Super Bowl 52 Review: How the Impossible Occurred

Christian Agathis, Sports Editor

Heading into the Super Bowl, you had the most successful coach-quarterback combinations ever in one corner and a backup quarterback paired with an inexperienced and unsuccessful coach in the other. Yet, the latter prevailed. The Eagles were coined the underdogs the entire postseason, including Sunday’s game, and yet won the Super Bowl. The prior wins can easily be explained, but how did a team with little playoff experience defeat one of the greatest playoff juggernauts in all of sports? On the surface, it seems like gutsy play calling and an overall better roster won the Eagles the game, but in fact, it was key mistakes by the Patriots that lost them the game.

First, something that very few realized during the game, was that the hero of the Patriots’ Super Bowl XLIX  victory over Seattle, Malcolm Butler, did not play a single snap on defense.  Butler, however, had a strong year and developed into a dependable number one cornerback for the Patriots. Despite his Super Bowl heroics and overall talent, Bill Belichick benched him this Sunday. Although I cannot say that this lost the Patriots the game, I cannot help but think that the game would have been different, as the Eagles had four passing touchdowns and Foles had almost 400 passing yards! The Eagles clearly seized this opportunity by passing the ball on more than 60% of their plays and having great success doing so. Could Butler have saved Super Bowl LII for the Patriots like he did three years ago against the Seahawks? We will never know.

Second, the kicking (field goals and extra points) during the game was weirdly awful, and cost the Patriots many valuable points. Gostkowski missed a short field goal and extra point, which cost the Patriots four points. On the drive of the “fatal fumble”, the Patriots were trailing by six (33-39) and needed to act with urgency in order tie the game. Their game plan was to pass the ball constantly and drive down the field quickly. Brendan Graham knocked the ball out of Brady’s hands on a passing play, which set up the Eagles to win the game. If Gostkowski had not missed those earlier kicks, the Patriots would have been down by only 2 points with good time left. If the Patriots were only in need of a field goal, they could have run the ball, and James White and Dion Lewis had been very effective running the ball  to that point. Thus, the fumble would have never happened and the Eagles would have driven down the field and taken the lead with a field goal. Although this is completely hypothetical and may have not made a difference, it still makes you think.

Lastly, New England’s defense was just flat out ineffective. Although this isn’t one concrete thing that can be blamed on an individual, the Patriots’ defense just played poorly. Yes, Nick Foles had a superb two games heading into Sunday, and yes, both running backs of the Eagles are talented. The Patriots defense, however, did nothing to stop them. The Eagles sliced through the Patriots’ pass defense like a knife through warm butter, and Ajayi and Blount averaged an absurd 6.4 yards per run combined. The defense let up big plays to Alshon Jeffery and Corey Clement, which led to points for Philly. All in all, the Patriots had a bad game on the defensive side of the football.

Although I keep bad-mouthing the Patriots, some aspects of their game were astounding on Sunday. Brady quietly passed for more than 500 yards and broke the record for most passing yards in the Super Bowl, a record in which he set. In addition, they were effective running the ball and came up with a big interception that arguably cost the Eagles a touchdown. It wasn’t enough, however, as the benching of Malcolm Butler, awfulness of Gostkowski’s kicking, and ineffectiveness of New England’s defense outweighed the positives. New England could have won the game if none of these mistakes occurred. But aren’t we all glad that that didn’t happen?