Torrey Smith

Patriots enjoy big Super Bowl experience edge over Eagles

Leave a comment

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (AP) The Eagles are playing some of their best football heading into Sunday’s Super Bowl matchup with the Patriots.

One thing Philadelphia can’t contend with is New England’s huge experience advantage in the big game.

On the 53-man active roster the Patriots brought to Minnesota, 32 players have a combined 60 games of Super Bowl experience.

Tom Brady alone has been to the Super Bowl seven times during his 18-year career, winning five.

Road to Super Bowl LII: Stream, start time, highlights and more

By comparison, the Eagles have seven players on their active roster who’ve won a Super Bowl. Two of those players, LeGarrette Blount and Chris Long, won their rings last season with the Patriots. The others are Torrey Smith, Malcolm Jenkins, Corey Graham, Dannell Ellerbe and Will Beatty. An eighth player, Chris Maragos, is on injured reserve with a knee injury.

It’s a huge gulf. By comparison, the 2015 Panthers that lost to the Broncos in the Super Bowl that season had three players who had won a ring: Ed Dickson (Baltimore), Roman Harper (New Orleans) and Michael Oher (Baltimore).

But the Patriots say it’s nothing they will spend time talking about this week.

“I think it’s overrated,” said special teams captain Matt Slater, who will be appearing in his fourth Super Bowl.

Defensive end Trey Flowers said the coaching staff hasn’t mentioned last year’s Super Bowl win since it came up in film study prior to their regular-season meeting with Atlanta back in October.

“It’s a brand new team, so I wouldn’t say last year’s experience will have anything to do with the outcome of this game,” Flowers said. “This team has a lot of different guys from a year ago, so it’s something you’ve got to do all over again as far as experience goes.”

Yes and no.

New England actually returns 31 players who were on last year’s Super Bowl roster against the Falcons. That doesn’t include injured linebacker Dont'a Hightower or receiver Julian Edelman.

Two of the Patriots’ additions since then both played in the Super Bowl with other teams. Linebacker James Harrison won two rings with the Pittsburgh Steelers and defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois played on the San Francisco 49ers team that came up short against Baltimore in the Super Bowl at the end of the 2012 season.

“We know what to expect, but at the end of the day, you’ve got to perform,” linebacker Kyle Van Noy said. “So there’s really no upper hand. You’ve got to just play the game and get ready for it and play at a high level.”

He said that is because there is respect across the board for what backup quarterback Nick Foles has accomplished since Carson Wentz tore his ACL in Week 14.

“Everyone wants to hate on Nick Foles, but he’s done a great job,” Van Noy said. “He’s still a high-caliber quarterback, like Carson Wentz. Nick Foles is a great quarterback who’s done a great job. They distribute the ball really well and their run game is at a high level.”

More than experience on either side, linebacker Elandon Roberts said the biggest challenge is not getting caught up in the emotions that come with playing in a Super Bowl.

“Obviously it’s all the marbles right here, but it’s everything you work for,” Roberts said. “So you’ve got to think back to what got you here: doing your job, not getting overwhelmed and what not. As long as we do that that takes away most of it.”

More AP NFL: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Follow Kyle Hightower on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/khightower

Eagles have bought into team-first approach

1 Comment

PHILADELPHIA (AP) Winning is an easy sell.

The Philadelphia Eagles are the first team since the 1990 New York Giants to reach a Super Bowl without a player totaling 1,000 scrimmage yards though running backs Jay Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount and wide receivers Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith have done so in the past.

That group plus Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz, wide receiver Nelson Agholor and others have bought into a team-first, unselfish concept. They’re not checking their stats after games. The only number they cared about all season was the win column.

One more against New England in the Super Bowl brings home the team’s first NFL title since 1960.

Road to Super Bowl LII: Stream, start time, highlights and more

“I think this group of guys is as good as you could ask to be around,” offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. “Really, the character and the work ethic, the camaraderie, just the commitment to the process that Coach (Doug Pederson) and our staff is always talking about. There’s a complete buy-in.

“It really helps that we’ve had the success and the execution. It’s always easier to buy in when you’re having the success that we’ve had.”

Blount didn’t even get a carry in a loss at Kansas City in Week 2. Then he ran for a season-high 136 yards two weeks later at the Chargers. It was the only 100-yard rushing performance by Philadelphia this season.

