Thursday, September 13, 2007
Opinions on Pats' tactics mixed among holdovers from Eagles' NFC title team
PHILADELPHIA -- Sheldon Brown and the Eagles hoped a blitz
would rattle Tom Brady.
One problem: Every time the Eagles rushed Brady in the Super
Bowl, the Patriots nullified the defensive attack with screen
passes. Lots of them. On almost every play defensive coordinator
Jim Johnson called for a blitz, the Patriots used the short pass to
confuse the Eagles.
After the Patriots beat the Eagles 24-21 in 2005 to win the
Lombardi Trophy, Brown thought the Patriots beat them with nothing
but sharp offensive playcalling. Now, he's not so sure.
With spying accusations leveled this week against the Patriots,
some of the Eagles left from the NFC title team are wondering if
New England used bootleg film to their advantage in the Super Bowl.
"Do I think about it? Mmm hmmm," said Brown, their starting
cornerback. "It's crazy. I just don't know how far back it goes.
Something's not right about that."
Pro Bowl safety Brian Dawkins found the accusations troublesome.
"Now there's always going to be questions about the
situation," Dawkins said Thursday. "Was it great adjustments at
halftime or what?"
Pittsburgh wide receiver Hines Ward said this week that he
suspected the Patriots had some type of inside information on the
Steelers before at least one of the teams' two AFC championship
game matchups since the 2001 season. While Ward said the Patriots
knew a lot of Pittsburgh's calls, none of the Eagles could offer
any type of solid proof of any shenanigans.
"For me to think back two years ago about something they may or
may not have done, it's not worth my time," running back Brian
New England beat the New York Jets in last Sunday's season
opener in which an on-field video camera allegedly focusing on Jets
coaches was confiscated from a Patriots employee.
On Thursday, New England coach Bill Belichick was fined the NFL
maximum of $500,000 and the Patriots were ordered to pay $250,000.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell also ordered the team to give up next year's
first-round draft choice if it reaches the playoffs and second- and
third-round picks if it doesn't.
"I would like to think it's just one team doing it, but it
doesn't shock me that it happened," Dawkins said.
Some Eagles said occasional signal-stealing is an accepted part
of the game. But they believe what the Patriots are accused of
doing crosses the football morality line because it threatens the
integrity of the game.
"It's different if you're talking about recording it," Dawkins
said. "What can you do if you try to signal a play in?"
Eagles coach Andy Reid steered away from questions about the
alleged cheating other than to say he has no doubts New England's
victory was legitimate.
"That's something Bill and the Patriots are working through,"
Brown said he noticed a difference in New England's playcalling
in the second quarter. After the Patriots gained only 45 yards in
the first quarter, they had 286 over the next three.
Brady hit running back Corey Dillon and gained 29 total yards on
a pair of screens to open New England's first full drive of the
second quarter. They didn't score on that drive, but did on four of
the next five drives.
The Patriots went to the screen pass again on the decisive drive
early in the fourth quarter, this time with Brady connecting with
Kevin Faulk on two passes for 27 yards.
"I was like, 'Man, I never saw that many screens,' " Brown said.
Brown wonders if it was normal playcalling from a team good
enough to win three Super Bowls in four seasons, a Patriots team
that used a strong scouting report to gain a fair edge, or was
somebody picking up the Eagles defensive calls from a sideline
camera that deprived them of a fair shot?
"I think they should forfeit, man," said punt returner Reno
Mahe, smiling. "We won the Super Bowl. I think we should get it.
I'm going to go trade my NFC championship ring for a Super Bowl
The headline over a picture of Belichick on the back page of
Thursday's Philadelphia Daily News might have said it all:
"Counterfeit RING: Spy Scandal Helps Explain Birds' Super Bowl
Hey, maybe the illicit tape would show once and for all if
Donovan McNabb really did get sick in the huddle late in the game.
Remember, that was Philadelphia's first excuse for losing.
McNabb -- who insisted the Eagles would never stoop to those kind
of tactics -- was surprised to hear the allegations against the
Patriots. But he said the suspicions might be overblown.
"One thing people are forgetting is that even if you have the
answers to the test, you still have to take the test," he said.
"If they have an idea of what's coming, those guys still have to
be able to execute the play."
That doesn't mean McNabb won't clear some space in his jewelry
box. For a city that last saw a pro team win a championship nearly
25 years ago, the Eagles might accept a retroactive one.
"Maybe we'll get our ring back," said a chuckling McNabb.
"Maybe we'll get the real one."