It’s been almost two years since the Eagles took down the Patriots 41-33 in Super Bowl LII. This Sunday, they’ll meet for the first time since that infamous Super Bowl, but these teams have changed quite a bit since their last meeting.
Eagles head coach Doug Pederson was asked about how the Patriots have changed since their last meeting, and Pederson highlighted the team’s defense as a major difference.
“Obviously, some personnel is different on their side, also on our side, but I think that this is what you’re seeing from watching them on defense and why they’re so good on defense is some of the changes they’ve made,” Pederson said. “As subtle as they are in scheme, their guys are in position to make plays. And they’re veteran players who have been in that scheme now for several years, so you don’t see a ton of mistakes.”
Pederson’s tabbing of the defense makes sense: the Patriots lead the league in total yards allowed at 2,244 and in points given up at 98. This defense is seen by some as the best since the Baltimore Ravens’ defense in 2000, a team that Pederson played, and cracked his ribs against, as a player. Pederson, with more insight into both defenses than most, compared the two.
“It is an interesting conversation, and you can obviously draw some parallels with those two defenses. I think the biggest thing that jumps out to you right now, the glaring thing, is the turnover ratio,” Pederson said. “I mean, the fact that they’ve got six defensive scores this season, the interceptions, the fumbles they’re causing – it’s a brand of defense where they just smother you. They just corral you. They’re OK with giving you two, three, four yards, but they’re right on top of you.”
A key as a coach that Pederson spoke on is the ability to adapt to different teams and different play styles, something he says Bill Belichick does well.
“You have to adapt. You have to adapt to your team, you have to adapt to the times. Even culture and society changes with some of the players that we get out of college today,” Pederson said. “So, that’s the part that I think is most impressive with Bill [Belichick], and then the other thing too is he just, with all of that change and with the subtle changes they make and being adaptable, the consistency that comes from that.”
The two teams have taken different paths since their matchup in the Super Bowl two seasons ago. The Patriots went on to return to return to the Super Bowl the following season, this time beating the Los Angeles Rams 13-3. The Eagles put forth a solid season, going 9-7 and sneaking into the playoffs, but ultimately falling to the Saints in the NFC semifinals.
This season, the Patriots have been among the NFL’s elite, posting an 8-1 record to lead the AFC. The Eagles have yet to separate themselves from the rest of the NFC, but are still very much in the playoff race, with a record of 5-4.
The Patriots and Eagles will face off at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia this Sunday, Nov. 17, at 4:25 p.m.