Philadelphia — The Eagles needed touchdowns on a blocked punt, interception return and punt return to beat the New England Patriots the last time the teams met in 2015.
They don’t think it’ll take another set of unusual scores to win the Super Bowl.
Malcolm Jenkins, Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry, Mychal Kendricks and Beau Allen are six key defensive players left from a team that upset the Patriots 35-28 at Gillette Stadium on Dec. 6, 2015. It was former coach Chip Kelly’s next-to-last win before Philadelphia fired him later that month.
“I think we match up well,” Jenkins said. “They’ve obviously got a great system, great offense, probably the best quarterback of all time, a great tight end, speedy receivers. They’ve got a real good scheme, and they isolate people, but if there’s any defense out there that can match up with every single person, I think it’s this defense, so we’re looking forward to it.”
Jenkins intercepted Tom Brady’s deflected pass and returned it 99 yards for a touchdown to give the Eagles a 21-14 lead after they overcame a 14-0 deficit. They got a 24-yard TD return by Najee Goode off a blocked punt and Darren Sproles took a punt 83 yards for a score.
But the Patriots were missing Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman and Dion Lewis in that game. They’ll see Lewis on the field this time around, and possibly Gronkowski if he recovers from a concussion.
“We have to play 60 minutes against them,” Cox said. “What makes Tom Brady unique is he gets rid of the football so quickly, and he doesn’t really make any mistakes. It’s going to come down to us getting after them. It’s about us, it’s not about them.”
Graham sacked Brady twice and hit him three other times the last time they played. He knows pressuring Brady without having to blitz is the key to success.
“If you can get to him with four, you’re on the right track because Tom Brady is the GOAT (greatest of all time),” Graham said. “He’s the man and everybody understands you’ve got to play him for 60 minutes, sometimes even longer if you go overtime. You’ve got to get after him, get him rattled, because he’s the head of that team and everybody knows it.”
The Eagles have the NFL’s No. 1 defense against the run and were fourth overall in yards allowed and points allowed. They’ve stepped it up in the playoffs, giving up just 17 points to the Falcons and Vikings. One of those two TD drives was only 18 yards after a fumble. They haven’t allowed a point in the second half.
Given their success this season and the last time they faced Brady and the Patriots as 10-point underdogs 25 months ago, the Eagles are confident they’ll bring home the franchise’s first Vince Lombardi Trophy.
“Greatest quarterback of all time, but that doesn’t mean that he’s unbeatable,” Jenkins said of Brady. “We’ve got a destination that we’re geared to. No matter who’s in front of us, we’ve got somewhere to go. We’re not worried about what’s in front. We’re going to run through what’s there.”
Cities play up old rivalry
The war has begun in Philadelphia and Boston, where the Super Bowl-bound rivals are lightheartedly refusing to sell items from each other’s cities in a sort of “cheesesteak ban heard ’round the world.”
In Boston, one park has banned the sale of cheesesteaks, soft pretzels and the wearing of any Philadelphia sports paraphernalia.
Michael Nichols, director of the Esplanade along the Charles River, said Wednesday that also forbidden are cracked copper bells, “Philadelphia” brand cream cheese, Will Smith, Sylvester Stallone and Crisco.
“We’re taking a firm stance on this, but I can’t say we’ll exactly be out in the park enforcing it,” he said.
In Philadelphia, Dottie’s Donuts is refusing to make its Boston cream confection, even though it is a best-seller. Instead, the vegan shop is selling something called “The Creamed Boston,” covered in Eagles green.
“We’re banning all New England-themed doughnuts,” said Jeff Poleon, owner of Dottie’s. “You’re not going to see a clam chowder doughnut here, we have no Boston baked bean doughnuts. I know Gronk has a Monster energy drink. We’re not allowed to sell or drink any of those until the Eagles win the Super Bowl next weekend.”
They’ve also created a long john-style doughnut called “The Greased Pole.” On the morning of Sunday’s NFC championship game, workers in Philadelphia who jokingly called themselves the “Crisco Cops” greased light poles to try to prevent fans from climbing up them after the game. It didn’t stop some fans after the Eagles won, though.
And there’s fightin’ words over at the Museum of the American Revolution, which is renaming its “Patriots Gallery” as the “Eagles Gallery.”
On Thursday, the museum will have a ceremony that includes an 18th century drum roll as the new sign in the gallery is unveiled. The Eagles theme song “Fly Eagles Fly” will be performed in 18th drum style. Staff will also be crossing out the words “Patriots Gallery” in all brochures.
The site of next year’s Super Bowl is celebrating a championship for best concessions.
Mercedes-Benz Stadium, home of the Atlanta Falcons, finished first in a 2017 NFL fan survey for quality and value of food and beverages. The results released Thursday show the lowered prices, including $2 hot dogs, $3 pizza slices and $5 beer, were a hit with fans.
... The NFL will salute 15 recipients of the Medal of Honor, the United States’ most prestigious military decoration, when they participate in the coin toss before the Super Bowl on Feb. 4.
... Tight end Gronkowski sat out practice Thursday with a concussion and Brady was limited with his right-hand injury as New England returned to the practice field in preparation for its matchup with Philadelphia.
... Baltimore Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey has been arrested on a charge of stealing a phone charging cord from an Uber driver.
... Former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue has joined the board of an organization founded by Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and aimed at improving race relations.