Eagles

More Super Bowl Notes: Stephen Belichick struggling with his own identity

More Super Bowl Notes: Stephen Belichick struggling with his own identity

HOUSTON – Stephen Belichick attended his first Super Bowl in 1987 when his father’s New York Giants beat the Broncos.

The younger Belichick had an extremely obstructed view. He wasn’t born until late March, two months after the game.

From that first Super Bowl experience through this Sunday, Stephen will have been to 10 Super Bowls – the 1986 and ’90 seasons when Bill Belichick was the Giants defensive coordinator, 1996 when Bill was Patriots secondary coach for Bill Parcells and the seven for which Bill has been Patriots head coach

The stakes this time are raised for Stephen. As the Patriots safeties coach, the players under his supervision will be trying to shut down one of the most prolific offenses of the past several years, the 540 points Atlanta scored tie them for eighth all-time in a single season (see full story).

- CSNNE.com

Patriots: Can Brady be labeled a 'system quarterback?'
HOUSTON – Tom Brady's career, at this point, is virtually unassailable. Even if the Patriots fail to win their fifth Lombardi Trophy on Sunday, Brady holds records for most playoff starts, most playoff completions, most Super Bowl appearances, and he's tied for the most Super Bowl titles as a quarterback.

Those who once banged the drum that Bill Belichick has made Brady's career into what it is have to acknowledge that the 17-year veteran is among the two or three best of all time to play his position -- if not the best.

One of the final flimsy attempts for those who insist on denigrating Brady is to call him a "system quarterback," but even that's worth little more than a dismissive chuckle. It implies that the scheme, the brainpower behind Brady's weekly offensive plans, is the sole reason for his success

While that assumption ignores his individual skill set -- his accuracy, durability, ability to process information pre and post-snap, his unfailing effort throughout the calendar year to ensure that he's as prepared as humanly possible -- it also contradicts itself in its attempt to take away from Brady (see full story).

- CSNNE.com

Falcons: Quinn recipient of the Salute to Service Award
HOUSTON – Falcons coach Dan Quinn already is a winner this week, two days before the Super Bowl.

The second-year head coach in Atlanta has been chosen the Salute to Service Award recipient by the NFL and USAA.

Quinn won for his commitment to supporting the military and their families and will be recognized at the "NFL Honors" TV program Saturday night during which The Associated Press will announce its NFL individual award winners.

"Coach Quinn truly embodies the spirit of our Salute to Service Award," said Vice Admiral (Retired) John Bird, USAA's senior vice president of military affairs. "Though he has no direct ties to the military, he's made it his personal charge to show appreciation for their service and sacrifice (see full story)."

- The Associated Press

Falcons: Atlanta celebrities pumped up for Falcons
ATLANTA – The New England Patriots have the Super Bowl history and experience going for them Sunday, but they can't compete with the Atlanta Falcons when it comes to an entourage of celebrity fans.

The Falcons have been known for having fickle fans who abandon the team when it struggles, but this season, the sidelines have been overflowing with rappers, actors and athletes from other sports.

Rapper T.I. says he's no bandwagon jumper. The lifelong Falcons fan says he remembers when Deion Sanders high-stepped into end zones, Michael Vick dashed by defenders and the "Dirty Birds" danced to the Super Bowl in 1999.

Those were some of the most memorable moments in Falcons history, but there were many more forgettable years. No matter the outcome, T.I. remained faithful (see full story).

- The Associated Press

Film Review: Doug Pederson dials up a gutsy screen call vs. 'Boys

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Film Review: Doug Pederson dials up a gutsy screen call vs. 'Boys

The Eagles ended up scoring the final 30 points of Sunday's game in North Texas to crush the Cowboys 37-9. 

They didn't start off so hot though. 

In fact, the Eagles were down 9-7 at halftime, so when they got the ball back to start the second half, it was a pretty important drive. 

On first down, Jay Ajayi ran for 8 yards. On the next play, he went 1 yard. 

That set up a 3rd-and-1 and one of Doug Pederson's best and gutsiest play calls of the game. Out of an unusual look, the Eagles ran a screen play to Brent Celek that picked up 28 yards and helped them continue a scoring drive. 

"It was a great call," offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. "Great feel and call from coach. We're meeting the night before. He and I always meet on Saturday night, the night before (the game) for an hour, hour and a half, just going through the call sheet, talking about what he's going to call, why he's going to call it. And we're bouncing things back and forth. 

"That was one I knew he was going to call. He was just waiting for the opportunity to call that play. Had a good sense."

Let's take a closer look at the play: 

Here's a look just before the snap. The Eagles are using a "tackle over" formation. You'll notice Lane Johnson is lined up inside Halapoulivaati Vaitai and Celek (circled) is lined up as the right tackle. 

