Fans are still partying in Atlanta today after the Falcons secured their spot in Houston for Super Bowl LI. If you can believe it, they keep getting excited in New England, even though the Patriots are playing in the season’s final game for something like the 25th time.
Anybody around here who paid close attention to yesterday’s games saw two teams win because of a variety of factors, a few of which the Eagles have, and several that they don’t. People weren’t too happy a little while back when Howie Roseman said the Birds were still in a rebuild because they didn’t have Super Bowl caliber talent – which is partly his fault – but watching the conference title games yesterday showed that Roseman was right. The Eagles don’t have that kind of personnel. They’re lacking some other things, too.
It begins, of course, under center. The Falcons and Pats each have established veteran passers who seem to get better every year. Exton’s Matt Ryan, had his best season in 2016, establishing career bests in yards (4,944), touchdowns (38) and fewest interceptions (seven). He is likely to be the NFL Most Valuable Player, and for good reason. Meanwhile, Tom Brady shrugged off the four-game suspension for deflating footballs and threw 28 touchdown passes and only two picks while completing 67.4 percent of his throws – the second best figure in his career.
Carson Wentz has the tools to be a standout QB, but he isn’t there yet. Until he matures to the point where his decision making is extremely reliable, the Eagles can’t be thinking about reaching the Super Bowl. At least he’s wearing green, and that’s a good start.
El Hombre has spent considerable time and effort detailing the deficiencies at various position groups, so he will just say that until the Eagles improve all over the field and upgrade their depth, they will be on the outskirts of Super Bowl discussion. You can’t win without big-time skill position pieces, inferior lines and a generous secondary. Roseman and his staff must make significant improvements, which can’t be done in one year.
The final piece of the equation is more difficult to quantify. It’s one thing to count Pro Bowlers and future Hall of Famers and quite another to find a direct measurement of the character and personality needed to win a championship. For over a decade, the Patriots have shown they are capable of playing the kind of opponent-specific football necessary to win in any situation. Doing that requires creativity at the top and a pile of intelligent talent that cares only about team success. Finding good players who are also winners is the hardest thing to do in football. The Eagles don’t have enough players like that.
As the Patriots and Falcons prepare for the big game on Feb. 5, they do so as sturdy outfits with the kind of quarterbacking talent needed to thrive on the biggest stage, along with the type of team-first attitude that wins at the highest levels. It is a measure of New England’s greatness that Chris Hogan, a receiver who played one year of college football – at Monmouth, no less – caught nine passes for 180 yards and two scores in the biggest game of his life. He was part of the plan, and he played his role.
Meanwhile, the Falcons’ defense, which had been maligned (for good reason) throughout the season, slowed Aaron Rodgers’ magical ride and brought Atlanta to the precipice of its first NFL title. Let’s all hope the Eagles’ brass was taking copious notes during the game so that it can build a team with the talent and disposition necessary to win big in the future.â€‹
EL HOMBRE SEZ: This is a big week for boys’ Inter-Ac basketball. First-place Haverford School (5-0 league), which is 16-1, visits Germantown Academy (3-2) Tuesday and hosts Episcopal Academy (4-1) Friday night. If the 16-1 Fords win both, they will be in tremendous position. However, neither game will be easy. The Pats boast the league’s top scorer Evan-Eric Longino, and the Churchmen are back at full strength, thanks to the return of star Nick Alikakos from an ankle injury. Stay tuned for some hardwood drama.