Gridiron Experts

Eagles vs. Patriots Super Bowl Match-Up Comparison Then and Now

Eagles-Patriots Super Bowl: Round 2

Back in the 2004 season, New England Patriots fans rejoiced as their team defeated the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX. This championship was the third in four seasons and solidified the Patriots as a dynasty. 13 years later, the Patriots now face the Eagles again in Super Bowl LII, where they will be once again attempting to win their third championship in four seasons. The Eagles, on the other hand, will try to prevent the repeat and carve out a new path for their young franchise.

Will this Eagles continue to win as the underdog? Or will the Patriots once again hoist the Lombardi trophy? Let’s take a look.

The Offensive and Defensive Rankings:

  • 2004 Eagles: Offensive Points Per Game: 24.3 (8th in the league), Defensive Points Per Game: 16.2 (1st in the league
  • 2004 Patriots: Offensive Points Per Game: 27.5 (3rd the in the league), Defensive Points Per Game: 16.4 (2nd in the league)
  • 2017 Eagles: Offensive Points Per Game: 28.3 (3rd in the league), Defensive Points Per Game: 17.3 (2nd in the league)
  • 2017 Patriots: Offensive Points Per Game: 28.7 (2nd in the league), Defensive Points Per Game: 18.3 (5th in the league)

At first glance of rankings, it seems that ’04 Patriots and the ’17 Eagles are the most well-rounded as they both finished 3rd in the league in offensive points per game and 2nd in defensive points allowed per game. The ’17 Eagles offense obviously took a blow with Carson Wentz going down, but with Nick Foles, they have still averaged 26.5 points per game. That average would rank them fifth overall in 2017 rankings. The statistics on paper seem to predict Super Bowl LII being an extremely even matchup. Super Bowl XXXIX was also extremely close between these two teams with the #1 and #2 defenses dominating. The ’17 Eagles and ’17 Patriots defenses are not as great as their ’04 counterparts, so I doubt we enter the fourth quarter tied at 14. That along with the ’17 teams having better offenses should see a higher point total. Even Las Vegas thinks so as Super Bowl LII has a 48 total point spread. Super Bowl XXXIX had a 46.5 total point spread that ended up being 45. Ultimately the offenses will prevail in Super Bowl LII because of the offensive playmakers.

Offensive Weapons

Quarterback

Well, there is only one player that played in both Super Bowls and that is quarterback Tom Brady. Apparently, for him, 40 is the new 25 because he crushed is numbers from 2004. In 2004, he threw for 3,692 passing yards, 28 touchdowns, 14 interceptions and had a 92.6 QBR. In 2017, at the age of 40, Brady compiled 4,577 passing yards, 32 touchdowns, 8 interceptions, and a 102.8 QBR. Safe to say he is pretty good. But how about the Eagles quarterbacks?

In 2004, McNabb had the best season of his career. He was the first NFL quarterback to ever throw for more than 30 touchdowns and fewer than 10 interceptions in a season. Ironically, Carson Wentz in just 13 games, was also able to achieve this feat, throwing for 33 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. Foles will be starting in place of Wentz in Super Bowl LII and has been playing well up to this point. 10 touchdowns and just two interceptions in just four games that he played entirely. Some of Foles’ success can be attributed to the great weapons around him.

Running Backs, Wide Receivers, and Tight Ends

The ’17 Eagles have great offensive skill players across the board. Running backs Jay Ajayi, LeGarrette Blount, and Corey Clement all provide different skill sets for different situations. Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery has solidified himself as the number one receiver on the team, Nelson Agholor has started to live up to his draft stock, and Torrey Smith has provided veteran leadership. Then the most elite player on offense is tight end Zach Ertz, who has established himself as one of the most consistent tight ends in the NFL. This team had four players with at least 36 receptions and three players with at least 700 yards receiving. Where depth best describes the ’17 Eagles’ roster, the same cannot be said about the ’04 team.

The ’04 Eagles offense was great because of wide receiver Terrell Owens and running back Brian Westbrook. Owens led the teams in receiving yards with 1200 receiving yards and Westbrook was second with 703 receiving yards. No other player had more than 700 yards receiving and only two players had more than 36 receptions. Owens also was hurt during Super Bowl XXXIX, so it remains to be seen what more could have been had he played fully healthy. Despite his injury, he had nine receptions for 122 yards. The Patriots are known for taking away an opponent’s best weapon, but the Eagles’ depth makes it less than obvious of to whom or what they will try to take away. However, the Eagles ’17 team is not the only team with depth on offense.

