KNTU Sports roundtable: Reflections on Super Bowl LII

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DENTON, Texas (KNTU) In somewhat of a stunner, the Philadelphia Eagles defeated the New England Patriots 41-33 in Super Bowl LII for their first championship in the Super Bowl era.

After the success of last week’s roundtable, the KNTU Sports minds have reassembled for a post-Super Bowl discussion.

Participating in the roundtable are:

Grayson Nolette, KNTU Sports Anchor
David Patterson, Green Guys
Peyton Russell, KNTU Sports Anchor
Joshua Skinner, KNTU Sports Director

Q. The Philadelphia Eagles are Super Bowl Champions after defeating the New England Patriots 41-33 on Sunday, Feb. 4. What was your biggest takeaway from each side of this game?

Nolette: For the Patriots, my biggest takeaway is that they are not invincible and that it takes more than just a solid football game to defeat them. New England has to make major mistakes in order to lose in the playoffs and that is what happened in Super Bowl LII. For the Eagles, my biggest takeaway is that defense STILL WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS. Nick Foles is not the first backup or underrated quarterback to win a Super Bowl. Baltimore did it twice, The Rams did it with Kurt Warner, and I’m sure welll see more quarterbacks rise from the bench to lift the Lombardi Trophy as the years go by. But you still need a great defense and players like Brandon Graham to swoop in and provide you with the X-factors and big play mistakes in order to down a dynasty like the Pats have built and secure your first ever Super Bowl.

Patterson: The Philadelphia Eagles looked primed to be the top dog of the NFC for the foreseeable future. Doug Pederson showed his play calling genius, but there was something that came out after the game that showed me why Pederson is so great. He believes in his guys and trusts what they are seeing on the field. When the Eagles ran the trick play on fourth-and-goal that led to the Nick Foles touchdown reception, it was Foles that called the play, not Pederson. As for the Patriots, they have a lot of internal issues to work out. The Malcolm Bulter benching still has not been explained, and the speculation as to why Josh McDaniels stayed in New England looks bad. Many are saying that McDaniels was needed to stay because the relationship between Brady and Belichick is so toxic that McDaniels is needed to keep them at bay.

Russell: From the Eagles side, I think you have to really consider who’s going to be your QB in 2018. Nick Foles is experienced and just won a Super Bowl. Although Carson Wentz is young and has great potential, I don’t think it’s an automatic decision to trade Foles and play Wentz. For the Patriots, what’s next Belichick, Brady, and Gronkowski? Belichick made one of the most interesting coaching decisions in Super Bowl history by benching Malcolm Butler, who might’ve been able to change the outcome of the game. Brady is still the best quarterback in the NFL, but how long will he want to keep playing after a tough loss like this? And for Gronk, will he ever get past his injury issues? He’s missed two full seasons of games over his career, so when does he start saying enough is enough?

Skinner: I didn’t think that Nick Foles would hold up over an entire game of this magnitude. He was making throws that Wentz wouldn’t even dream of trying and his progression since his Week 17 debacle against the Cowboys was a sight to behold. On the flip side, I’m surprised that Tom Brady didn’t make the big play at the end of the game. His coaching staff didn’t do him any favors with the horrifying kickoff return trick play that set them back about 10-20 yards, but I fully expected Brady to pull out the win.

Q. What do you make of the Patriot’s decision to not play Malcolm Butler?

Nolette: Butler’s absence in New England’s starting lineup was detrimental to the Patriots defense after the corner played in over 98% of the teams defensive snaps during the regular season. His benching was determined to be from a slew of reasons including sickness before kickoff, an unimpressive week of practice, and a minor team rule violation–supposedly involving curfew. Those three factors gave head coach Bill Belichek enough of a reason to bench one of his best players in the biggest game on the planet. It came back to bite him and the defense in the rear, because Butler’s replacement, Eric Rowe, didn’t have the most solid Super Bowl performance. Nevertheless, Belichick would never have made such a move if he didn’t think it was for the betterment of the whole team so I will respect it, whether or not it is the move I would have made personally.

Patterson: I am not sure we will ever get the truth behind Butler’s benching. It is inexplicable that you tell your best cornerback just seconds before the national anthem that he is not going to play in the biggest game of the year. Butler played on 98 percent of New England’s defensive snaps. While it is true that he has had a down year, he has shown his ability to step up in big games.

