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Reflection on Eagles’ Three Games Against Super Bowl Teams: A Fan’s Analysis
The Philadelphia Eagles have some deep connections to the teams in the 2012 Super Bowl. Not only do Eagles fans like myself wish we completed the late run that the New York Giants did, and wish we had the rings that the New England Patriots have, we have seen these two teams face Philadelphia before. These three meetings showed just how the Giants and Patriots made the Super Bowl in the first place.
The Giants and Eagles first played in Week 3 on Sep. 25 - and it is the whole reason why New York is in the Super Bowl and not Philadelphia. If the Giants hadn't come back in the fourth quarter to win by 29-16, the Eagles would have ultimately finished 9-7 and won the NFC East by one game instead. Of course, Philadelphia might not have then blown subsequent wins and might have turned out even better.
New York won this game and the NFC East because it frequently came back in the final minutes. Meanwhile, Philadelphia lost this game and the NFC East because of its last-minute failures in its first 12 games. It was the coming out party for Eli Manning's fourth quarter heroics and became the first of many big showcases for Victor Cruz as well. As such, now the Patriots have to worry about both trends being used against them on Feb. 5.
But if New England wants to be encouraged that Manning can be stopped, it can look towards the Philadelphia-New York rematch in Week 11 on Nov. 20. There, Manning was dominated by the Eagles defense and Vince Young, of all people, put together an 18-play drive to knock off the Giants in the final minutes.
The 17-10 Eagles win breathed some brief life into Philadelphia and was one of the low points in the Giants' 1-5 slide before mid-December. If Young and the struggling Philadelphia defense could do that, certainly Tom Brady and the Patriots often troubled defensive attack can.
However, the week after the Eagles seemed to save their season, the Patriots then came to Philadelphia and killed it for good. On Nov. 27, New England started rather poorly in a 10-0 hole, then Brady woke up and slaughtered the Birds before they knew what was happening. Their inability to stop Brady, along with their own self-destruction, doomed the Eagles to a 38-20 loss that was one of their final nails in the coffin.
The Giants and Patriots each showed the Eagles the same elements that later took them to the Super Bowl - and reflected why Philadelphia couldn't be there instead. But they also showed some vulnerabilities, as New York couldn't recapture its magic in the rematch with Philadelphia, while New England actually let Young pass for 400 yards and look competent in the beginning and end of that game.
The Eagles faced both the Giants and Patriots before they really became Super Bowl worthy, so maybe the lessons from these three games won't apply on Feb. 5. Yet Super Sunday can propel teams towards being at their very best, as the Patriots and Giants were in their first meetings with the Eagles. Or it can make them revert to their worst, as New York was the second time around against Philadelphia and as New England was early on at Lincoln Financial Field.
Either way, whatever these two teams display on Super Bowl Sunday will likely be nothing that the Eagles haven't seen - although it is too late to learn lessons from that this season.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident who has followed the Eagles since he was eight years old.
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