Al Thompson
Eagles defenders (from top left clockwise: Brandon Graham, Beau Allen, Derek Barnett and masked Fletcher Cox) agree the focus Sunday will be to stop the run, but most important…get after Tom Brady. Photos by Erik Houser and Al Thompson.

MINNEAPOLIS: If the Eagles are going to knock off the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots this Sunday, it won’t happen with a shootout. The path to the Lombardi Trophy is from defense and turnovers.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will be starting his eighth Super Bowl game this Sunday. He has won five of the seven Super Bowls he has played in. The two losses were to the New York Giants.

Eli Manning gets a lot of the credit for those wins, mostly because of the miracle completions he made at the end of those games. But make no mistake, Big Blue won those titles because of a suffocating defense.

In both Giants wins, Brady was pressured from start to finish. The Patriots, under Brady, have lost a total of nine playoff games against and amazing 27 wins.

The common theme in those losses were from the winning team’s ability to get pressure on Brady. That one area of the game will surely decide the winner.

Several Birds core defenders talked about the keys to the game and stopping Brady.

“If you want to win the game, you have to disrupt the leader, and that’s the quarterback” defensive end Brandon Graham said at Wednesday’s media get together. “That’s the one who is gonna distribute the ball to everybody. We’re going to have our hands full because we’re playing against the best. We have to make sure we prepare ourselves. When we actually get the game plan in we’ll actually have an idea of how we’re going to do it.”

Graham said he thinks the Super Bowl is in their laps.

“That’s what it’s going to come down to, the defensive line play,” Graham said. “How we get after the run and the pass. With us, we want to be able to rush four…that’s what we pride ourselves…being able to rush four. not having to blitz to get pressure. We take on that challenge to go out and practice hard.”

“We just have to make sure we stop the run,” Graham continued. “We have make sure that we figure out which way they’re trying to attack us and then just do our jobs and make plays when they come our way. They don’t beat themselves very often. We want to make them uncomfortable and that starts with us up front.”

Rookie defensive end Derek Barnett tried to make it like playing the Pats was just another game, which is not a bad way to keep the jitters away.

“I think it’s important every game we play,” Barnett said. “We want to get to the quarterback as much as possible and make him feel uncomfortable. It’s very important this week as it is just as important every week.”

Defensive Beau Allen, a veteran out of Wisconsin, talked about the importance of the middle of the defensive line having an impact on Brady.

“One of our biggest assets all year has been the pass rush, particularly the interior pass rush,” Allen said Wednesday. “Our goal, and for me personally as an interior rusher, is to get in [quarterback’s] face. Sometimes that’s not really sexy, driving and O-lineman back into his face. We just want to disrupt him and let him know we are there, make him feel uncomfortable and on the back of his feet. That’s when you really know you’re having an impact.”

The Patriots starting offensive line are Nate Solder and Cameron Fleming at tackle, Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason at guard and David Andrews at center.

They have kept Brady upright all year and cleared the path for a solid running game led by Dion Lewis who has run for 896 yards on 180 carries and six touchdowns this season.

Eagles players especially on defense have claimed they worry more about what the Eagles are doing as apposed to their opponent.

Allen was asked if he scouted any of the Pats O-linemen.

“I pay a lot of attention to the people we’re lining up against,” Allen said. “It’s kind of weird, it matters who you’re playing because you game-planned specifically for certain individuals, and I have a lot of respect for their offensive line and their interior line. I think they are well coached, they don’t make a lot of mistakes, they’re a really good interior group…but at the same time it really doesn’t matter. We have so much confidence in our scheme and our abilities. As focused as we are on them, we’re almost more focused on ourselves and doing what we do.”

Barnett was asked if he studied the New England linemen or if the guys on the front seven were only worried about what the Eagles were doing.

“We study those guys but we’ve got to make sure what we do is right too,” Barnett said. “and it starts with us.”

All Pro defensive tackle Fletcher Cox has talked about how he wants to put the team on his back, that he want’s responsibility especially after League MVP candidate Carson Wentz went down for the season with a knee injury.

When asked at Wednesday’s Super Bowl media session about those statements, Cox made it clear he was not trying to sound selfish or self-promoting.

“At the end of the day it takes a team,” Cox said while sporting what appeared to be a green Mexican wrestling mask. “It takes the whole locker room and everyone on the field to get it done, everyone’s got to do their job.

“As far as me individually, I’d like to be the one who sparks everything, the trend setter,” he continued. “But sometimes someone beats you to it, then you have to follow.”

Barnett said he welcomes the pressure of being the key to his team’s chances of winning.

“It’s a challenge for us every week,” Barnett said. “We accept that challenge. That’s the best part of playing D-line.”

Allen said he loves the idea of Cox putting the team on his back.

Fletcher is an unbelievable player, an unbelievable pass rusher,” Allen said. He’s been playing at a really high level, but he wants to do everything. He’s been a great team leader for us, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves and rightfully so. Because we’re a really good unit, the interior line and the entire defensive line.”

Several players chimed in on the importance of the game.

“It will mean everything,” Barnett said. “I’ve never won a championship at this level yet so it will mean everything. Everyone has a dream when they are young to get here and play and win. We’re not here to play in it, we’re here to win it.”

“It’s a big game, man,” Allen said. “I don’t think you can really put it into words. It’s what you work for your entire career. I can’t wait to get out there on Sunday and give every ounce that I have.”

Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii

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