Russell: I think the Malcolm Butler situation has a lot of unanswered questions about what happened to him being benched. I really believe he could’ve have made a play or two in the game that tilted the outcome toward New England. And I’m not sure he returns in a Patriots uniform in 2018.

Skinner: In Bill Belichick I trust. Butler is a defensive playmaker for New England, but Belichick has earned the right to do what he wants based on past success. Did it likely cost them the game? Yes. But even great coaches will sometimes make moves that don’t pan out.

Q. Late in the game, Foles hit tight end Zac Ertz for a touchdown pass on a simple slant route…or so we thought. After an agonizing review process, the call on the field was upheld. Do you agree with the call? How should the NFL define a “catch” this offseason?

Nolette: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell already discussed at his yearly Super Bowl address before the game that the “catch rule” will be extensively looked at and probably changed this offseason. I think that the Ertz touchdown only emphasized that rules for catches specifically need to be updated as-soon-as-possible. To answer the question, I think that Ertz did catch the ball and score to seal the Eagles win, but when it comes to how the NFL should define a legal “catch”? I think the main controversy of the rule comes from when the ball makes contact with the ground as it is the hands of the receiver, or when a player loses control of the ball while making a move for the goal line and a possible score. I think that is where we need to provide the most clarification and draw a much clearer line of what is, and isn’t a catch in professional football.

Patterson: There was no question that Ertz caught that ball. I’m not an expert on the catch rule (honestly no one else is either), but I do know that if you make a “football move” after catching the ball, then that constitutes possession. Ertz caught the ball, turned upfield and dove over Devin McCourty into the end zone. From what I understand, his “football move” to turn upfield and dive for the touchdown established possession, and once the ball crosses the plane the play is over and it makes no matter whether or not he drops the ball then.

Russell: I believe it was a catch–and there should’ve been no question about it–but the NFL has overturned calls like that before and it’s ridiculous that we have to have lengthy delays for officials to determine an obvious catch. A catch should be if you have control of the ball with two hands. If you’re going to the ground, and lose the ball, it must be a football move to be ruled a catch. Oh, and since we’re talking about catches: Dez caught it.

Skinner: It was clearly a catch, and it’s frustrating that it took so long to review. Ertz caught the ball, took two steps, turned, and dove into the end zone. It’s eerily reminiscent of the Dez Bryant play where he caught the ball, turned, took two steps, and dove into the end zone. If it were up to me, we’d move back to the way catches were called in the 90s. This is a catch. A player who controls the ball and makes a deliberate move is in possession of the ball. Where this changes would be on plays like a diving catch, where the ball would have to be possessed through the ground.

Q. With 38 seconds left in the first half, Foles became the first quarterback to catch a touchdown pass in the Super Bowl. It was a beautifully designed trick play…except that it wasn’t. The officials missed a blatant illegal formation that cost the Patriots six points. Should the NFL continue its trend of using the best individual officials instead of the best crew? Should presnap penalties such as a false start and illegal formation be reviewable?

Nolette: I have always been against the idea that individual referees are worse for games than a full crew. The officials, much like the teams they are officiating, work better when they are the same guys that they’ve been riffing with all season. The communication and fluidity of the game are much more pristine, and yes the job is the same no matter the referees. That being said, would you personally be better off working with people you’re familiar with and know the tendencies of or complete strangers? I think the mentality is the same among the league’s referees. Now should pre-snap penalty reviews be legal? I would have to say I’m indifferent to such a change for the time being, because if you make presnap penalties reviewable, how long before other penalties join the trend? Too many rule changes can change the NFL for the worse rather than the better.

Patterson: The question of best officials or best crew is a tricky one. I think the best crew is the way to go. You want guys who know what the other is seeing and know how to work in concert. As for the penalty on the trick play, I’ve gone back to watch this play numerous times, and as the Eagles’ Nelson Agholor goes out to his spot you can see him gesture to the official. This is something you will commonly see receivers do to okay their spot with the referee. Now, I cannot say whether or not that was what Agholor was doing, but if it was then the official told him, yeah you can line up there before he was set. That’s unacceptable officiating and there needs to be more accountability.

Russell: I think if you start reviewing false starts/illegal formations, you will have games that go on for five hours. Even though this was a turning point in the game, I don’t think it will be good for the game to review those kinds of plays.