The Eagles didn't motion into this look. They came out in it, with all three tight ends to the right side of the line. Trey Burton is lined up like a fullback. When the Cowboys see this, they load up that side of the defensive line, prepared for a run on 3rd-and-short. 

Carson Wentz takes the snap and begins to roll right for the play fake. Celek (still circled in red) engages and holds his block for a couple seconds. "Celek did a great job of selling it and good execution," Reich said. 

With the play going right, the Cowboys' linebackers are going with it. 

Here's the other angle just after Celek releases his block. The Cowboys' corner on the defensive right is blitzing, but with Wentz rolling right, he won't have enough time to get to him. 

Marcus Johnson, who was the outside receiver on the offensive left is running a go route, which will drive the safety out of the play. That leaves a ton of space open on that side of the field. 

 

It takes a perfect throw from Wentz and it wasn't easy to get off. Because of the blitzing corner, he needs to throw off his back foot and will need to loft the ball over the defensive end, who never gained an inch on Vaitai. 

 

At the point of the catch, Celek would have already had the first down. He has the ball for a short gain but rumbles ahead into open space for a 28-yarder, his longest catch of the last two seasons.  

This was a play the Eagles practiced during the week, but Reich said it looked just OK. According to Reich, those types of plays usually look better live in games than they do in practice. 

It certainly worked. 

"You want to hear defensive players swear," Chris Collinsworth said on the NBC broadcast, "that play probably does it more than any other."

Rob's Rants: Plenty to be thankful for in Philly sports

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Rob's Rants: Plenty to be thankful for in Philly sports

With Thanksgiving upon us and the rest of the holiday season just around the corner, I thought it would be a nice opportunity to reverse course from Rob’s Rants and express what I’m thankful for in Philadelphia sports. Truth be told, with the football team having the best record in the NFL and the basketball team having two dynamic, budding superstars and playoffs in their sights for the first time in a long time, things are pretty good around these parts. So let’s show a little gratitude.

Eagles
Where to start? Before this season, the hope was a playoff appearance. After 10 games, a division title, a bye and home-field advantage in the NFC are all real possibilities. This team is complete, laser-focused, well-coached and talented. Further, they have a second-year quarterback in Carson Wentz whose skill is only matched by his work ethic and football IQ. This city has always loved a tough defense and that’s exactly what they have. They are physical from the deep, defensive line to the surprising cornerbacks. The Saints, Vikings, Rams and Panthers are right there on the Eagles’ tail, so nothing is a given, but I just don’t see this team collapsing. I love that they can beat you in a multitude of ways whether it’s Wentz’s arm, a punishing running attack, a ferocious pass rush, or out-scheming the opposition. We are in for an amazing ride with this group.

Sixers
Ben Simmons has 11 double-doubles in his first 16 games in the NBA. That‘s the most by any player in that span of time in his first season since Shaquille O’Neal in 1993. His ability to finish with both hands is remarkable. If you never watched him shoot a jump shot or a free throw, you would have no idea he is left-handed. His size, power, handle and ambidextrousness mask his inability or willingness to pull the trigger from the outside. And by the looks of his stats and what the eyeball tells you, he’s doing just fine. Mr. Meat Pie is averaging 21.5 points, 9.2 rebounds, 7.6 assists and two steals a night. Then there’s the big fella. Joel Embiid is a once-in-a-generation talent, who by his own admission is not even in basketball shape yet. His Tinseltown two-step where he throttled both L.A. teams out there may have been the highlight of this short season thus far. But Embiid shows on a nightly basis that if he stays healthy, he’s capable of leading this teams to multiple championships. The Wells Fargo Center is back to the A.I. days of being the place to be for a basketball game. It’s electric.

Flyers
The Flyers' season has been very up and down. But there are certainly things to be thankful for when it comes to the orange and black. The first line of Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek, centered by Sean Couturier has accounted for 69 points through 20 games. Whether it was Dave Hakstol or Ron Hextall’s call, the decision to move Giroux to the wing and insert Couturier as the top-line centerman was a stroke of genius. Ivan Provorov deserves a plate full of kudos himself for his machine-like play.

Phillies
The Phillies' youthful core of Rhys Hoskins, Aaron Altherr, Odubel Herrera, J.P. Crawford and soon-to-be Scott Kingery has the makings of a nucleus to be proud of going forward. Aaron Nola showed himself capable as a top-of-the-rotation pitcher. There’s much work to be done here but the club appears headed in the right direction.

College Hoops
Let’s give college hoops a little love as well. Villanova has dominated the headlines of late and rightfully so but there’s a possibility that at least three of the local teams will be dancing come April.
      
So pass the stuffing and enjoy the gravy, things are looking up in Philadelphia sports.