Pats welcome the support of New England,Eagles have their Philadelphia faithful
By Arnie Leshin
How about those New England Patriots? If there’s a way to win, they have it down pat. They’ve dominated teams in a way that by halftime, the contest was decided. They’ve fallen behind, taken a deep breath and just leaving the other team wondering what had happened to its lead.
And they’ve won close games, all five in winning that number of Super Bowls. Four via the field goal, and one in 2016 where the Seattle Supersonics were driving for a victory in the final minutes, were at the New England 5 and were intercepted in the end zone. It was a bad decision by Seattle and the Patriots were there to steal the game.
In last year’s Super Bowl, the Atlanta Falcons soared to a commanding lead and were then caught and passed in another unbelievable Pats’ comeback. Like all the others, Atlanta thought it was on the way to a victory, but it never happened.
Of course the Super Bowl touchdown favorite Pats don’t care how they do it. One week after overwhelming the Tennessee Titans, they had to come from behind to get past the Jacksonville Jaguars, 24-20. Both games were played at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, New England, and there in lies another fact to their success.
Home sweet home goes like this. You win your division, post the best record in the conference, get home field advantage, and three games later you’re in the Super Bowl. That’s it, two games and you’re in. One time, the New York Jets intercepted this by turning back the Patriots in the playoffs in New England. But this doesn’t happen often.
What does occur is whoever meets up with them have got to prepare for being the underdog and count on breaks going your way. And when the clock tics down and they are lining up for a field goal, it means they are going to win via the 3.
There aren’t many fans in New England that root against them. It’s an area loaded with support for the Boston Bruins in hockey, the Boston Celtics in basketball, and the Boston Red Sox in baseball.
Not so for the Eagles. They are Philadelphia’s team. The other professional football team from the state is in Pittsburgh, and the Steelers faithful have no interest in the City of Brotherly Love team. They have their Pittsburgh Pirates in baseball while Philadelphia has its Phillies. In hockey, Pitt has its Panthers, Philly has its Flyers.
But the Patriots belong to the entire state because there’s no other professional football team in Massachusetts, only the Bruins, Celtics and Red Sox in Boston. Sure, there are those up there who root for other teams, but they are way outnumbered.
Whereas New England has established a dynasty in this decade, Philadelphia has struggled. The Patriots have been beaten twice in the Super Bowl, both by the New York Giants, but winning 5-of-7 isn’t bad. The Eagles are 0-for-2 with one of them versus the Pats on yes, a field goal at the end that brought a 24-21 result in 2005.
Whereas Patriot fans are haughtily delirious with success, Philadelphia fans are shamed by decades of harrowing letdowns. New England has won in every way, although always with quarterback Tom Brady, who is probably as good at 40 as he’s been since being a sixth round pick from the University of Michigan.
It has stayed put with Bill Belichick as head coach, Bill Kraft as owner, held on to its coaching staff until other teams signed them, and no matter who’s injured or who’s retired, it always comes up with quality replacement players to step in as if nothing happened.
They lost three times this regular season and the anti-New England fans were thinking this might be a breakthrough. But they were disappointed as usual. One thing the Patriots have in common with the Eagles is that both play in the snow, the wind, frozen temperatures, and before capacity crowds.
But that’s where it ends. Whereas New England always finds a way to win, Philadelphia has taken the opposite route. They have been doomed by ill-timed bounces, unlucky injuries, and other bad breaks, as in ejections, aned they have heard the boos every season. It’s said they also booed Santa Claus, threw snow balls at him.
Nothing like this for the Patriots. It has rarely been beaten by turnovers, have overcome injuries, and whoever gets booed at home sometimes often becomes the fan favorite. Brady with his 6-game suspension because of the illegal less air footballs he was accused of only received cheers in New England. He spoke and got standing ovations.
Now check out the Eagles’ situation in that position. They had been getting stellar performances from quarterback Caron Wentz, who had been chosen as an early first round pick out of North Dakota. When he became injured late in the season, the fans of the green and white thought in was the end of a super season.
But in stepped a former Eagle quarterback, Nick Foles, and although the fans were moaning and groaning, he has come alive in the playoffs, first over the “favored” Falcons, and then over the “favored” Minnesota Vikings in a starling finish where Philly came from behind thanks to Foles.
They are the anti-Patriots in so many ways. New England has had the stage, now the Eagles are looking to get there on Feb. 4, Super Sunday.
But don’t forget the two week wait before the opening kickoff in the Minneapolis domed stadium. The Vikings would have loved to be the only team to play this on their home field, but Philadelphia will take its place and in the other corner, those New England Patriots again.