Skinner: I didn’t notice this play until the day after the Super Bowl when it blew up on Twitter. The official is right there and makes no call; however, it’s possible that the official ruled that the receiver was on the line of scrimmage (LOS). Why would I say this? Because the NFL has become far too lenient on players who “cover” at the LOS. Receivers used to have to line up on the LOS, no exceptions. But now receivers are lining up “on” the LOS, despite being a yard or more off the ball. As a former receiver, this drives me crazy. Receivers do this to avoid jam coverage at the line, and the league lets them get away with it. The rule needs to be more strictly enforced. Despite this, I’m not in favor of reviewing these types of penalties. Instant replay already takes up too much time, and adding to the length of the game isn’t necessary. Nobody wants a four hour NFL game.

Q. The Philadelphia Eagles have a big question mark this offseason with the health of Carson Wentz; however, the even bigger question of what to do with Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles has emerged. What should the Eagles do about Foles during the offseason?

Nolette: Foles is probably not going to be with the Philadelphia Eagles by the time the 2018 season begins. There are always too many teams looking for a quarterback that can win them a Super Bowl, and Foles’ performance this postseason definitely proved he can win the big game and can still hold down the starting job on an NFL team. Now, where he ends up is beyond me, and location will also determine his future success. A quarterback like Foles is only as good as the system around him. He will not change a franchise, but he can improve and help the right franchise. The Eagles have too much love, money, and confidence invested in Wentz right now to even consider a competition, and Philly was basically unstoppable with him under center. Foles has too many eyes on him right now to not cash in on this opportunity and try to find a starting spot somewhere else in the league, while he is still the most popular quarterback in the country.

Patterson: This can be a real loss-loss situation for the Eagles. If they trade Foles, then the locker room and fans could turn on the franchise for giving away a man who will be immortalized in Philadelphia. However, trading Foles could and would net some huge value. Two years ago, we saw the Eagles get a first-round and fourth-round draft pick for Sam Bradford. The return on investment would be much greater for Nick Foles. The determining factor for me is that you need to hold on to Foles until you can be certain that Carson Wentz is back in full health. If they have the cap space, then the Eagles should extend Foles and then trade him after next year.

Russell: I will say this, it’s not automatic to trade Foles and play Wentz in 2018. The Eagles think Foles will get them 1st round picks and a top-five player in the game; it just won’t happen. I think in the end they will trade Foles, but it can’t be as easy of a decision.

Skinner: The Eagles have two options here. First, they can keep Foles around and have him back up Carson Wentz next year; however, there is a caveat to that. We’ve seen it before where a young quarterback has an all-world season, only to have injury completely derail his career. If Wentz returns in 2018 and struggles, Eagles fans will be screaming for Foles by Week 3. It’s the most villainous, unforgiving fan base in sports. They’ll give Wentz the benefit-of-the-doubt initially, but it was Foles who brought them the championship, and they’ll never forget that. Given the issues that the first option creates, I see a trade of Foles as more likely. There are teams out there that could use a player like Foles. I don’t think Philadelphia will get a first-round pick for him, but they may be able to squeeze out a second-round pick from someone who is a quarterback away from contention.

Q. Enough about sports. What was your favorite and least favorite Super Bowl LII commercial?

Nolette: I fell in love with Danny Devito’s M&M’S commercial as soon as I saw it because it was an original idea for the company to turn one of their characters into a real person, but also kind of just uncomfortably weird. My least favorite was apparently a “fan-favorite”, but I honestly hated the “Dirty Dancing” themed commercial with the New York Giants. I’m not a hater of the team or anything, and I completely understood what they were trying to do, but it all just came off as stupidly awkward to me. Plus, it didn’t look like a single Giants player was interested in dancing for that commercial besides Landon Collins who just stood off to the side and grooved, while the rest of the team did a full dance number. Lucky him.

Patterson: The best Super Bowl commercial was the Morgan Freeman/Peter Dinklage rap battle for Doritos and Mountain Dew. It was original and entertaining, both things that the commercials have lacked in recent years. The worst was the Steven Tyler Kia commercial. The only conclusion that I could come to was that Tyler wants to go back in time to undo his plastic surgery.

Russell: My favorite commercial was Alexa losing her voice. The worst one had to be the flavored Diet Coke commercial. Not sure if that was worth $5 million.

Skinner:  My favorite commercial was the Budweiser “Stand By You” ad. I’m a guy who gets the feels when people with differing opinions come together. Besides the national reaction to 9/11, I have never seen a group of people come together to help a community like people did for Hurricane Harvey victims in South Texas. My least favorite was probably the Diet Coke commercial with the weird, dancing girl. I feel for her because she’ll have to live with that for the rest of her life.

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