NEW ORLEANS — The Philadelphia Eagles’ 41-33 victory in Super Bowl LII on Sunday was reminiscent of the New Orleans Saints’ victory in Super Bowl XLIV.
In both cases a team that was expected to be good but not necessarily Super Bowl material prior to the season emerged as the NFL’s best team in the regular season, went into the championship game as an underdog because it was facing a team with greater post-season experience, then demonstrated why it was the best team by winning its first Super Bowl title.
Additionally both victories, including the Saints’ 31-17 victory over Indianapolis, rewarded extremely loyal fans bases that had waited decades to finally experience a Super Bowl championship.
There also were specific elements of both teams that were comparable:
Both teams had young, aggressive, unconventional coaches whose boldness and offensive creativity were significant factors in their teams’ championship runs. Eagles coach Doug Pederson completed his second season with his team’s championship and Saints coach Sean Payton completed his fourth season with his team’s championship.
Pederson twice chose to go for fourth down and his team converted both, the first yielding a crucial touchdown that gave Philadelphia a 22-12 halftime lead, the second extending what proved to be the decisive touchdown drive.
Payton chose to start the second half with an onside kickoff that New Orleans recovered, leading to a game-turning touchdown.
Both teams were balanced with offenses and defenses that were consistently effective in both the running game and the passing game, utilizing everyone in the passing game and a running-back committee as well as a defense that featured pressure and takeaways.
The one obvious difference was at the quarterback position, where the Eagles were led by a journeyman in Nick Foles, who was thrust into the starting lineup late in the regular season after an injury sidelined MVP candidate Carson Wentz, and the Saints were led by a surefire Hall of Famer in his prime in Drew Brees. (They do have one thing in common, however – the same high school alma mater, Westlake High in Austin, Texas.)
Saints followers can’t help but wonder what would have happened had the 2017 Saints, still led by Payton and Brees at the top of their game, had met the Eagles in the NFC Championship. New Orleans was one tackle away from forcing such a match-up until a rookie blunder by safety Marcus Williams enabled the Vikings to defeat the Saints on the final play of their divisional playoff.
We’ll never know what would have happened if such a match-up would have occurred.
We do know that Philadelphia and New Orleans will meet at some point during the 2018 regular season in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. We’ll learn the date of that game during the spring.
We also know that the defending Super Bowl champions and the Saints, who will be defending NFC South champions, will be among the favorites to win the NFC next season.
The innovative minds and bold spirits of Pederson and Payton as well as the talent on balanced rosters should make both teams’ fan bases optimistic.
In Philadelphia there’s no reason to believe the Eagles can’t have comparable success to this season’s next season and in New Orleans, provided free-agent-to-be Brees returns, there’s no reason to believe the Saints can’t match or exceed this year’s success.
This article was originally published by Crescent City Sports. For the most comprehensive sports coverage in the Big Easy, visit crescentcitysports.com.