Super Bowl Postmortem, Women's Hoops

The best thing about Super Bowls involving the New England Patriots is that they’re always great games. New England has played in eight Super Bowls in the last 17 years, and every one has been a highly competitive, entertaining, down-to-the-wire thriller.

The Patriots have won five Super Bowls by 3, 3, 3, 4, and 6 points (in overtime). Their three losses have come by 3, 4 and 8 points. So the average margin of victory in the eight games is a little over four points.

The Philadelphia Eagles' 41-33 victory over the Patriots yesterday, despite representing the largest winning margin, certainly fit the pattern. Only this time it was the Eagles’ journeyman quarterback, Nick Foles, leading a Tom Brady-like drive in the final minutes to win the game. It was particularly satisfying to this observer that fellow Stanford alum Zach Ertz, from my new adopted hometown of Danville, scored the winning TD.

Other notes from Super Bowl Sunday:

Staying aggressive: Unlike Atlanta last year, which took a big lead on the Patriots and then went conservative, Philly coach Doug Pederson never took his foot off the pedal. His call on 4th down from the 1 yard line just before halftime was the play of the game, resulting in a TD reception by Foles. Then, at the end of the game, rather than play it safe and kick a field goal to go ahead 35-33, Pederson went for the touchdown and got it on a beautiful throw and catch by Foles and Ertz. In a pre-game speech to the team, former Packers’ Super Bowl hero Brett Favre told the Eagles to stay aggressive if they got ahead. Apparently, they listened.

Collinsworth confusion: Can't figure what game NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth was watching. The NBC analyst predicted--wrongly--that Eagles’ touchdown catches by Corey Clements and Ertz would both be over-turned. From this vantage point, there was no question in either case that the TDs would stand.

One and done: There was only one sack in the game, but it was a big one. After Ertz’s touchdown, the Patriots got the ball back with a little over two minutes to play, plenty of time for Brady to engineer one of his patented game-winning drives. But Philly defensive end Brandon Graham got to the Patriot QB, knocked the ball loose and teammate Derek Barnett recovered. (There was also only one punt in the game).

MVP Jinx: Brady became the ninth straight NFL MVP to lose in the Super Bowl. The others: Matt Ryan (2016), Cam Newton (2015), Payton Manning (2013 and 2009), Brady (2007), Shaun Alexander (2005), Rich Gannon (2002) and Kurt Warner (2001). The last MVP to win the Super Bowl was Warner in 1999.

Pac-12 Shines: After an embarrassing season on and off the gridiron, the Pac-12 finally got something to cheer about in the Super Bowl. Four of the Eagles’ stars were Pac-12 products—Foles (Arizona), Ertz (Stanford), running back LeGarrette Blount (Oregon) and wide receiver Nelson Agholor (USC). All four players made key contributions and had impressive stat lines: Foles, the game's MVP, was 28 of 43 for 373 yards and 3 TDs; he also caught the aforementioned TD pass. Ertz caught seven passes for 67 yards and the game-winning score. Agholor had nine catches for 84 yards, several for first downs. And Blount rushed for 90 yards on 14 carries, including a 21-yard TD in the second quarter.

Pink guts it out: Didn’t love Justin Timberlake’s halftime show, but Leslie Odom Jr.’s rendition of “America the Beautiful” and Pink’s national anthem were both terrific. Pink was suffering from the flu and scored additional points by pulling a lozenge out of her mouth right before nailing the anthem.

Women’s Hoops: Switching gears, the most complete basketball player in the Pac-12 may be a woman, Oregon’s sophomore guard Sabrina Ionescu. I'm not kidding. Ionescu, a graduate of Orinda’s Miramonte H.S., is a great ball handler with court vision not normally seen in a young college player. She’s an excellent shooter with the ability to hit from three-point range or take it to the hoop. Against Cal last week she bombed a couple of threes from NBA distance. Ionescu’s also a terrific rebounder; she crashes the boards and averages eight per game. And she plays with intensity on defense. She reminds me a lot of Stanford great Todd Lichti, who was also from Walnut Creek and, like Ionescu, ambidextrous.

Having said all that, Ionescu was outplayed on Sunday by Stanford's Brittany McPhee. (We took a break from the pre-game Super Bowl blather to catch the second half of the Stanford-Oregon game on ESPN2).

In the final quarter of Stanford's 78-65 upset victory over the No. 6 Ducks, McPhee just took over the game, scoring Stanford's last 19 points and the final 11 points of the game. The six-foot senior guard ended up with 33 points, including 31 in the second half. In the final 10 minutes, she made 9 of 11 shots. Wow!

As usual, Tara Vanderveer’s team is steadily improving as the season progresses, likely peaking just in time for the NCAA tourney. There’s a reason Vanderveer has won over 1,000 games and reached the Final Four seven times in the last 10 years.

Gary Cavalli - Bowl and League co-founder, author, speaker 

Gary Cavalli, the former Sports Information Director and Associate Athletic Director at Stanford University, was co-founder and executive director of the college football bowl game played in the Bay Area, and previously was co-founder and President of the American Basketball League.

Get in touch//@cavalli49//gacavalli49@gmail.com

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