worst part about the lead-up to the game this year was the Sherman discussion. Either you had to think he was the worst person in the world or defend him as a saint. There was no room for: “He could probably have exhibited better sportsmanship after the 49ers game, but the interview took place 30 seconds after the game ended when his emotions were high so it’s not the biggest deal in the world.”
I mean, if I had to hear someone quote Sherman’s college GPA one more time, my head was going to explode. Have we never met someone who attended a good college, had good grades and still sometimes acted like a jerk?
Anyway, I hate that we have to wait seven months for another meaningful football game, but I’m glad much of the nonsense surrounding the Super Bowl is over.
10. And some leftovers, starting with a couple Tweets that caught my attention:
And that’s the first time Peyton Manning has ever seen a helicopter.
— Spencer Hall (@edsbs) February 2, 2014
Seriously, what was with Manning’s face on the sideline pre-game?
Sorry we let you guys down. Messages like this is the I my thing that make me feel better. pic.twitter.com/e6FTuzw7LC
— Shaun Phillips (@ShaunPhillips95) February 3, 2014
If you don’t let out an Awww after that one, you have no soul.
Other notes… I’m guessing Phil Simms thought that was a bottom-five coat on Joe Namath. …I doubt this was the intent of the trailer, but I have no interest in seeing Need For Speed, and now I miss Jesse Pinkman. … Who’s retiring early on the “safety as the first play of the game” prop bet? … Award for most uncomfortable commercial goes to H&M and David Beckham’s boxer briefs. Some of us are trying to introduce our 15-month-old daughters to the game of football here! … “I wasn’t going to pull the trigger on a Maserati, but after that commercial, it’s time to get me one,” said absolutely no one. … Just when I thought we were finally getting away from baby/animal commercials, Geico had to go with a pig at the DMV bit. … How was Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie not a part of that horrible display of tackling on Jermaine Kearse’s 23-yard touchdown? … That was as hollow a 13-catch performance (by Demaryius Thomas) as we’ll see in our lifetimes. … Good breakdown here by Matt Bowen on why the Seahawks’ defense was so successful against Manning.