The Patriots have no one to blame for their loss in Super Bowl 52 except themselves. They had tons of opportunities to make plays and win the game, and, this Super Bowl at least, they didn’t make them. The Eagles, on the other hand, made the big plays. When they were presented with big moments and opportunities, they stepped up, and the Patriots did not. Did the refs blow a touchdown call that benefited the Eagles? Yes, but that is one play, and the Patriots had plenty of opportunities, before and after that play, to win the game. Some of those plays are highlighted in the paragraphs below
We’re going to start on the first play of the 2nd quarter. On 3rd and 2, the Patriots ran a jet sweep to Brandin Cooks. The play was defended well by Rodney McLeod, but Cooks had a first down and more had he cut it back inside. Instead, he tried to hurdle McLeod and ended up short of the marker. This play was immediately followed by the next missed opportunity, which was the missed field goal by Stephen Gostkowski. The snap was mishandled, throwing the timing of the kickoff, and Ghost tried to just swing his leg at the end, but he ended up hitting the left upright. These two plays left the score 9-3 Eagles. After the defense forced a 3 and out, resulting in the only punt of the game by either team, the Patriots blew another opportunity. With a 3rd and 5 at the Eagles 35, they dialed up a trick play. One they actually ran the last time they played the Eagles as well. Brady handed the ball to Burkhead, who flipped to Amendola, who passed to Brady, who dropped an easy pass right in his hands. It was an easy first down, and probably at least a 15-20 yard gain. Instead, they faced with a 4th and 5, and for some reason decided to go for it instead of kicking a 53-yard field goal. They didn’t pick it up, and the Eagles would score touchdowns on their last two possessions of the half. After the Eagles second straight score, the Patriots had an opportunity to drive down to at least attempt a field goal before the end of the half. After completing a pass to Phillip Dorsett, the Patriots had the ball at their own 44 with 22 seconds left. With no one open, instead of just throwing the ball away to stop the clock, Brady tried to scramble and was tackled in bounds. By the time they were able to spike the ball, there were only 3 seconds left, and the Patriots had no chance of scoring. A colossal mistake by a guy who doesn’t often make them, especially in big situations. Scoring on either or both of those possessions would have certainly changed the outcome of the game.
Fast forward to the 2nd drive of the 2nd half. The Patriots had scored on the opening possession of the half to cut the Eagles lead to 3, and the Eagles were at their own 19-yard line, facing a 3rd and 6. Foles threw a short pass to Nelson Agholor, who was immediately wrapped up by Johnson Bademosi, short of the first down marker. Bademosi was unable to hang on, however, and Agholor not only picked up the first down, but ended up picking up 17 yards. The Eagles would go on to score another touchdown (the touchdown call that the refs got wrong) and go back up by 10. It’s not a stretch to think that if Bademosi makes that tackle, the Patriots could’ve used that momentum to take the lead, and perhaps even pull away from the Eagles. Overall, the Eagles were 10-16 on 3rd down. On the drive where they took the lead, a drive that was 14 plays long and ate up 7:01 of the clock, they picked up 2 third downs, including the touchdown pass, and a 4th down. If the defense were able to step up on any of those plays, Philly would’ve probably been forced to punt, or, in the case of the touchdown, attempt a field goal, and the game could’ve been ended by the Patriots offense killing the clock instead of rushing up the field to try to score a touchdown.
The final missed opportunity is the strip sack on Brady. After allowing the long Eagles drive, the Patriots got the ball back with 2 ½ minutes left, down 5. It seemed to be yet another opportunity for Brady to show how great he truly is by leading the Patriots down to win the game. These plans were ruined on 2nd down, however, when Brandon Graham knocked the ball from Brady’s hand, and it was recovered by Eagles rookie Derek Barnett. It was the first sack of the game by either team, and it was a huge one. Shaq Mason was beat clean by Graham, who got his hand in and knocked the ball away from Brady, who was trying to get the ball to James White in the flat. The problem is that Brady should’ve known that White would be wide open in the flat before the ball was snapped, and should’ve gotten the ball to him quicker than he did. Getting the ball out quicker gets the Patriots the first down instead of turning the ball over. This may seem like a small thing to have an issue with, but, with the game on the line, you need Brady to be perfect, and his mistake, combined with the missed block by Mason, and the good play by Graham, resulted in the Patriots losing possession, and ultimately, the game.
Making key plays at key moments is what has won the Patriots 5 Super Bowls. Typically, with the game on the line, the Patriots make the plays, and the opponents are the ones unable to finish off the game. It happened in Super Bowl 49, and again in Super Bowl 51, and again in this year’s AFC Championship game. Unfortunately, the Eagles were the ones able to execute in the most critical moments, and it was the Patriots who were unable to take advantage of the many opportunities given to them. It always hurts to lose the last game of the season, because you never know when you’ll make it make to that point, but with the turnover coming in the coaching staff and roster, it is especially concerning this year. All of Patriots Nation just needs to hope that this isn’t the last memory we get on Super Bowl Sunday.
Pat is the host of the Weekend Warrior Podcast
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