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Some Takeaways from a Great Super Bowl

Superior Play Calling

Were there any imaginative and unpredictable play calls made by the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles? You think? Doug Pederson and Josh McDaniels are among the most gifted play callers in the league. They fared well on Sunday.

Both offensive play callers had their offenses utterly dominating the opposing defenses from start to finish. The offenses totaled 1151 yards (613, Patriots and 538, Eagles), shattering all kinds of Super Bowl records. The only punt in the game was by the Eagles in the second quarter.

On Sunday we saw the league’s two top teams, two of the best play callers, and record-setting offensive displays. Maybe creative play calling does have something to do with offensive productiveness – then again it could just be coincidence, right?

Head Hunting Wins Again

It happened again. With 13:11 to go in the second quarter, Tom Brady hit a wide-open Brandin Cooks for a 23-yard gain. The play itself didn’t lead to a score, though it was a pivotal moment in the game nonetheless.

After Cooks caught the ball, and as he was maneuvering around and looking upfield, safety Malcolm Jenkins gave the undersized receiver a vicious hit. The helmet-to-helmet hit was apparent, if only by the way Cooks hit the ground and stayed there. The slow motion views confirmed it was classic headhunting by Jenkins. Before Cooks was hauled off the field, we all knew his season was over.

As the announcers explained, you can’t go head-to-head against a defenseless receiver, but once the receiver becomes a runner, it’s okay to – let’s be honest – try to give the guy a concussion.

How many times can I, and many others, say it: the rule needs to be changed. Any intentional helmet-to-helmet hit (other than of a lineman in the box) should be deemed unnecessary roughness. Such hits must result in an immediate ejection AND in a post-game league review by the NFL. Anything less doesn’t act as a sufficient deterrent, and won’t make a difference.

The further review should take into account several factors (was the player blind-sided, how much force/violence occurred, did an injury result, and if so how extensive was it, does the perp have a previous history of such hits). Further game suspensions should then be assessed if merited.

Cooks was New England’s leading wide receiver (65 catches, 1,082 yards, 16.6 average, seven TDs) and their only speedy one. You can argue this was the play that dictated the game’s winner.

Comparing the QBs

There’s a tendency to view NFL games as matchups of the opposing quarterbacks, but it’s really two matchups of quarterbacks against opposing defenses. Tom Brady finished with a passer rating of 115.4 – his best ever in a Super Bowl. Nick Foles was right behind him, with a 106.1 rating.

Philadelphia’s defense was uncharacteristically lousy. Before allowing 613 yards, the Eagles had only allowed more than 400 yards twice on the year. In their two prior playoff games, their total yardage yielded was only 281 against the Falcons and 333 against the Vikings.

More subjectively, I thought Foles clearly was the better passer on the day. More often than not, Brady’s receivers were wide open. Foles in contrast was constantly having to thread passes through narrow windows or while he was on the run. Credit his receivers with making some tremendous catches.

Both offenses were all but unstoppable in the second half. Brady led Patriots drives that ended TD, TD, and TD, before finishing his final drives with a lost fumble and a nine-play drive that netted only 40 yards. Foles, meanwhile, went TD, FG, TD, and FG.

Brady might have been fatigued on that final drive, as he had only three of eight completions (not counting the spiked ball), and the two-minute offense (58 seconds actually) was not well managed – remember, Brandin Cooks was gone. The sloppy lateraled kick return that left the Pats on their own 9-yard line was also a major mess-up.

The season ended with Foles having two of the finest passing performances – back to back – in NFL postseason history.

Rob Born

Smart drafters don’t select the best available players, they fill a team’s positions of greatest need.



  1. PF4L February 6, 2018

    It was a pretty good Super Bowl. It’s nice to see some articles on it, after the game anyway.

  2. PF4L February 6, 2018

    The one guy that probably should be getting a lot of credit is Howie Roseman. He was on the come up, but then hired Chip Kelly. Two years after rectifying that, he built a team that won the Super Bowl. He used every avenue of player acquisition available just like the Patriots do. I doubt Jeff Lurie will be trying to steal Ted Thompson away from the Packers anytime soon.

  3. Howard February 7, 2018

    Good article Rob. I wasn’t going to comment, but I think your portion of the article about the Cooks hit needs to be discussed.

    Without doubt Jenkins hit Cooks in the head and neck area. Cooks was not defenseless, however Cooks did not defend himself as he should as a runner. Let’s be clear Cooks had clearly established himself as a runner. It is not even a close call that Cooks was a defenseless receiver. It was not Jenkins fault that Cooks was running in circles with his vision away from oncoming players.

    To me Jenkins could have hit Cooks harder than he did. Jenkins broke down in his stride, otherwise Jenkins could have hit Cooks with more velocity. In addition Jenkins did not launch at Cooks. The one thing Jenkins could have done is attempt to wrap up Cooks. The act of wrapping up Cooks and taking him to the turf may have caused more damage to other bones, etc. on Cook. In today’s football not wrapping up while tackling is common place, so not wrapping up by Jenkins should not be a penalty.

    Not sure how you would propose to determine “intentional” helmet to helmet hits on running plays. How many times have we seen a defensive back go low and the running back or running receiver lowers his helmet, thus causing a helmet to helmet hit? Who is at fault? The runner or the defenseless defensive back who was just attempting to do his job? While the runner was just attempting to protect his knees.

    Cooks should have been more aware and protected himself as a runner. Cooks could have went up field, made as many yards as possible, and then found a crease to lessen the blow. You do not run in circles, or turn your back to the opposition in the NFL when you are carrying the ball. Cooks did not defend himself while trying to make a move in an attempt to make a big play or TD. Jenkins did his job in taking a elusive, fast runner to the turf before he made a big play.

    1. Kato February 7, 2018

      Completely agree. It wasn’t dirty by any means. I don’t know that Cooks absence really played a big part. The Patriots never punted in that game.