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Super Bowl LII recap: Eagles pull off upset in thrilling offensive battle

Nick Foles and the Eagles won the Super Bowl. Eagles.com

We were treated to a good old fashioned chess match. A classic contrast of styles/specialties between New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson in the Eagles 41-33 win. The all-time great defensive guru Belichick versus the second year offensive wiz kid Pederson. But let’s be honest. Who saw a combined 1,100 plus yards and 70 plus points?

The game started off with both teams using the short/intermediate pass game and traded field goals after neither could punch it in. Alshon Jeffrey then put Eric Rowe on the next segment of “You Got Moss-ed” with a 34-yard touchdown catch to put the Eagles up 9-3; the extra point was missed wide right, a common theme. The Eagles scored again after the teams exchanged possessions with a 21-yard touchdown run by ex-Patriot LeGarrette Blount, but the two-point conversion failed, making it 15-3 now. The Patriots ensuing drive was jump-started by a 46-yard gain on a screen pass from Tom Brady to Rex Burkhead. Not much happened after that and they settled for a field goal, 15-6. Jeffrey was on the verge of another highlight reel grab when he batted the ball back in the air and it was intercepted by Duron Harmon. Brady went Brady on the 90-yard touchdown drive that followed the pick. The extra point was missed, making it 15-12. However, the Eagles scored after getting the ball back with one of the greatest play calls in Super Bowl history. On 4th & Goal from the 1-yard line, Pederson called a direct snap reverse pass to quarterback Nick Foles for a touchdown. The huevos it took to call that play at that moment in time is legendary. We finally saw an extra point made for a 22-12 Eagles lead. This all took place in the first half, for goodness sake.

The second half was even more exciting. It opened with Brady leading the Pats on a 75-yard drive in which he an Rob Gronkowski hooked up for 4 catches and 68 of those yards to draw within three at 22-19. Foles wasn’t going to let Brady upstage him as he lead the Eagles on an 11 play, 85-yard drive capped off by a great 22-yard touchdown catch by running back Corey Clement.  The Pats went on yet another 75-yard touchdown drive to punch back and come back within three at 29-26. The Eagles responded with a field goal to go up 32-26. This is where we expected the Pats to take control. They answered the call with their third consecutive 75-yard touchdown drive to go up 33-32 as Gronk scored his second touchdown of the game. Pederson showed his dice-rolling style as the Eagles went for it on 4th & 1 from their own 45-yard line on the ensuing drive. They capped it off with a Zach Ertz 11-yard touchdown catch which was reviewed since the catch “didn’t survive the ground” as this year’s point of emphasis proclaimed. However, he was ruled a runner and it didn’t matter because the ball crossed the plain and now they’re up 38-33 following a failed two-point conversion. Here’s another spot for Brady to do Brady things. Unfortunately for Patriots fans, the Eagles’ stud pass rusher Brandon Graham had other plans as he strip-sacked Brady, then rookie end Derrick Barnett recovered. The Eagles used the short field, and a shade over a minute of clock, to add a field goal to go up 41-33 with 1:05 left in the game. The Eagles pass rush came out to play on the final drive as they harassed Brady into several incompletions, tough throws, and a failed Hail Mary attempt as time ran out.

Bonus Observations

-Brady threw for 505 yards because the Eagles secondary is only as good as their pass rush. When the pass rush got to Brady, they secured the Lombardi Trophy.

-I stated in my preview that the Eagles needed to harass Brady, keep the short/intermediate pass game in check, and run the ball if they had a shot at winning. They harassed Brady when it mattered most, stopped the short/intermediate routes on final drive, and totaled 164 yards on the ground.

-When Brandin Cooks went out with an apparent concussion, I think the Patriot’s gameplan was altered. He had more 20 plus yard catches this season than any Patriots player in team history, including newly elected Hall Of Famer Randy Moss. Gronk missing most of the AFC title game may have affected their play-calling, but Cooks stretches the field and is a homerun threat every time he touches the ball.

-Malcolm Butler went from Super Bowl hero three years ago to special teams bench rider in this Super Bowl. Sure Eric Rowe is a good corner, but to give up on Butler in the biggest game of the year was odd. He will most likely leave via free agency. Foles threw for 373 yards. I’m not saying he would have dramatically cut that number, but with the amount of man to man defense the Pats played, they could’ve used one of their best man cover guys.

