2005-02-04 / Sports

Patriots’ Numerous Weapons Should Outlast Eagles In Super Bowl

By Michael Avallone Sports Columnist


Tom Brady (12) completes a pass against the Steelers in the AFC Championship game. Tom Brady (12) completes a pass against the Steelers in the AFC Championship game. The waiting is over. Time to crack open a cold one (or two or three), scarf down the chips and wings and relax for Super Bowl XXXIX. For the first time in several years, it’s safe to say that the two best teams from each conference will be going head-to-head to determine who will become the 2004 champion.

Will the Eagles continue their exorcism of seasons past by giving the City of Brotherly Love its first major sports championship in over 20 years? Or will the Patriots cement themselves as the newest dynasty in the NFL with a third title in four seasons? We’ll find out this Sunday in what’s shaping up to be one of the more evenly matched Super Bowls in recent memory.

Super Bowl XXXIX Matchup Passing Offense

Philadelphia : By now it seems as if Philadelphia WR Terrell Owens (1200 yards, 14 TDs) will in fact play on Sunday. The big question is how effective he will be after missing seven weeks with a broken ankle and torn ligaments. His presence alone will help the Eagles, particularly QB Donovan McNabb (3875 yards, 31 TDs 104.7 rating) who otherwise has a so-so receiving corps. McNabb needs to use his legs for Philly to have any chance in this game. If he remains a “pocket QB,” the Pats will have a field day on defense.

New England: New England QB Tom Brady (3692 yards, 28 TDs, 92.6 rating) may not have the sexy name to throw to, but what he does have is reliable veterans. With WRs David Givens (874 yards, 3 TDs) and Deion Branch (454 yards, 4 TDs) running routes, Brady has two quality wide-outs that can make the important catch. The most important stat for Brady is 1.000, as in his winning percentage (8-0) in his postseason career. Edge: NE

Rushing Offense

PHI: He’s not a superstar by any stretch of the imagination but Eagles RB Brian Westbrook (816 yards, 3 TDs) gets the job done. His receiving skills out of the backfield added up to more than 700 yards through the air. That threat will be a key issue for New England LBs to deal with if they hope to keep McNabb’s passing contained.

NE: The Pats have won two Super Bowls with virtual no-names at running back so the off-season addition of Pro Bowl RB Corey Dillon (1635 yards, 12 TDs) from the Bengals was icing on the cake. In his first taste of postseason action, the 30-year old has rushed for 217 yards, including a 144-yard performance against the Colts in the AFC Divisional game. Edge: NE

Passing Defense

PHI: Most people thought the secondary would suffer with the losses of some key players, most notably Troy Vincent. However, S Brian Dawkins (70 tackles, 4 INTs) and CB Lito Sheppard (56 tackles, 5 INTs) more than made up for his departure.

NE: As with the Eagles, the Patriots have faced questions for several weeks how their secondary would hold up. The loss of CB Troy Brown (3 INTs) spelled doom for New England, said the critics. However, the Pats have shut down both the Colts and Steelers so far and with a gimpy T.O., don’t look for things to change much, particularly with S Rodney Harrison roaming the field. Edge: NE

Rushing Defense

PHI: Led by big free agent acquisition LB Jevon Kearse (7.5 sacks), the Eagles expected much more from their run defense. Still, the unit improved noticeably last six weeks of the season and they did a masterful job of containing Atlanta QB Michael Vick in the NFC Championship game. Holding Dillon to the same meager yardage will not be nearly as easy.

NE: This is where the Patriots “D” should dominate the game. With LBs Mike Vrabel (67 tackles, 6 sacks) and Tedy Bruschi (120 tackles, 4 sacks, 3 INTs) manning the middle, Philadelphia’s running game may be in for a long night. Edge: NE

Prediction

Although the Patriots seem to have the edge in virtually every category, this will be no slam-dunk victory. The Eagles are an excellent team and if they can figure out a way to avoid turnovers and keep the game close, they could pull it out. That being said, a third visit to the Super Bowl in four years is hard to overlook and with New England playing almost flawless football, it would be idiotic to bet against the defending champs.

Final Score: New England 27, Philadelphia 19.

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