To become super, Eagles need to continue building an elite offense

Posted: February 06, 2014

WE SEARCH for lessons after Super Bowls because there are no more games to watch and we must do something with our time (between sessions of snow shoveling). We search for patterns, or road maps, or recipes for success - and coincidence, causation and funny bounces of the ball be damned.

If the result does not fit on a bumper sticker, your search has not succeeded. And so, you're seeing a lot of this in the days since the Seattle Seahawks dismantled the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 48.

This:

Defense wins championships.

And, this, in a more elongated and hyperventilated form:

Oh, my God, Chip Kelly is building the Eagles around this great and explosive offense, but now the Seahawks and even the 49ers are proving that defense is still what it takes in the NFL and that these things run in cycles and the Eagles are on the wrong end of the cycle and Kelly is doing it all wrong and the Kelly vision is doomed to failure and where exactly is the Gus bus and . . .

If that is the lesson you want to take from the Super Bowl, your outrageous worry will more than keep you warm during this cruel joke of a Philadelphia winter. But the energy seems truly misplaced.

Instead, the lesson from this Super Bowl is pretty consistent with what we have seen in recent years.

That is, in order to win a championship in the NFL, you need to play at an elite level on one side of the ball and a good, resourceful level on the other side of the ball. Both are important: truly elite on either offense or defense, and not significantly deficient on the other side.

Oh - and you have to play well in the big game.

All of which means the Eagles are doing this properly, and don't need to undergo any kind of wrenching midcourse correction.

The worst mistake an NFL team can make is to try to be pretty good at everything. That never works. It felt as if the Eagles tried to do that at times during Andy Reid's tenure, and it just isn't the way to go. Resources in the sport are limited by the salary cap, and spreading them out evenly only raises a team so far. Better to tilt heavily in one direction or the other - but not so far as to leave the other side bankrupt.

In the NFL in this period, that calculus decides everything.

At this point, you probably will point out that five times in Super Bowl history, the best offense in the league played against the best defense - and that four times, the best defense won, including the Seahawks. You will say that offense is harder to sustain deep into the playoffs, and that the extra week off gives defenses the advantage, and that the history of the game has always been that the great defense will dominate. And, well, OK.

But in one of the four losses, the No. 1 offense scored more points than its season average and still lost (Super Bowl XIII, Steelers over Cowboys). In another, the No. 1 offense lost to a team that had both the No. 1 defense and the No. 2 offense, which isn't exactly a crime (Super Bowl XIX, 49ers over Dolphins). It's also fair to note that guys such as Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw were on the best-defense teams a couple of times in those games.

In the here and now, yes, the Seahawks are everybody's ongoing problem in the NFC. Anybody who has to try to win a playoff game in Seattle will be punching from behind, and will be doing it for the foreseeable future. What they did to an elite Denver offense on a neutral field is more than impressive, too. How they solved the riddle of Peyton Manning will be every NFL coaching staff's offseason study project.

But if you can get it blocked up front, you can beat them - same as with every team for forever. If you can get it blocked and you can make enough big plays, it can be done. It is why the Eagles should keep adding to their offensive line this offseason in the draft. It is why they should work to add more size and speed at the receiving position, either in the draft or free agency.

Yes, they need to get the defense better. But they cannot forget the side of the ball where they need to be elite - and it is the offensive side, still.


On Twitter: @theidlerich

Blog: philly.com/DNL

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