BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — Comeback players, rushing predictions, Minneapolis bands, the first NFL game ever played on the site of the Mall of America and two dorks in a coffee shop.
All that and more in Monday's edition of Roob's 10 random Eagles Super Bowl observations.
1. If you had to pick a Comeback Player of the Year on the Eagles, you’d sure have plenty of candidates. Jason Kelce has gone from an inconsistent veteran center last year to a first-team All-Pro. Lane Johnson was suspended for 10 games a year ago and made first-team All-Pro this year. Nelson Agholor was so bad last year he was benched during one terrible stretch and spoke openly and honestly about his challenges with confidence, but he had a career year, easily surpassing his first two NFL seasons combined with 69 catches for 851 yards and eight TDs if you include the postseason. Brandon Brooks is another one who was public about mental struggles a year ago, ones that were so powerful he missed two games. Now he’s a Pro Bowler. Nick Foles hasn’t had a winning record since 2014 and now he’s starting in a Super Bowl. There are other guys who have come a long way. Jalen Mills. Halapoulivaati Vaitai. Vinny Curry. Nigel Bradham. Patrick Robinson. Mychal Kendricks. And you know what … I can’t think of one guy whose level of play has dropped off. That is coaching. Flat-out great coaching. To have that many guys significantly improve their level of play from one year to the next is remarkable and speaks volumes about Doug Pederson and his staff.
2. The Eagles have faced 54 passes in their two Super Bowls without an interception. They're one of only two teams that's played at least two Super Bowls and doesn't have an interception (the Bengals are the other). I'm predicting that streak ends Sunday. In fact, I'm predicting Rodney McLeod ends it. Who do you think picks off Tom Brady Sunday evening?
3. I don't worry about Foles. No doubt in my mind he's going to play really well Sunday. None of this is a fluke. Just like 2013 wasn't a fluke. Give him weapons, give him time and he'll perform at a high level. He's put together too many games in his career for it to be a mirage. And he wins. He's 18-5 as the Eagles' starter since 2014 when he plays more than a quarter. That doesn't just happen. It's no accident. He can play.
4. Conversation I overheard Monday morning between two dorks in a Minneapolis coffee shop:
Dude No. 1: "Were you at the Minnesota Miracle?"
Dude No. 2: "No, I couldn't go, but what a finish!"
Dude No. 1: "I was there! It was unbelievable! I've never seen anything like it!"
Dude No. 2: "Un-freaking-real!"
I felt like just getting in their face and screaming, "Ummm … guess what. You lost last week! You got destroyed, 38-7, to a team you were favored over that was playing with its backup quarterback, so shut up!"
5. Five random Donnie Jones facts: 1. When Jones steps on the field Sunday, he'll become the oldest Eagle ever to play in a Super Bowl. 2. Jones is one of only three active players in the NFL who was a teammate of Jerry Rice. The others are Shane Lechler and Sebastian Janikowski. 3. He's been released six times in his career. 4. He's one of only three punters in NFL history to punt 1,000 times and have an average of 45.0 or higher (Lechler and Andy Lee are the others). And 5. He's the only player on the roster who could drink legally when Brady won his first Super Bowl. (Thanks to Dave Zangaro for that one!)
6. Eagles running back predictions: Jay Ajayi 17 for 81, LeGarrette Blount 8 for 39, Corey Clement 6 for 51. Math: 31 for 171.
7. The Eagles' offensive line is so dominant these days it's easy to forget that not all that long ago, the Eagles had atrocious offensive lines every year. From 1982 through 2001, a span of 20 years, the Eagles didn't have a single Pro Bowl offensive lineman. Imagine that? Twenty years? And not surprisingly they weren't very good during most of those years. But since 2002, they've had nine different guys make a total of 20 Pro Bowl teams. In fact, they’ve had at least one guy make the Pro Bowl at each position in just the last four seasons — Jason Peters at left tackle, Evan Mathis at left guard, Kelce at center, Brooks at right guard and Johnson at right tackle. The others since 2002 are Jermane Mayberry, Shawn Andrews, Jon Runyan and Tra Thomas. Interesting that Andy Reid brought in seven of those nine. One thing Big Red could do was find offensive linemen.
8. My top five Minneapolis bands: 1. The Replacements, 2. Hüsker Dü, 3. The Beatifics, 4. Soul Asylum, 5. Hippo Campus.
9. I find it fascinating that the Mall of America sits on the site of the old Metropolitan Stadium, where the Vikings played from 1959 through 1981, when they moved into the Metrodome. The first game ever played at Metropolitan Stadium? Buck Shaw's Eagles beat Pop Ivy's Vikings, 28-24, on Oct. 25, 1959. Billy Ray Barnes rushed for 111 yards, Tommy McDonald had three catches for 122 yards and two touchdowns, Norm Van Brocklin threw for 254 yards and the Eagles picked off the Vikings four times. And the next year the Eagles won their last NFL championship and now 58 years later all the interviews for Super Bowl LII are on the exact same site as that game! Omg it's an omen!!!!!
10. Mind-boggling Nick Foles Stat of the Day: Over the last six postseasons, Foles has recorded more games with 76.5 percent accuracy and no interceptions (minimum of 20 attempts) than every other quarterback combined. Foles has done it in each of the last two games. The only other quarterback with a single performance with 76.5 percent completion and no INTs is Russell Wilson last year against the Lions.