Eagles up-front depth got best of Patriots protection in the end

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Eagles up-front depth got best of Patriots protection in the end

MINNEAPOLIS -- Usually it's the Patriots offensive line that outlasts its opponents. This time, Brandon Graham and the Eagles had a little more gas.

The situation should have seemed dire for the Patriots, but, given their propensity for making improbable late-game comebacks, it didn't. They had one time out remaining and a two-minute stoppage staring them in the face when they had the ball on their own 33-yard line down, 38-33. 

Then Graham did something that made a comeback damn near impossible. Even for the Patriots. 


Working on the interior, a spot where the Eagles like to use their relentless defensive end in obvious passing situations, Graham thought he'd have a chance to beat Patriots right guard Shaq Mason one-on-one. 

"I knew he liked to be aggressive," Graham said of Mason, who has the ability to deliver a powerful punch as a pass-protector. "So I tried to act like I was pulling. I snatched it right off."

Graham grabbed Mason's hands and swiped them to the inside. He continued his rush outside, moved past his off-balance opponent, dipped under Mason's arms and lunged for Brady's right hand. 

"Tom Brady's arm was right there," Graham said, "and I went for the ball."

It was the only sack the Patriots allowed all night. The fumble was recovered by rookie Derek Barnett, and an Eagles field goal gave them a 41-33 lead. 

Though Brady avoided sacks by maneuvering in the pocket, he was hit several times (six) and hurried 18 others, per Pro Football Focus. The waves of Eagles rushers on the defensive line that the Patriots had lauded all week produced seven different players with one or more quarterback pressures. 

Yet for all that heat, it really didn't bite the Patriots until New England's final few possessions.


"The o-line blocked well all game," offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said. "I think there were one or two plays there at the end that kind of turned the tide on us." 

In a game that featured over 1,000 yards of total offense (1,151) and broke the Super Bowl record in that category, there weren't many highlights defensively for either side. The Eagles got theirs when they needed it most.

"I'd obviously love to not have it stripped from me," Brady said. "I was just holding the ball trying to get it downfield. Those guys had a good rush and got in there and made a good play. The've been doing it all year. I knew they had a good rush. They made a good play. They made a good play at the right time. They made one good play at the right time."

The Patriots offensive line, which grinds away at its conditioning under the guidance of Dante Scarnecchia and strength coach Moses Cabrera, has exhausted teams in big games in the recent past. The Falcons were wiped out by the end of their overtime loss to the Patriots in Super Bowl LI. The Jaguars had little left in the tank up front when they tried to stop Brady in the fourth quarter of the AFC title game. 


But this week, the Eagles and their depth in the trenches -- they had seven defensive linemen play at least 20 snaps -- eventually won out. 

"For us, it was all about one stop we had to make. We went out here and made that one stop. We knew we were going against the best. How much sweeter is it that we beat the best today?"


King: It was football, not family that kept McDaniels with Patriots

King: It was football, not family that kept McDaniels with Patriots

There have been all kinds of theories of what ultimately kept Josh McDaniels from taking the Indianapolis Colts head coaching job.

NBC Sports Boston Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran offered his here and here. Ex-Pats linebacker Willie McGinest said he was told it wasn't because McDaniels was promised to eventually succeed Bill Belichick. 

Now comes Sports Illustrated's Peter King, who told NBCSports Network's "PFT Live" that you can cross off the theory that McDaniels' reversal was about not wanting to move his family to Indianapolis. 

“This had nothing to do with his family,” King said. “It was about the Patriots giving him a better option than Indianapolis.”

More here from's Pro Football Talk. 


Report: WWE trying to sign Rob Gronkowski

Report: WWE trying to sign Rob Gronkowski

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has hinted about walking away from football at 28 and apparently World Wrestling Entertainment is listening.

According to Dave Meltzer's Wrestling Observer newsletter, WWE is willing to offer Gronk a "similar style deal" that it offered UFC star Ronda Rousey, who made her WWE debut late last month, is scheduled to be part of its "Elimination Chamber" event Feb. 25 and is being advertised as being part of their WrestleMania signature event April 8.

Gronk was part of Wrestlemania last year (see video below) and his friend, wrestler Mojo Rawley, hinted earlier this week that Gronkowski might be looking to give up football for the ring. Gronk has also reportedly been considering retiring to pursue a movie career.