The Philadelphia Eagles are hoping to topple the Patriots in Super Bowl LII on Sunday and finally bring home the Lombardi Trophy — something that has escaped the city of Brotherly Love. If they are able to pull it off, it will be in large part because of the play of their offensive line, and the depth that allowed the unit to overcome the loss of an All-Pro-caliber left tackle in Week 7. Their ability to deal with that huge injury — plus a season-ending injury to starting quarterback Carson Wentz, who was an MVP candidate when he went down — along with their multi-dimensional rushing attack put the Eagles’ athleticism on display all season. Being a versatile group in the run game and consistently shutting out some of the best pass rushers is why the Eagles are this year’s Built Ford Tough Offensive Line of the Year.
The Eagles won the Offensive Line of the Week award four times during the regular season, more than any other group. (Only three other teams — Dallas, New Orleans and Pittsburgh — were repeat winners this season.) Remarkably, Philly’s four winning weeks featured matchups against some of the toughest defenses and most dangerous pass rushers in the NFL. In Week 4, the Eagles traveled to Los Angeles to take on the Chargers and racked up 214 rushing yards while pitching a shutout against Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, as the line allowed zero sacks and one QB hit to the dynamic duo, according to Pro Football Focus. The domination was on full display as they closed the game out with a 13-play drive that drained the nearly 7 minutes remaining on the clock, and the Eagles never had to put their defense back on the field. The drive was highlighted by eight combined runs by Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood and closer LeGarrette Blount.
The following week, the Eagles blasted the Arizona Cardinals by hitting pay dirt on their first three possessions and nearly shutting out the Cardinals’ pass rush despite losing Lane Johnson for the second half. In Week 9, the Eagles throttled the Denver Broncos, rushing for 197 yards, while the starting five offensive linemen did not give up a single sack or QB hit to Von Miller and Co. And in Week 11 against division-rival Dallas, the Eagles racked up 215 rushing yards and didn’t allow a single sack despite facing the NFL’s sack leader at the time, DeMarcus Lawrence.
On a grander scale, this unit helped the offense finish third in scoring, third in rushing, fifth in plays of at least 20 yards and first in red-zone offense. Interestingly, the rushing attack was just as explosive as the Eagles’ passing game, yet it doesn’t seem to get the same amount of credit. Jay Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount were a great one-two punch and a major factor in Philadelphia leading the league in runs of at least 10 yards (56).
Tom Brady might look younger now than back in ’05 — he can thank Alex Guerrero and walnut meat for his everlasting boyishness — but at 40 years of age, he’s a far different, far better quarterback now. While many of his contemporaries from the early aughts have fallen victim in Father Time’s cruel ax (Peyton Manning, Mike Vick, Carson Palmer), Brady is aging like a fine wine, reminding scribes every Sunday that age ain’t nothing but a number. Already the winningest quarterback in Super Bowl history, Brady is left competing only against himself.
After completing the greatest comeback in Super Bowl, nay, sports history in Super Bowl LI, having done the impossible in the process, the question has been asked in whispers this season: Are there any doubters left to silence? What else is there to play for? What’s left to prove?
In the aftermath of the Deflategate controversy and his fifth title, Brady responded with a brilliant age-40 season, a historic feat and one that will likely earn him his third MVP award Saturday at NFL Honors. In winning a sixth Super Bowl this Sunday, Brady would raise the G.O.A.T. bar higher, approaching Michael Jordan-esque levels of legend never before experienced in modern football, an untouchable status of godly proportions. What’s at stake, what’s left to prove this weekend is a legacy, not just in the sport of football and not just Brady’s. The Patriots, led by the man-boy wonder, can reach Yankees-like pinnacles in the minds of global sports fans — impossible dominance in a league designed to discourage it.
With a sixth Super Bowl victory and in completing their second of three-in-four dynasties, the New England Patriots can become what Brady has pined and still pines to be: Immortal.
Philadelphia likes to think of itself as an underdog city, and its football team made clear this week it feels the same way. Despite winning the NFC East with a 13-3 record and securing the top seed in the conference, the Eagles entered the postseason as surprising underdogs, having lost MVP-candidate quarterback Carson Wentz to an ACL tear and replacing him with supposed also-ran Nick Foles.
Groh has served as an NFL assistant since 2013 after spending a decade-plus at the collegiate level. He operated as Virginia’s offensive coordinator from 2006 to 2008 before stops with Alabama and Louisville. Groh also worked for the Bears and Rams before joining the Eagles last offseason.
Philadelphia lost both Reich and talented quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo in the wake of the team’s Super Bowl win over the New England Patriots.
There was speculation the Eagles might go coordinator-free next season, but Groh’s new role will allow the 46-year-old assistant added responsibility in weekly game-plan formation.
With Pederson calling the plays, though, Philly’s offense is bound to mirror last year’s beastly attack. Don’t expect much to change.