PHILADELPHIA – Can’t win without a franchise quarterback, right?
Tell that to Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan and Drew Brees. They should have time to talk since they just got bounced from the playoffs by Blake Bortles, Nick Foles and Case Keenum.
“Yeah, you look at the conference title games this week and it’s a different kind of year,” said Eagles linebacker Bryan Braman, who played with Keenum in Houston and is now teammates with Foles.
“[Tom] Brady has five Super Bowl rings, and the other three quarterbacks still left in the tourney hardly have three playoff wins.”
That’s not true. The other three have four playoff wins.
Some of us still beating the it’s-a-team-game drum in a sea of Fantasy Footballers kind of like the possibility of Super Bowl LII featuring Bortles and Jacksonville’s second-ranked defense against Keenum and the Vikings’ top-ranked defense or Foles and the Eagles’ fourth-ranked defense.
“What I notice about this postseason is the defensive side of the ball,” said Beau Allen, an Eagles defensive tackle who grew up a Packers fan in Minnetonka. “I think we have four of the best defenses in the NFL still in the playoffs.”
The Patriots rank 29th in yards allowed, but are fifth in fewest points allowed (18.5). The Vikings rank first in that category (15.8), while the Jaguars are second (16.8) and the Eagles fourth (18.4).
Meanwhile, at the quarterback position, we’ve never seen such lopsided experience as what we’ll see this weekend.
Brady is playing in a conference title game for the seventh consecutive season and the 12th time overall. Both are records. Before Brady came along, Oakland Hall of Famers Gene Upshaw and George Blanda held the record of playing in 10 conference title games.
Conference title games played for Keenum, Foles and Bortles: zero heading into Sunday.
Brady is 26-9 in the postseason, including 5-2 in Super Bowls. The other three are 4-1 in the postseason, with all four victories coming this postseason. Brady has thrown 1,378 postseason passes. The other three: 152.
Brady also threw three touchdowns in last week’s rout of the Titans. That extended his record for most multi-touchdown games in the postseason to 21. Brett Favre is second at 15.
Keenum, Foles and Bortles’ total: 1, by Foles with the Eagles in a loss during the 2013 season.
And this might be the most amazing stat of all:
Brady played his first postseason game on Jan. 19, 2002. Keenum was 14 years old, Foles 12 and Bortles 9.
Bortles’ play hasn’t quieted speculation that his days in Jacksonville are numbered. Win or lose, Foles heads back to the bench once Carson Wentz’s knee heals. And Keenum, well, who the heck knows what’s going to happen and where it’s going to happen for this soon-to-be free agent?
Having played all but six quarters for a team that’s 14-3, one thing is certain: The best free-agent bargain in 2017 is going to fetch a lot more than $2 million in 2018.
But first, there’s the matter of playing an NFC Championship Game between two old friends who spent 2015 with the St. Louis Rams. Keenum went 3-2 that year, while Foles went 4-7.
“It’s pretty wild,” Foles said Wednesday. “We were on the same team not too many years ago. But Case’s success and the way he plays doesn’t surprise me because he and I were together. We prepared together and were around each other every day.”
After that season, Foles spent an entire week contemplating retirement. He said that was “the best thing” he ever did because it forced him to think about why he was playing football.
He signed with the Chiefs that offseason, reuniting him with Andy Reid, who was in Philadelphia during Foles’ first stint with the Eagles.
And now one of these two overlooked journeymen could be facing the Patriots in Brady’s eighth Super Bowl.
“I think the big message is no matter what happens, keep believing in yourself,” he said. “Keep working hard and never give up.”