Blount, who led the NFL with 18 rushing touchdowns with New England last year, led the Eagles with 766 yards rushing but his touches decreased after Ajayi was acquired from Miami.

“You can’t be selfish when everybody has one common goal,” Blount said. “You have to make sacrifices for the betterment of the team. We’ve done that and it’s gotten us this far.”

Ajayi came to Philadelphia with a reputation for selfishness, but it hasn’t been an issue. He kneeled on the turf and sobbed after the Eagles beat Minnesota in the NFC championship game.

“It’s a special feeling to not be done and to still have our goal of winning a Super Bowl right there in front of us,” he said.

Jeffery was the go-to man in Chicago before joining the Eagles. He didn’t have one 100-yard game, but led the team with nine TD catches.

“We’re not looking at numbers, just going out there and playing,” Jeffery said. “No matter who’s out there having a great game, or whoever the ball’s going to, as long as we’re doing our job and just catching and working and getting those wins, that’s all that matters.”

There were no “throw me the damn ball” moments in Philadelphia’s locker room.

“I didn’t have to sell it too much,” Pederson said. “These guys are unselfish players. They are team players. I think any time that you factor in the wins, and they’re contributing to the wins, it sort of minimizes or sort of takes away the (idea) that, `I’ve got to have 1,000 yards; I got to have 10 touchdowns; I’ve got to rush for this many yards and have this many touchdowns.’ I think it minimizes that a little bit, because the team is doing well and the success of the offense.”

AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Follow Rob Maaddi on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AP-RobMaaddi

Nick Foles goes from backup to championship game hero

AP Images
Leave a comment

PHILADELPHIA (AP) Nick Foles stood tall in the pocket, ignored the pressure and made one big throw after another.

On the biggest stage of his life, Foles silenced the critics who thought the Eagles couldn’t get to the Super Bowl without MVP candidate Carson Wentz. Foles threw for 352 and three touchdowns to lead Philadelphia to a convincing 38-7 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC championship game Sunday.

Now he’s headed to Minnesota to face Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.

Road to Super Bowl LII: Stream, start time, highlights and more

While Wentz watched from the sideline, using a cane to walk following surgery to repair his torn left ACL, Foles picked apart the NFL’s top-ranked defense. He tossed a perfect 53-yard touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffery with the pocket collapsing around him to give Philadelphia a 21-7 lead in the second quarter.

Foles then directed a 60-yard drive in 29 seconds to set up a field goal before halftime. He fired a 49-yard TD pass to Torrey Smith off a flea flicker to start the second half and tossed a 5-yard TD to Jeffery early in the fourth to make it 38-7.

Foles was at his best on third downs, completing 10 of 11 for 159 yards and two TDs. The Eagles had been 0 for 13 on third-and-10 or longer after Wentz went down. On Sunday, Foles threw an 11-yard pass to Zach Ertz on third-and-10 on the Eagles’ first touchdown drive. His long TD pass to Jeffery came on third-and-10.

The Eagles (15-3) have been underdogs in both playoffs games, mostly because Foles is the quarterback. They were the first No. 1 seed not favored in a divisional round game, a 15-10 win over the Falcons. The Vikings (14-4) were 3-point favorites despite also being led by a backup quarterback – Case Keenum, Foles’ good friend and former teammate.

Foles put on a passing clinic, completing 78.8 percent of his passes (26 of 33). Not bad for a guy who contemplated retirement before the 2016 season.

A third-round pick by former Eagles coach Andy Reid in 2012, Foles had tremendous success as a starter under Chip Kelly his sophomore season. He threw 29 TDs and only two picks in 11 starts, including playoffs in 2013. Foles posted a passer rating of 119.2, third-highest in league history. He tied an NFL record with seven TD passes in a game at Oakland in November 2013 won an offensive MVP award at a Pro Bowl.

But Foles was traded to St. Louis for Sam Bradford in March 2015. He lost his starting job to Keenum and asked for his release after Jared Goff was drafted No. 1 overall. Foles considered hanging up his cleats before Reid persuaded him to go to Kansas City to be Alex Smith‘s backup.

After one season with the Chiefs, Foles returned to Philly to provide insurance behind Wentz.

He’ll become a folk hero if he can deliver the franchise’s first ever Super Bowl title.

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Follow Rob Maaddi on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AP-RobMaaddi