Eagles plan to pressure Brady, not let him 'bake pizzas back there'
The Philadelphia Eagles may be less than a week from facing the winningest quarterback in Super Bowl history, but they certainly don't sound like a team that's intimidated by the Patriots mystique.
In fact, they sound like a team ready to take on the challenge. And nowhere does the confidence exude more than from the defensive line.
Talking to his fellow D-linemen during a recent team meeting, former New England defensive end Chris Long told his teammates, "Let's go out there and make (Tom Brady) uncomfortable."
That message, relayed to the media by Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox on Sunday, is part of a larger plan the Eagles plan to incorporate against the only quarterback with five Super Bowl wins on Sunday.
"As I say every week, it's going to come down to the front four guys getting after the quarterback and making him uncomfortable in the pocket," Cox said before the team left for Minneapolis.
And when it comes to teams capable of making Brady uncomfortable, few can match the potential of the Eagles. Philadelphia has perhaps the best depth at defensive line in the NFL, with a league-high seven defensive linemen getting at least 400 snaps.
And that's not lost on Patriots coach Bill Belichick.
"It's a lot more than four," Belichick said when asked about the Eagles' front four. "I wish it was four. It's about eight, nine.
"It's a very disruptive group -- hard to run against, hard to throw against, and they're well-coached."
In the NFC Championship Game, the Eagles sacked Minnesota Vikings quarterback Case Keenum just once. But they hit him eight times, recorded one strip-sack and intercepted two passes -- the first returned 50 yards by Patrick Robinson for a touchdown to tie the game at 7-7 in the first quarter. The Eagles would score the next 31 points and cruise to a 38-7 victory.
The last time the Eagles and Patriots played one another, a 35-28 Philadelphia win in New England in December 2015, Brady was sacked four times, hit 10 times and intercepted twice. Philadelphia safety Malcolm Jenkins returned one of those picks 99 yards for a score.
Brandon Graham collected two sacks and three quarterback hits in that game. He led the Eagles this season with 9.5 sacks.
The Eagles will likely also watch plenty of film from the AFC title game. The Patriots may have beaten Jacksonville 24-20, but the Jaguars were in Brady's face from the get-go with three sacks and seven quarterback hits.
Ultimately, it was Cox with the best synopsis of how the Eagles have to attack Brady.
"We can't go out and just let him bake pizzas back there," Cox said. "If we do that, it's going to be a long game for the back end."
Super Bowl LII will take place Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, with kickoff set for 6:30 p.m. ET.
--Field Level Media