The Chargers fell to the Eagles 26-24 in Week 4 at the StubHub Center and lost 21-13 to the Patriots a month later at Gillette Stadium in Week 8.
So Chargers defensive tackle Brandon Mebane had an up-close view of both teams in 2017, and with the Eagles having three quality running backs at their disposal in LeGarrette Blount, Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement, Mebane believes Philadelphia should lean on the running game in Sunday’s Super Bowl matchup.
The Atlanta Falcons did so last year with good success in building a 28-3 lead, but famously ran just five running plays the rest of the game in allowing the Patriots steal a 34-28 win in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl last season.
Three years ago, Mebane was a part of the Seattle Seahawks team that failed to give the ball to Marshawn Lynch from a yard out as Malcolm Butler intercepted a Russell Wilson pass at the goal line to secure a New England victory over Seattle in Super Bowl XLIX.
“You have to run the ball against New England,” Mebane said. “You have to find a way to get those running lanes going. You have to keep New England’s offense off the field.”
The Eagles finished third in the league in rushing during the regular season, averaging 132 rushing yards a contest. And with Nick Foles doing a good job of running the offense in a decisive win over the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship Game two weeks ago, Philadelphia could be set up to grind out first downs and play keep away from Tom Brady and New England’s offense.
“If they’re up and can get a lead and the running game is working, stick to it,” Mebane said. “A lot of teams like the Falcons last year, I just think they try to be too fancy, instead of just try and win the game. Why go there? Why do that? There’s really no need -- just play fundamental football. Because at the end of the day that’s all the Patriots do -- play fundamental football.”
Of course, the Eagles will have to deal with facing one of the best quarterbacks ever to play the game in Brady, and the fact that Patriots coach Bill Belichick will have his team prepared for any scenario that could occur on Sunday.
Against the Patriots this past season, the Chargers did a good job of forcing New England to march the ball down the field, holding Brady to just one touchdown pass. But as they did against the Chargers and seem to inevitably accomplish against the most teams, the Patriots find a way to win.
“I just think if it’s a close game and I’m a betting man, I’m going to put my money on New England,” Mebane said. “And I say that because if you ever watch New England, in any type of situation where they’re down, no situation is bigger, greater or smaller to where they can’t handle it.
“I feel New England prepares for those type of moments in practice. You want talented players on your team, but if you look at their roster and compare their roster to ours, their roster is not the most talented roster, but I think the key thing is they have poise and they prepare for any moment and any situation of the game. They never panic. They never have doubt and they always believe they can win a game.
“If you ever look at Bill Belichick’s face, he always has that pissed-off look, with his arms tucked in and folded walking down the sidelines. It’s just like nothing fazes him. He’s just ready for anything and everything.”