Comparing the Eagles' 2004 and 2017 Super Bowl offensive lines, a drastically underrated Eagles linebacker, Jordan Matthews' future and more in the neverending parade of Nick Foles stats!
Somebody must have ordered Roob's 10 Random Eagles Observations!
1. One of the biggest differences between the 2004 Super Bowl and the 2017 Super Bowl was the performance of the Eagles' offensive line. The Eagles' line in Super Bowl XXXIX in Jacksonville got brutalized. The interior of the line in particular — guards Jermane Mayberry and Artis Hicks and center Hank Fraley — was destroyed by Tedy Bruschi, Willie McGinest and Mike Vrabel, who hit Donovan McNabb repeatedly, forced him to rush throws, sacked him four times, recorded eight tackles for loss and limited the Eagles to 2.6 yards per rush.
Compare that to the performance of Stefen Wisniewski, Jason Kelce and Brandon Brooks, the interior of the 2017 O-line this time around against the Patriots. The line was monstrous, controlling the line of scrimmage, keeping Foles clean (no sacks on 44 pass attempts) and paving the way for the Eagles to average 6.1 yards per carry. That 2004 O-line was a pretty good one, with three Pro Bowlers (Tra Thomas, Jon Runyan, Mayberry), but they just got destroyed in Jacksonville.
The 2017 group? Their play was superhuman despite losing a Hall of Fame left tackle. Lane Johnson, Brooks and Kelce all showed they're as good as anyone in the game. And Halapoulivaati Vaitai and Wisniewski, two guys that didn't even start the season in the starting lineup, were beasts down the stretch and in the playoffs. It's a group that's smart, physical and athletic and plays so well together. Best of all? They're all back. The team that brought you Ben Tamburello, Mike Schad, Steve Everitt, Ron Solt, Ian Beckles, Max Jean-Gilles, Jeff Dellenbach, Lonnie Palelei and a freaking 26-year-old rookie who wanted to ride around tooting the horn on a firetruck has the best O-line in football, and they're not going away any time soon.
2. I know Doug Pederson said Jay Ajayi will be the Eagles' lead back this year, but I still don't expect him to get more than 200 carries. The Eagles have been clear about their concern with his chronic knee issues, and with the talent they have at running back there's no reason to give Ajayi 20 carries a game. But, man, he can make a huge impact — and stay healthy — with 13 or 14 carries and two or three catches.
3. William Thomas was so underrated. Maybe it's because he was drafted in 1991, as the whole Reggie / Clyde / Seth / Jerome / Wes / Andre defense was unraveling. But Willie T. had 27 interceptions and 37 sacks in his career, and only five others in NFL history had 25 sacks and 25 INTs — including Dawk, Ray Lewis and Rodney Harrison. In fact, Willie T. and Lewis are the only linebackers ever with 25 and 25.
4. I know everybody disagrees, but I still think Jordan Matthews is pretty good, and I expect him to have a solid season in New England.
5. Another reason to love Doug Pederson: The Eagles' 29 fourth-down attempts last year are the most on record (the NFL began tracking fourth-down attempts in 1991). The Eagles were an insane 20-for-29 on fourth down, including some fairly important ones. It was amazing watching Doug evolve last year into such a fearless play-caller.
6. Nick Foles' stats on third down in the 2017 postseason are so ridiculous I double-checked them three times because I didn't think they could possibly be correct. But they're correct: 27-for-33 for 400 yards, four touchdowns, no interceptions and a 156.8 passer rating. Yep, only two more incomplete passes than touchdowns. This is insanity.
7. The more time goes by, the more astonishing Foles' postseason seems to me.
8. Only three players in Super Bowl history have caught a touchdown pass on fourth down: Irving Fryar when the Patriots were trailing the Bears 44-3 late in the fourth quarter in 1985, Don Beebe when the Bills were trailing the Redskins by 20 late in the fourth quarter in 1991 and Foles just before halftime of a three-point game. Conclusion: Foles is the only player in NFL history to catch a meaningful fourth-down touchdown pass in a Super Bowl.
9. I have no idea what really happened at NRG Stadium after Super Bowl LI. But I find it extremely difficult to believe that in this day and age when every single thing anybody does is caught on videotape, that not one video camera picked up the incident Michael Bennett is alleged to have been involved in. With all the security at major events these days? There was no video camera? At an entrance to the field? After a Super Bowl? Not buying it.
10. We haven't had a Zach Ertz stat in a while, so here ya go: Ertz is the only player in Eagles history with three straight seasons with 70 or more catches and 800 yards. Only two others have had two straight: Fryar and Matthews.