Time Out for Sports Talk: Do You Ever Have Déjà vu?
Todd: Happy New Year and Groundhog Day all rolled into one! It’s the first time we’ve occupied this space in 2018.
It’s Super Bowl time…again.
The month of February has become synonymous with Punxsutawney Phil’s annual weather prognostications and our beloved New England team playing a football game. Sunday marks the eighth time the Patriots are playing in February (and tenth SB all-time) and it’s also the eighth Super Bowl for Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, which ties those two individuals with Pittsburgh, Dallas and Denver for second place in Super Bowl appearances. Mike and I have said it many times, but we could never have imagined the team we’ve been rooting for all our lives would ever get mentioned among the greatest football franchises of the Super Bowl era.
I’ve also said this many times, but I try hard not to take this dynastic Patriots run for granted. However, when I say that Brady is starting his eighth Super Bowl out of the 16 years he’s been the primary QB (subtracting the 2000 and 2008 seasons), I have to repeat it several times because of how ridiculous it sounds. On average, TB12 plays in February every other year. Seriously, that’s crazy.
Turning to SB52, the Patriots and Eagles share a lot in common: they’re both 15-3 and top conference seeds; both tied for the NFL’s best point differential (+162); both teams have overcome significant injuries; Robert Kraft and Jeffrey Lurie have both owned their teams since 1994 (FYI: Lurie, a Boston native, actually tried buying the Patriots before Kraft emerged with the winning bid). But for some perspective about how different these franchises are, the Eagles are appearing in their third Super Bowl all-time going back to 1980, while the Pats are appearing in their third SB in the last four seasons.
Back to the Patriots/Groundhog Day connection, specifically the 25-year old movie Groundhog Day. Now don’t tell me you don’t remember this flick because I sure as heckfire remember it! It’s one of my all-time favorite films: TV weatherman Phil Connors (played by Bill Murray) keeps reliving the February 2 holiday over and over again, which I can’t help but compare to how I feel about the Patriots playing in yet another Super Bowl. With that in mind, let me recall a few quotes from Groundhog Day that I can tie into a preview of Super Bowl LII (that’s 52 for you non-roman numeral fans):
Rita: I like to see a man of advancing years throwing caution to the wind. It’s inspiring in a way.
Phil: My years are not advancing as fast as you might think.
Sure sounds like Brady to me. He’ll be the first 40-year old to ever start a Super Bowl, and his years don’t appear to be advancing at all compared to most players his age. Wait, most players even close to Brady’s age are either kickers or recent Pats acquisition James Harrison (aside: I predict one big play for JH on Sunday).
If you’ve watched any of the recent Tom vs Time online documentary, you can see why TB12 appears to be the Benjamin Button of QBs (sorry, that’s another movie analogy). Having seen some of the TvT, I wouldn’t bet against Brady playing until he’s 45. The guy is in tremendous shape, outthinks everyone on the field and is hard-wired like very few athletes today. Brady is the first 40 y/o QB to ever lead the league in passing, although he’ll have to overcome the 0-5 stat of NFL passing leaders playing in the SB the same year (that includes Brady in 2007 in the Super Bowl That Must Not Be Named).
Phil: Maybe the *real* God uses tricks, you know? Maybe he’s not omnipotent. He’s just been around so long he knows everything.
See above. Brady rarely needs tricks and has been playing so long he’s seen every defensive scheme. The Eagles defense is good, but not 1985 Bears or even 2000 Ravens good, so it will be a challenge for them to try and neutralize TB12. A number working in Brady’s favor is that he’s won his last ten games indoors going back over the last six years (his last loss was SB46 vs. NYG).
Rita: Okay, what do you want me to do?
Phil: I don’t know. You’re a producer. Come up with something.
Substitute the word ‘coach’ for ‘producer’ in that quote and no matter how bad things might look at any stage of Sunday night’s game, you can count on Belichick, Matt Patricia and Josh McDaniels to come up with the right calls when needed. Only need to go back one year to the adjustments these guys made that put the players in position to come back from 28-3 against the Falcons. Like when Weis and Crennel left after SB39 vs. Philadelphia, I’m going to miss McDaniels and Patricia for maintaining the team’s success.
Rita: This day was perfect. You couldn’t have planned a day like this.
Phil: Well, you can. It just takes an awful lot of work.
Applies to both the Pats coaches and players, who’ve been saying just how much they prepare for every opponent and every situation. 28-3 in SB51. Malcolm Butler in SB49. Two weeks ago against Jacksonville. It’s why as a Pats fan you can feel confident that this team will be ready for just about anything. Doesn’t guarantee victory, but you know the Pats won’t beat themselves.
Gus: Look out for your shadow there, buddy.
Phil: Morons, your bus is leaving.
Or how about ‘those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it’. Why would the city of Philadelphia release a story this week announcing the day and time for next week’s parade? They did the same thing 13 years ago when these teams met in SB39. Will they ever learn?
One last stat to mention: Pats are 15-0 all-time in the playoffs against teams they did not play in the regular season. They last played the Eagles in 2015, a weird game Philly won scoring touchdowns on a blocked punt and a 99-yard interception return. Think it’ll take something crazy like that again for the Eagles to pull off the upset, so I’m going with the ‘Pick 6’ and the Pats to tie the Steelers for the most Lombardi trophies: Patriots 31, Eagles 21. Bing!
Mike: Yup Todd, I am having a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that this will be the 10th time the Pats have made the Super Bowl. I think back to the first time they made it and I thought that would be it. I've never been so happy to be wrong!
I do have one prediction for this game. For the first time in the Brady/Belichick era the New England Patriots will score in the first quarter of a Super Bowl. I couldn't believe when I heard that they have never scored in the opening period of a Super Bowl with Brady, especially since they are usually so good about scoring on an opening drive.
This is the year that streak ends. Take it to the bank.
I've actually tried to stay away from the pregame hype for this game because what I don't like hearing is how this game is a lock for the Patriots. The two against the Giants were a lock, and we all know how that turned out.
But there is another quirk here that I am intrigued by. The Patriots can actually repeat a pattern by winning on Sunday. They won their first Super Bowl in 2002, sat out the 2003 game and then won two in a row.
They won again in 2015, sat out 2016, and if they win on Sunday, they will have won two in a row again. Coincidence? I think not.
I'm not saying they are going to lose to the Eagles, but I am not feeling like this is going to be a blowout. History shows the Pats always play a close game in the Super Bowl and this one will be no exception.
Look for another thriller, with the Pats coming out on top. Pats win the sixth ring, 28-21.
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