FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Life after Super Bowl LII hasn’t been what many expected for either the New England Patriots or Philadelphia Eagles.

The Eagles were primed and ready to become the next NFL superpower after their stunning take-down of the Patriots.

Coach Doug Pederson managed to upset the mighty Patriots with his backup quarterback and innovative play-calling. Observers couldn’t wait to see what the Eagles had in store for an encore.

The Patriots? No one was sure if Bill Belichick would survive his benching of Malcolm Butler during the 41-33 loss. To this day, the so-called real story behind the Patriots head coach shelving one of his top corners while the secondary got torched by Nick Foles, remains a mystery.

In the immediate aftermath, there were signs of pushback against Belichick from Patriot players on social media. No one had ever dared challenge or go against the head coach. Had Belichick lost the team? Was the dynasty crumbling?


While the Eagles and Patriots have certainly undergone changes since that 2017 season championship game, from personnel to the coaching staff, it’s the Patriots who continue to be the superpower, not the Eagles.

Even after suffering such a devastating loss and controversial personnel decision by the head coach involving a top player, the Patriots didn’t head into a tailspin. They just proceeded the following year as if nothing had happened. They just kept winning.

That’s not to say it was easy, or fences didn’t have to mend.

Getting past Butler’s Super Bowl benching and other internal issues festering between Belichick and Tom Brady had to happen, and over the course of the offseason, OTAs and training camp, the players were able to move on and get back on better footing with the head coach. That was significant for Belichick and eventually capturing championship No. 6 last season.

Defensive captain Devin McCourty acknowledged as much, but also said whether they win or lose a Super Bowl, players usually have to overcome some kind of emotional hurdle.

“There’s always something,” said McCourty. “Tiquan Underwood getting kicked off the night before (Super Bowl XLVI), whatever it is, you have to be able to move past it to be able to play the next season.”

Butler also moved on, signing with the Titans as a free agent, and whatever happened in that Super Bowl to cause Belichick to keep him on the sidelines became a footnote after the Patriots won the next one.

As for the Eagles, they haven’t dealt with the aftershocks quite as well. At the moment, they’re trying to regain the swagger they had after winning.

Carson Wentz, who was an MVP candidate before tearing an ACL and handing the baton to Foles, has resumed his role while Foles is now playing quarterback for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Former offensive coordinator Frank Reich, who was a big part of the Super Bowl game plan, is now the head coach in Indy. So there have been adjustments for the Eagles, along with having that bull’s-eye on their back being the defending champs last season.

“I think the biggest thing you realize (after you win), is how hard it is to repeat,” Pederson said on a conference call this week. “That’s why I have a lot of respect for what coach Belichick and the Patriots have done for many years, being able to repeat. That’s what we’ve learned through this whole process, about the hard work and preparation and sacrifices you make along the way in this sport to try to put yourself in position to play in that game again. For me personally, that’s what it’s about. You have to continue to trust your process.”

The Eagles couldn’t make it past the divisional round last year, when they once again needed to turn to Foles. The Super Bowl MVP couldn’t deliver, and this past offseason left via free agency.
At 5-4, sitting behind the Cowboys in the NFC East, the Eagles would be out of the playoffs if the season ended today.

The Patriots, at 8-1, are a lock to get in. It’s almost automatic. Players are confident whether they win or lose a Super Bowl, they’ll make a run the following season. That’s what having faith in the organization, the head coach, and the quarterback does each year.

“The last 20 years, I think you have to look at ownership, coach Belichick, and Tom Brady,” said Duron Harmon. “Everybody else has kind of been in and out, but being able to win football games hasn’t changed. You have to look at those three and see how consistent it’s been, how they’ve been able to work with each other, and how coach has been able to get the best out of his players each and every year no matter who’s hurt, who’s injured, who’s getting cut … He has the method of getting the best out of players to win football games.”

Belichick’s secret? No year is the same. Every year is different. The past is the past. It’s a clean canvas.

“Each team is its own team. It’s a new team. There may be carryover players, and coaches and some things may carry over, but I wouldn’t necessarily say they’re the same,” Belichick said this week. “Each year is a new year, and each of our performances from year to year is contingent on our preparation and our ability to perform in that season that we’re being judged in, not what we did in some other years. Personally, I don’t really put a lot of weight or a whole lot of evaluation into what’s happened in the past. I try to focus more on the present, and how that can be improved and accelerated to work to a higher level. That’s really what it’s about for me.”

Comments are not available on this story.