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SUPER BOWL XXXIX Eagles' defense dominant when it's mattered most



Published: Thu, February 3, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Culpepper, Favre and Vick all had their worst games against Philadelphia.

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- Jim Johnson spends countless hours studying game films, dissecting offenses, searching for weaknesses and plotting his attack.

The other defensive mastermind in this Super Bowl -- New England's Bill Belichick owns the "genius" label -- isn't high-profile, and his players are underrated. But Johnson has a knack for confusing quarterbacks and shutting down prolific offenses with his complex schemes.

Brett Favre had his worst game of the season in Philadelphia. Daunte Culpepper struggled in the playoffs against the Eagles. Michael Vick never had a chance in the NFC championship game.

Next up is Tom Brady and the Patriots in the Super Bowl. Johnson, the Eagles' unpredictable defensive coordinator, is busy cooking up another one of his innovative game plans.

"Coach Johnson has the ability to know what the offense is doing or what blitz call to make," Eagles linebacker Mark Simoneau said Wednesday. "We come from a lot of different places. We drop a lot of different guys into coverage, so it's confusing for the backs and the offensive line. You have to have guys who can execute the game plan, and we have talented players here."

Defense overshadowed

Overshadowed by Donovan McNabb, Terrell Owens and the rest of a high-powered offense, Philadelphia's star-studded defense, which includes four Pro Bowl players, is one of the best in the NFL.

When the games mattered, the Eagles had the stingiest defense in the league, allowing 222 points in the first 15. They finished tied with the Patriots for second-fewest points allowed after the reserves gave up 38 in the meaningless regular season finale against Cincinnati.

"There's a lot to be concerned about with those guys," said Brady, who has been MVP of two Super Bowls in the last three years. "They have playmakers at every position. They can force you to turn the ball over. They are very explosive on defense, and you usually don't hear that."

The addition of defensive end Jevon Kearse almost equaled the impact Owens had on the offense. A disruptive force on the line, Kearse significantly bolstered the pass rush. Johnson utilized Kearse's speed by playing him at both end spots and sometimes at linebacker, confounding quarterbacks and the offensive line.

Philadelphia finished second in the league with 47 sacks, including 71/2 from Kearse, one of just five Eagles -- and the only defensive starter -- who have played in a Super Bowl. The Eagles get a lot of sacks from their secondary and linebackers because Johnson likes to blitz just about any player on any play.

The Patriots are getting ready for Philadelphia's aggressive style, though they're aware Johnson will adjust on the go.

"I think it's important for us to be ready for pressure, but realize he might pressure 50 percent of the time or 10 percent of the time," Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis said. "We have to be ready whichever way he goes."




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