Both the ’04 and ’17 Patriots offenses were filled with depth. The ’04 team definitely had the best running back and running game in the Patriots dynasty. Corey Dillon was a monster rushing for 1635 yards and 12 touchdowns on 4.7 yards per attempt. The receivers were not necessarily great, but good. David Givens and David Patten led the way with at least 800 yards receiving. Deion Branch fought through injuries throughout the season but came up big in the playoffs. In the AFC Championship game in ’04 he had 116 yards receiving and a touchdown. He then followed that up with 133 yards in Super Bowl XXXIX. I would mention Troy Brown here, but he was too busy playing defense. Either way, the offense was good in ’04 but is now better. Brady has evolved as a quarterback, which has evolved the Patriots’ offense.

The ’17 Patriots feature two 1,000 yards receivers; a feat that has not been accomplished since 2011 when Brady throw for over 5,000 yards. In ’17 both Rob Gronkowski and Brandin Cooks amassed the century mark. They also had seven players with at least 30 receptions and had five players with at least 400 receiving yards. Dion Lewis led the running backs with 896 rushing yards, six touchdowns, and five yards per attempt. The ’17 offense features a real difference maker in Rob Gronkowski, which is why they get the edge over the ’04 team. But the same cannot be said about the defense.

Defensive Arsenal

The ’04 Patriots’ defense had some great players on it across the board. Asante Samuel, Rodney Harrison, and Eugene Wilson ruled the secondary with seven interceptions total. Not to mention wide receiver/defensive back Troy Brown who had three interceptions of his own. Tedy Bruschi and Mike Vrabel in the linebacker spots, along with Willie McGinest and Richard Seymour rushing the passer. This team also allowed the ninth fewest yards defensively in the league, totaled 45 sacks and had 40 takeaways. This is vastly different than the ’17 team.

The ’17 Patriots defense is a bend, but do not break defense. They do not have any premier pass-rushers like the ’04 team. This team allowed the 29th most yards defensively, totaled 42 sacks, and had just 16 takeaways all season. The secondary of the ’17 Patriots is their strongest with defensive backs Malcolm Butler, Stephon Gilmore, Devin McCourty, and Patrick Chung. However, their linebackers and defensive lineman currently do not even come close to what they had back in ’04. Strong linebackers and defensive lineman describe the ’17 Eagles.

The ’17 Eagles allowed the fourth fewest yards defensively, totaled 38 sacks, and had 30 takeaways. Their ferocious pass-rush consists of Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Derek Barnett, and ex-Patriot Chris Long. Those four combined for 20 sacks this season. Nigel Bradham and Mychal Kendricks are the main linebackers, and Malcolm Jenkins plays a hybrid safety role. Sometimes he is out covering receivers and other times he crowds the line of scrimmage. He was second on the team in total tackles. Whereas the ’17 Eagles strength does not lie in their secondary that is exactly where the strength was for the ’04 Eagles.

The ’04 Eagles allowed the tenth fewest yards defensively, totaled 47 sacks, and had 27 takeaways. Safety Brian Dawkins had a lot to do with that, with his ball-hawk skills. Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown were also very good corners that were capable of locking down receivers. Defensive end Jevon Kearse led the team with 7.5 sacks and strong safety Michael Lewis led the team with 74 tackles. Their defense also consisted of two Pro Bowl linebackers Jeremiah Trotter and Ike Reese. And with Dhani Jones as well I have to give the edge to the ’04 Eagles defense. More well-rounded through all three layers of the defense, but it is very close to the ’17 Eagles team for sure.

The Verdict

The defenses were the dominating forces in Super Bowl XXXIX, but that will change in this year’s Super Bowl. The ’17 Patriots’ offense trumps the ’04 team. The ’17 Eagles offense is much more well-rounded than the ’04 team and will be facing a much easier defense. My prediction? 28-24 Patriots over Eagles. History will once again repeat itself.

In terms of what team had the best roster, my vote has to go to the ’04 Patriots. Elite defense, elite running game, and a young Tom Brady. What could be better? Which team do you think had the best roster? Click on my tweet to cast your vote! Thanks for reading!

 

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Thanks for reading

Andrew Erickson

Andrew is a Roger Williams University graduate where he majored in Marketing. While there he interned at a sports marketing agency where he had the opportunity to work with many professional athletes like Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman.

After college, Andrew started to write his own fantasy blogs via Wordpress.com to show his friends why he calls himself the Fantasy Football Master. He calls himself this because back in '07 in his first ever fantasy football league he drafted the Bears defense in the 1st round. He then proceeded to win the entire league. #DefenseWinsChampionships

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