February 04, 2018
All year long, the Eagles have talked about being all they've got, all they need. And on Sunday night in Minneapolis, against Tom Brady and mighty New England Patriots, the Birds gave the city of Philadelphia all it's ever wanted: a Lombardi Trophy.
Thanks to another impressive performance by Nick Foles and a timely turnover by the defense, the Eagles – a scrappy, resilient, and often discounted team familiar with playing the underdog role – ended a 57-year title drought by beating the defending champion Patriots, 41-33, in Super Bowl LII.
The game featured over 1,100 yards of total offense, an NFL postseason record, and 74 points, the kind of pace many didn't expect would play into the Eagles hands. But thanks to another impressive performance by Nick Foles and the offense – and some exceptional play-calling from head coach Doug Pederson – it was enough to overcome an underwhelming and uncharacteristic performance by the defense.
The cracks in the Birds defense began to show in the first half, but the Patriots seemed to be unable to take advantage. That, however, was not the case in the second half.
Each of the first five drives of the second half saw points scored, including three-straight touchdowns by New England. And with the Eagles defense seemingly unable to get pressure on Tom Brady, who finished with 505 passing yards and three touchdowns, the reigning Super Bowl champs began to carve up the Birds secondary.
Two of those touchdowns went to tight end Rob Gronkowski, who dominated the second half and gave the Patriots their first lead of the night, 33-32, with this fourth-quarter score:
Eagles fans undoubtedly began feeling like this would be a repeat of 2005, when they came up short against Brady and the Patriots.
But as was the case throughout the entirety of the season, just when you started to count the Eagles out, they'd find a way to prove you wrong. With the game on the line late in the fourth, Pederson remained true to his aggressive nature and opted go for it on fourth and one.
The Eagles converted, and a few Foles completions later the Birds found themselves inside field goal range. But they didn't need it – Foles connected with Zach Ertz for an 11-yard touchdown, capping off a 14-play drive that ran the clock all the way down to two and a half minutes.
The Birds failed to convert the ensuing two-point attempt and had to settle for a 38-33 lead with plenty of time left for Brady to make them pay.
But, after failing to stop Brady on each of the Patriots' previous five drives, Jim Schwartz's defense made a play when it mattered most.
Brandon Graham came up with the strip-sack, which was recovered by rookie Derek Barnett.
Still, the Patriots wouldn't go away. The Eagles added to their lead with a 46-yard Jake Elliott field goal, making it a 41-33 score with just over a minute left to play.
With no timeouts remaining, and 91 yards to go after great kick coverage from the special teams unit, Brady and the Pats went to work, but the Eagles defense was ready. New England picked up a few first downs, but never made it across midfield.
A Hail Mary attempt fell short as time expired, and just like that, the Eagles delivered Philadelphia its first Super Bowl title, after coming up short twice before (1981, 2005).
It was a wild affair throughout, one that included three missed kicks – including two extra points – and more than a few big plays. But perhaps the craziest came late in the first half when Eagles coach Doug Pederson decided to dial up a trick play on fourth and goal from the one-yard line.
Foles, who finished 28 of 43 for 373 yards, four touchdowns (one receiving) and an interception, wasn't perfect on the night, but was certainly good enough, keeping pace with a potent offense left by future hall-of-fame quarterback Tom Brady.
The Eagles opened the scoring with a long first drive that stalled in the red zone, and after a false start penalty by Zach Ertz, they were forced to settle for a field goal. The Pats would answer with a field goal drive of their own, setting up the game's first touchdown.
On their second possession, the Eagles needed just three plays to find the end zone, thanks to Alshon Jeffery's ridiculous 34-yard touchdown grab. Jake Elliot would miss the extra point, but the Eagles took a 9-3 lead nonetheless.
The Patriots looked poised to answer, but a tough stand by the Birds defense forced them to settle for a field goal attempt. A botched snap, however, caused the kick to hit the upright.
After a punt by the Eagles and a turnover on downs by the Patriots, the Eagles added to their lead thanks to a six-play, 65-yard drive that was capped off by a 21-yard touchdown run by LeGarrette Blount, who finished with 90 rushing yards and a touchdown. Because they the missed extra point on their previous touchdown, Pederson opted to go for two but came up short.
The Pats would add a Stephen Gostkowski field goal to cut the Eagles' lead to 15-6. Following a Foles' interception that was nearly a circus-catch by Jeffery, the Patriots would get even closer on a 25-yard James White touchdown run.
Clinging to a 15-12 lead, Foles orchestrated a seven-play, 70-yard drive that ended with the Eagles quarterback catching the first touchdown of his career. With the Pats getting the ball first in the second half, that play proved extra important. Had the Eagles settled for a field goal – or, worse yet, come away empty – the Pats would've taken the lead on their first possession of the second half, causing the Eagles to play from behind for the first time all night. Instead, the Eagles were able to force the Pats to play catch-up most of the night.
More to come.
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