I thoroughly enjoyed this game. People asked me for the last two weeks who do I think will win or who do I want to win. I’d respond by pointing to my preview article and saying all I want is a good game. Prisoners of the moment will call this one of the best Super Bowls ever. Let them have it because this was in fact one of the best.

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The Astros need to beat up on the lowly Rangers. Composite image by Jack Brame.

Collectively so far this season the Astros would not make for very good garbage men. Meaning they haven't been so good at taking out the trash. Swept in a series at Detroit when the Tigers were terrible, swept at Minute Maid Park by the sorry Orioles, swept in an early season series at the Rangers. Presently the Rangers are an atrocity. A nine game losing streak has them 35-62, buried deeply in last place in the American League West, 23 games behind the Astros. So the Astros need to whip up on them in this weekend's three game set, before the Astros head west for a three city road trip with stops in Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

15. The number of home runs Jose Altuve has hit over his last 37 games. Multiply by four and that's a 60 homers in 148 games pace. Over those 37 games, Altuve is batting just .242. But slugging .577.

.029. Carlos Correa's batting average dating back 10 games played. One hit in his last 34 at bats. 14 strikeouts and just one walk over the stretch. That is what you call a funk. Certainly not a way to curry 300 million dollar contract offers.

The Rangers have just two 100 loss seasons in their history, their first two seasons after becoming the Rangers upon moving from Washington D.C. In 1972 the Ted Williams managed squad went 62-100, Ted quit, and the next year the Rangers finished 57-105. If the Astros sweep them this weekend, the Rangers will be on pace to lose 105 games.

It will be a decade ago this October that the Rangers came as close to winning a World Series as any team has ever come without winning the Series. In 2011 the Rangers carried a three games to two lead into game six at St. Louis. The Rangers led game six 7-5 with two on, two out, and two strikes in the bottom of the ninth. The Cardinals' David Freese drilled a ball toward the base of the right field wall. Rangers' right fielder Nelson Cruz didn't make an error but didn't play the ball well, going back awkwardly and reaching out at the last second as if afraid of the wall. It went for a two run triple to tie the game. Two innings later Freese hit a game winning homer to force game seven.

The inning before that the Rangers again came within one strike of winning it all. A Josh Hamilton two run homer had the Rangers up 9-7 going to the bottom of the 10th. The Cards got within 9-8. With the tying run on second and two out, Rangers' Manager Ron Washington opted to intentionally walk Albert Pujols. Albert was still a tremendous player in 2011 (his last with the Redbirds), but he was not better than Lance Berkman that season, definitely not against right-handed pitching. Walking Pujols brought up Berkman to face right-hander Scott Feldman (a matchup of former Astro and future Astro). Berkman lined a two-two pitch to center field tying the game 9-9, ahead of Freese's 11th inning walk-off homer. One of the most incredible games in World Series history.

NCAA

Quite the story hitting that Texas and Oklahoma may be plotting to bolt the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference. That neither UT, OU, nor the SEC denied it has smoke billowing. The Sooners have won the last six Big 12 football championships. The Longhorns last won in 2009. Oklahoma St., Kansas St., Baylor, TCU, all have more recently won at least a share of the conference title. An SEC UT could be looking at being in a division with Oklahoma, Alabama, LSU, and Texas A&M. UT marketing folks should be exploring a huge sponsorship deal with 7-Eleven. You know, Big Gulp. But as usual, follow the money.

The week ahead…

Wednesday: The Texans open training camp! Wait. Delete the exclamation point. Whither Deshaun Watson?

Thursday: The NBA Draft. Unless the Rockets pull off a thunderbolt of a trade to move up to number one and select Cade Cunningham, the winds of opinion are blowing in the direction of the Rockets taking wing Jalen Green second overall pick. That would be fine. Green is generally considered the most potential-laden explosive scorer on the board. The Rockets can use just about everything, a premium wing scorer would be excellent.

Friday: The MLB trade deadline. Does James Click bolster the Astros' shaky bullpen. The Astros have also been linked to Marlins' center fielder Starling Marte. Growing from his wretched start Myles Straw has been plenty acceptable. Free agent-to-be Marte would be a notable upgrade.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. First big beat the deadline win goes to the Rays. 41-year-old designated hitter Nelson Cruz still mashes. Simple frame of reference: he's been notably better than Yordan Alvarez this year.

2. The delayed by a year 2020 Summer Olympics are underway. Any interest at all?

3. Baseball's greatest Cruzes: Bronze-Jose Jr. Silver-Nelson Gold-Jose Sr.

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