Good morning, Eagles fans. The Eagles' Super Bowl practice week is complete. They have one final 30-minute walk-through Saturday at U.S. Bank Stadium before Sunday's game. Brett Favre will address the team in their Saturday morning meeting.
This is a special Saturday edition of Early Birds. There will also be a Super Bowl Sunday edition with a comprehensive game preview.
— Zach Berman
There are certain teams in Philadelphia sports that endear themselves to the Philadelphia fan base because of their identity. This year's Eagles team could be one of them. It's not by accident. Malcolm Jenkins sees similarities between the Eagles and the city.
"I think we embody what our city is," Jenkins said. "We're a bunch of guys [that] don't care about the glitz and glamour. Very blue collar. We enjoy a fight. We talk a little trash. And we fly around and hit people. We don't really care about the big plays. We enjoy the scrap. We don't want everyone to hype us up. We want to prove it every time we step on the field."
It's been well documented how much Philadelphia likes the underdog role. Vince Paple and Rocky Balboa aren't just Philadelphia cliches; they're part of the city's charm. The Eagles have clearly adopted that persona. The Goliathan Patriots, then, make the ideal foil. If the Eagles win Sunday, how will they rank among the beloved teams in Philadelphia sports history?
Torrey Smith won a Super Bowl in his second season in the NFL. There's been four years in between, and the Eagles receiver made the postseason only once. Some players don't have near the postseason experience that Smith has, so he's not one who can complain. But he does have perspective, and he can appreciate this run in Year 7 in a way he didn't early in his career.
"I appreciate it more," Smith said. "It's been five years since I've been, but the journey's been a lot different. I was joking the last time I was in a Super Bowl, I had no kids, I had dreadlocks down my back. Now I'm sitting here, just turned 29, a couple kids running around the house, the journey's been a lot different. But between them I realize how hard it is to get here. I thought it was going to be like that every year. …And it's not, unless you're lucky like the Patriots have been the past few years to be in that position. I've been able ot embrace it, take it all in, and realize it's not promised."
Smith's production hasn't jumped off the page this season — he had 36 catches for 430 yards and a career-low two touchdowns — but he's still been valuable as a deep threat for the Eagles. Defenses must respect his deep speed — the pass interferences he's drawn are examples — and he's also been valuable as a veteran in the wide receivers room. Smith shows the type of experienced, locker room-friendly player the Eagles sought in free agency.
Similar to the Eagles, the Patriots had their final practice of the week. It was also a light practice, according to the pool report.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick called it the "last tuneup." They reviewed moving the field and their special teams. The Patriots had a padded practice on Wednesday and tapered down as the week progressed. Belichick emphasized to the pool reporter that the Patriots needed to cover all of their bases because of how complete the Eagles are as an opponent.
"They're pretty good at everything — good in the kicking game, good on defense, good on offense, make you defend a lot of things," Belichick said. "Just the volume of it all. It's not like one thing you have to stop because there's 10 things you have to stop. So everybody is going to have to do a good job. You can't just rely on one guy or one thing."
Who's ready for kickoff yet? I'll break down what to watch in the Sunday newsletter.
Interesting question. I asked around this week about the Eagles in "the moment." Check out Sunday's Early Birds for an interview with Malcolm Jenkins to read his take.
Anyway, back to your question. I don't think you can disregard statistics and matchups. They need to be considered. Ultimately, this is a game. Intangibles matter, but so do personnel, schemes, and matchups. And Eagles fans should cling to the matchups, because that's their best hope of winning. Look at the lines of scrimmage. That's where the Eagles have the edge. You need to give the Patriots the edge in the intangibles.
That being said, I think how the Eagles handle "the moment" is relevant. It's a big stage and it's not like a typical game. You've heard about the extended halftime, but all the breaks are longer. There is so much energy early in the game that teams can't get worn down. Every situation is magnified.
The Patriots are used to this. The Eagles aren't. I think the whole "Patriots mystique" is real. That's not to say teams fear them, and certainly the Eagles won't. But there's a "been there, done that" element to the Patriots. You saw it against the Falcons last year. They came back from a 28-3 deficit!
So I'm curious to see how the Eagles handle "the moment." And I don't think it will be too big for them. But I also don't think the game will come down to that. The matchups matter, too.