FOXBORO, Mass. — Rewatching Super Bowl LII can’t be an enjoyable experience for any New England Patriot who played in it, but the film from that memorable shootout in Minneapolis will be a valuable resource for the team this week.
As the Patriots prepare for Sunday’s rematch with the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field, head coach Bill Belichick acknowledged the benefits of watching the teams’ last meeting, which the Eagles won 41-33 to claim their first Lombardi Trophy.
“There’s some similarities, some matchups there,” Belichick said Wednesday. “There’s quite a few differences, but it’s worth looking at.”
Belichick went on to explain that the offensive scheme Eagles coach Doug Pederson ran in the Super Bowl remains largely intact despite changes at quarterback (Carson Wentz replacing Nick Foles) and running back (Jordan Howard, Miles Sanders and Darren Sproles in; Jay Ajayi, LeGarrette Blount, Corey Clement out).
“There’s always some new things,” Belichick said. “They have different players. But fundamentally, it’s the same.”
That’s no surprise, as QB and running back are the only Philadelphia positions that have experienced significant turnover in the year-and-a-half since Super Bowl LII. Top tight end Zach Ertz remains, as do wide receivers Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor and starting offensive linemen Jason Kelce, Lane Johnson and Brandon Brooks.
Defensively, the Eagles still have Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett and Timmy Jernigan up front, Nigel Bradham at linebacker and Malcolm Jenkins, Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Rodney McLeod and Rasul Douglas on the back end, with Darby and Mills recently returning from injuries to replenish what had been a struggling secondary. (It’s unclear whether Bradham, who’s missed the last three games with an ankle injury, will be active Sunday.)
The Patriots’ roster, meanwhile, has changed dramatically.
New England’s top three pass-catchers from that Super Bowl (Rob Gronkowski, Danny Amendola and Chris Hogan) all are gone, as are three-fifths of its starting offensive line, 2017 rushing leader Dion Lewis and wideout Brandin Cooks, who went down with a concussion during the first half.
The defense Foles shredded has been overhauled; nine Patriots defenders who played 10 or more Super Bowl snaps no longer are with the team. The full list, ordered by number of snaps played:
CB Eric Rowe (72 of 75)
LB James Harrison (69)
DT Malcom Brown (62)
LB Marquis Flowers (18)
S Jordan Richards (16)
DE Eric Lee (16)
DT Ricky Jean Francois (15)
CB Johnson Bademosi (10)
Wide receiver Julian Edelman, linebacker Dont’a Hightower, offensive tackle Marcus Cannon and cornerback Jonathan Jones all finished the 2017 season on injured reserve and were unavailable on Super Bowl Sunday.
The Eagles watched the Super Bowl film this week, as well, but more as a tone-setter than a game-planning tool.
“Just to go back and just let guys get a feel for how that game went,” defensive line coach Phillip Daniels told reporters in Philly, via The Philadephia Inquirer. “Really and truly, it’s to give them a feel for how it felt to go out there and do the things we did and come out with a win in that game.”
Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images