TYLER CONWAY, FEBRUARY 4, 2018
The Philadelphia Eagles waited nearly 58 minutes to sack Tom Brady. When they finally did, they made it count.
Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham strip-sacked Brady on a Patriots’ potential game-winning drive, helping Philadelphia clinch a 41-33 victory over New England to take Super Bowl LII on Sunday.
The win is the first Super Bowl in Eagles history, following losses to the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XV and these Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX.
Graham’s sack was the Eagles’ first and only, breaking through after nearly an entire game’s worth of failed efforts. Nick Foles, who won MVP honors, hit Zach Ertz for an 11-yard touchdown with 2:21 remaining in what turned out to be the game-winning score.
The Patriots got the ball back with 1:05 remaining following a Jake Elliott field goal but had no timeouts and ran out of time on a drive that ended in a failed Hail Mary.
It’s a bit ironic that the biggest play of the game came on defense, considering the teams combined for a Super Bowl record 1,151 total yards. They punted just once in a contest that oftentimes felt more like a seven-on-seven drill.
New England’s 613 yards were the most ever in a Super Bowl—and the most ever for a losing team in the playoffs.
Brady threw for 505 yards and three touchdowns, continuing to rewrite the postseason and Super Bowl record book. His passing yards mark broke a record he set just one year ago against the Atlanta Falcons, and he extended his all-time lead in Super Bowl passing yards and touchdowns. The 40-year-old also became the first player in NFL history to throw for 10,000 yards in the playoffs.
Foles, continuing one of the more improbable postseason runs in recent memory, matched him step for step. Once considered the biggest hindrance to a potential Eagles Super Bowl run after taking over for an injured Carson Wentz, Foles threw for 373 yards and three touchdowns—and made a touchdown reception as a receiver.
The Eagles got on the board on their final possession of the second half to make it 22-12 going into the break, with Foles hauling in a one-yard score from Trey Burton on a fourth-down trick play. Foles’ catch had the polar opposite result of a similar New England play from earlier in the first half, which saw Brady drop a pass from Danny Amendola with a clear field in front of him.
“We have such a great group of guys, such a great coaching staff. We felt confident coming in and we just went out there and played football,” the underdog Foles told NBC’s Dan Patrick (h/t Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com). “We’ve played this game since we were little kids. We’ve dreamed about this moment. There’s plenty of kids watching this game right now dreaming about this moment that someday will be here. To be here with my daughter, my wife , my family, my teammates, this city, I’m very blessed.”
Trick plays and fourth-down attempts set the tone for two teams unwilling to settle for a boring, conservative contest. Foles’ lone interception came on a deep-ball throw to Alshon Jeffery that the wideout nearly hauled in with one arm before tipping it up and into the arms of Duron Harmon. But Eagles coach Doug Pederson never lost faith, trusting Foles on a 4th-and-1 conversion at the Philadelphia 45 on their game-winning drive.
Foles hit Ertz for a two-yard pass to extend the drive before later hitting him for a score.
“We just wanted to stay aggressive. We mixed in some of the RPOs [run-pass options]. The Patriots did a great job of kind of nullifying some of that,” Pederson said. “Listen, my mentality was I’m going to stay aggressive with Nick and let him use his playmakers to make plays.”
LeGarrette Blount had a stellar game against his former team, rushing for 90 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries. Blount and Jay Ajayi were consistently effective on the ground, and the Eagles averaged 6.1 yards per carry, making Foles’ run-pass options all the more effective.
Corey Clement also had a big receiving game out of the backfield, recording a team-high 100 yards on four catches. Nelson Agholor (nine catches, 84 yards), Alshon Jeffery (three catches, 73 yards, TD), and Ertz (seven catches, 67 yards, TD) also had solid receiving outings.
Nearly all of Brady’s production went to the trio of Amendola, Chris Hogan and Rob Gronkowski. Amendola led the way with 152 yards on his eight receptions, while Gronkowski (nine receptions, 116 yards) scored twice and Hogan (six receptions, 128 yards) once.
Kicking, on the other hand, was an adventure for both teams. Stephen Gostkowski, usually among the most reliable kickers in football, shanked a 26-yard field goal in the first quarter and missed an extra point after a second-quarter touchdown. Elliott hit all three of his field goals, but he missed an extra point that likely led to Philadelphia’s attempting two two-point conversions.
Aside from the victory, these teams could be headed in different directions. The Patriots’ internal struggles are well-documented, with Brady and Belichick having a growing tension after nearly two decades of harmony. ESPN.com’s Seth Wickersham’s profile of the Patriots painted a picture that made it clear either Brady or Belichick could be leaving this offseason.
Meanwhile, the Eagles will return a Super Bowl-winning team to the hands of Wentz, who looked like the league MVP before his knee injury. Foles is under contract for next season but could have played his last game as an Eagle—especially if the team wants to take advantage of his value at its peak.
Those are questions for later. For now, let there be dune buggies flying up the Rocky steps, teamwork climbing up greased light poles and hopefully a city still standing in southeast Pennsylvania tomorrow because the Eagles are finally Super Bowl champions.