It all comes down to this.
By Dave Spadaro
MINNEAPOLIS — In the end, it comes down to the line of scrimmage. And that’s where the Philadelphia Eagles have the advantage in Super Bowl LII and that’s where they have to beat, dominate and decimate the New England Patriots on Sunday.
Do that and the Eagles come home with a Lombardi Trophy. Simple as that.
“The way this defense is built, we’re going to try to wear down an offensive line with our depth and with our energy up front,” defensive end Chris Long said. “New England has great weapons and they have the best offense in the league. But if we take care of our business up front, we’re going to be in good shape defensively. That’s kind of what it always comes down to in football.”
The investments the Eagles made in the last two offseasons to bolster the lines of scrimmage have paid off handsomely. Two years ago, the team used two draft picks on offensive linemen, Isaac Seumalo and Halapoulivaati Vaitai, and they signed veteran guard/center Stefen Wisniewski in free agency. While Seumalo has not yet found his place on the field (although the Eagles still think highly of him), the impact made by Vaitai and Wisniewski cannot be understated.
Vaitai replaced All-Pro Jason Peters at left tackle, the quarterback’s blind side. While Vaitai has had a shaky moment or two, and while he’s going to face a lot of commotion and pressure from the Patriots as they try to overload him, for the most part he’s been good. Against Minnesota and Pro Bowl end Everson Griffen in the NFC championship game, Vaitai was more than good. He was great. He was a difference maker.
“I think the more I play, the more I’m going to improve,” he said. “It’s about comfort and just having a good feel out there. I feel confident in my abilities.”
Wisniewski, considered a jack-of-all-trades backup player here, instead has stabilized the offensive line with his play at left guard. He’s been invaluable after Seumalo struggled as a starter in the first few games of the season.
Vaitai and Wisniewski comprise the left side of the offensive line. The rest of the group is just dynamite, with center Jason Kelce named an All-Pro, right guard Brandon Brooks a Pro Bowler and right tackle Lane Johnson voted both as a Pro Bowl player and an All-Pro.
“We feel like we can dominate teams,” Johnson said.
On the defensive line, well, the Eagles come hard. And they keep coming. Tackles Fletcher Cox and Tim Jernigan provide the thunder and lightning inside. Long, Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry and Derek Barnett bring the boom off the edge. The Eagles go eight players deep up front, and they use all of their weapons.
It’s been the team’s bread and butter all season. The Eagles win the line of scrimmage and they win the game. The formula doesn’t change for this one. Quarterback Nick Foles gets most of the attention, as do the players who score the touchdowns. But on offense and on defense, it’s about the line of scrimmage, and that’s where the Eagles will beat the Patriots and win the Super Bowl on Sunday evening. ••