Super Bowl LII features one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time, Tom Brady, and a backup quarterback, Nick Foles, looking to solidify his legacy in the City of Brotherly Love.
There is no shortage of storylines entering Super Bowl Sunday, and the battle of two quarterbacks in different spectrums of their careers is surely one of them.
While all eyes will be on Brady and Foles on Sunday evening, the winner of Super Bowl LII will be determined in the trenches.
The Patriots have consistently surrounded Brady with one of the league’s best offensive lines over the course of his 18-year career. The 40-year-old quarterback was sacked just one time in the second half of New England’s comeback victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC Championship.
The Patriots offensive line neutralized Sacksonville’s greatest strength, putting more pressure on their dynamic corners Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye. New England’s future Hall of Fame quarterback torched Jacksonville’s defense when given time in the pocket.
Despite losing right tackle Marcus Cannon to a season-ending injury, New England’s offensive line has continued to give their three-time league MVP plenty of time in the pocket. Cameron Fleming has filled in nicely at right tackle, and Nate Solder, Shaq Mason, David Andrews, Joe Thuney have all been key to another Super Bowl run.
Tom Brady was clinical when the Jaguars couldn’t get pressure on him pic.twitter.com/Zy9mvJRUM4
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) January 22, 2018
The Patriots offensive line deserves plenty of credit for New England’s comeback against Jacksonville, but faces an ever taller task this Sunday.
While the Jaguars may have recorded more sacks than Philadelphia in 2017, arguably no defensive line runs as deep as the Eagles.
Fletcher Cox, Vinny Curry, Brandon Graham, and Tim Jernigan are just the starters on Philadelphia’s defensive line. Chris Long and Derek Barnett are listed as the team’s backup defensive ends, which allows defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz the ability to keep his pass rushers fresh.
Sunday’s game in Minnesota will likely be the best defensive front New England has faced in a Super Bowl since their two meetings against the Giants, giving Patriots fans plenty of concern.
Watching New England’s offensive line face off with Philadelphia’s front-seven should be considered an All-Star event in itself. But the Patriots defensive line’s matchup with the Eagles offensive line will be just as important in the outcome of Super Bowl LII.
The Patriots actually lead all playoff teams with 11 postseason sacks and that’s after sitting out the Wild Card Round. Defensive end Trey Flowers is the top player along New England’s defensive line but faces a tough matchup against Lane Johnson on Sunday evening.
The best offensive tackle performances from the 2017 playoffs! pic.twitter.com/m69Q63IAlY
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) January 24, 2018
While Flowers led New England’s defense with 6.5 sacks during the regular season, the Patriots have multiple players that can get after the quarterback. Ten different players on New England’s roster recorded at least two sacks this season, and Sunday’s matchup between defensive end Eric Lee and Eagles offensive tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai should not go under the radar.
Foles has played phenomenally well when under pressure this postseason but has only been hit nine times in two playoff games.
Nick Foles under pressure this postseason 👀 pic.twitter.com/D67sQ5HYge
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) February 4, 2018
New England’s offensive line has also kept No. 12 clean for most of the postseason, allowing just 11 quarterbacks hits.
Sunday’s game between the Patriots and Eagles features plenty of stars and exciting players at skill positions. Rob Gronkowski, Jay Ajayi, Alshon Jeffery, Brandin Cooks, LeGarrette Blount, Dion Lewis, James White, and Zach Ertz are just some of the notable skill-position players in this year’s Super Bowl.
But the winner of Super Bowl LII will be determined in the trenches.