February 06, 2023
Six more days, Philadelphia.
As the Eagles prepare for Super Bowl LVII Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs, it's a good time to reflect on the Birds' history in the big game. This will be the fourth time the Eagles have advanced to the Super Bowl. They did so after the 1980 season against the Raiders and lost. The Eagles also lost Super Bowl XXXIX to New England. The Birds, of course, did finally hoist the Lombardi Trophy on Feb. 4, 2018, dethroning the Patriots in the process.
Let's get after it and rank the 10 best performances by Eagles across all of those Super Bowls.
I'm not including any Eagles from the team's 27-10 loss to the Raiders in Super Bowl XV because they were three-point favorites and ended up losing by three scores. The Birds were down 14-0 in the first quarter and 24-3 by the end of the third quarter. None of that cuts it. Sorry.
I obviously value winning way more than losing, but there is a single Eagle from the 2004 team that lost against the Patriots in Jacksonville, who, however, does crack the list. Props to him and certainly props to all of the 2017 figures on here.
It's overshadowed by how haywire the end of his Eagles tenure went, as he'll now forever be defined by the "Unlike Agholor" meme, but Nelson Agholor stepped up time and time again in Super Bowl LII.
Agholor had nine catches for 84 yards in Super Bowl LII against the Patriots, the most receiving yards an Eagles receiver recorded in Minneapolis. Five of Agholor's eight catches went for first downs and all of those first downs were on scoring drives. Three of those first-down catches came on back-to-back-to-back plays in the fourth quarter on the Birds' game-winning touchdown drive in the fourth quarter.
A split with Agholor was more than necessary after the 2019 season, but as the immortal David Bowie said, "We could be heroes just for one day." In Agholor's case, that's correct.
The soul of the 2017 Eagles, Malcolm Jenkins' contributions weren't eye-popping in the box score on Feb. 4, 2018, as he recorded four tackles and a pass deflection, but his impact was always felt. I like to joke that the Patriots "forgot" they were allowed to throw the ball to Rob Gronkowski in the first half, but credit should go to defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and his defensive Swiss Army knife, Jenkins, for keeping the future Hall of Fame tight end in check.
I'd be remiss not to mention Jenkins knocking Patriots wide receiver Brandin Cooks out of the game with a vicious hit in the first half, his defining moment of this game. The injury, which had to change the complexion of New England's offense, would be an illegal hit by the NFL's current standard. No regrets from Jenkins though:
Malcolm Jenkins’ hit on Brandin Cooks in Super Bowl is now considered illegal by some refs under new rule: pic.twitter.com/69l6ilWUou— Tim McManus (@Tim_McManus) July 29, 2018
LeGarrette Blount is possibly the most effortlessly cool Eagle I've watched play. He came to Philly on a one-year free agent deal in 2017, fresh off earning his second ring with the Pats and leading the NFL with 18 rushing touchdowns. His 4.4 yards per attempt with the Birds tied a career high and he became the "Runaway Train" of a well-rounded, talented backfield.
Even with how often the Birds threw the ball against the Patriots in Super Bowl LII, Blount destroyed New England on the ground, going off for 90 yards on just 14 attempts for more than 6.4 yards per carry. Blount had a monster 21-yard touchdown run in the second quarter:
LeGarrette Blount just officially retired. He was an integral part of the Eagles 2017 Super Bowl run.— National Football Post (@FootballPost) December 5, 2020
This 21 yard TD in the Super Bowl was a huge part of the game. pic.twitter.com/eKBTzYJAb0
I'm a sports writer and not an NFL player for a reason, but helplessly trying to arm-tackle a 247-pound tank like Blount seems like a bad move, right?
Blount did this after the TD:
LeGarrette Blount after his Super Bowl LII touchdown run: "It's ours."— Tim Kelly (@TimKellySports) February 20, 2018
Doug Pederson in a stern, fatherly voice: "Yeah, I know it's ours." pic.twitter.com/FBGRaiDPw9
Like I said: effortlessly cool.
Wow, the only guy not from the 2017 squad to make the list!
Terrell Owens was a godsend when he arrived in Philadelphia in 2004, the franchise's first true star wideout since Mike Quick's peak. In 14 regular season games with the Birds that year, he had 14 touchdowns. Checking with my sabermetrics team, I believe that's a touchdown-per-game average. Owens' season, however, was cut short when he sprained his ankle and fractured his fibula on a now-illegal horse-collar tackle from Cowboys safety Roy Williams in Week 15.
Owens missed the remainder of the regular season and the Birds' first two playoff games, but gutted it out and suited up in the Super Bowl itself against the 2004 Patriots. Clearly hampered by those injuries, Owens still hauled in nine catches for 122 receiving yards, the most ever by an Eagle in the Super Bowl. If the Birds had somehow prevailed in that 24-21 loss, Owens was the clear-cut Eagles choice for Super Bowl MVP.
As everyone knows, Owens and the Eagles imploded in 2005, ruining his partnership with Donovan McNabb and setting this franchise back. Older Philadelphians probably have a more negative viewpoint of Owens than me, but watching that game against New England as a 10-year-old, Owens looked like a superhero out there.
Cheating? Perhaps, but the Eagles' success in 2017 (and 2022...) begins with their offensive line. Future Hall of Fame left tackle Jason Peters was one of the many injuries the Birds sustained that year. Second-year fifth-round offensive lineman Halapoulivaati Vaitai stepped in and didn't miss a beat. Stefen Wisniewski was inserted into the lineup at left guard early in the season and helped glue everything together. Then there were Pro Bowlers Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks and Lane Johnson. I assume you know enough about those guys already....
Three stars, a journeyman and an unheralded young left tackle went about dismantling the defense of the greatest football mind in history like they were scrimmaging against a scout team. All the credit in the world to Doug Pederson, Nick Foles and the skill position players for what they did, but they're not putting up 41 points on Belichick without that quintet playing the like they were the best offensive line in the world (and they truly were).
For a certain generation of football fans, the "wheel route" has a special place in their hearts due to its unstoppable nature in "Madden." The Birds later had running backs in Brian Westbrook and Darren Sproles who could execute it perfectly, only adding to the juice it brings.
Hitting on that Bowie "we could be heroes..." theme, Clement performed like he was the second coming of LaDainian Tomlinson in Super Bowl LII. Clement had 4 catches for 100 yards in this game including a mind-blowing "HOW DID THEY FIT THE BALL IN THERE?" 34-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter from Foles.
On the fifth anniversary of that Super Bowl LII win on Saturday, I wrote about the top plays from that game, specifically Clement's touchdown catch. Here's what I had to say:
"Athletes wait an entire lifetime to play a game as good as he did against the Pats in the Super Bowl. He never came close to reaching those heights later in his career as he bounces around as a journeyman running back, but does that even matter? Think about all the big-time stars, and Hall of Famers at that, that never played in the Super Bowl, never had a chance for every person in America to hear their name on TV as they made a game-changing play. Clement never became starting running back in the NFL, but his best day was better than 99.9 percent of the world's best day ever."
Clement had six touchdowns as an undrafted rookie in 2017 before his big night in Minneapolis. He's had five TDs in the five years since then, split between Philly, Dallas and Arizona. It doesn't matter. LT might be the best running back I've ever seen, but he never played in the Super Bowl, let alone had a game like Clement did on the biggest of stages.
If you catch the game-winning touchdown in the Super Bowl, you go down in history. Period.
Let's discuss an overlooked play on that TD drive late in the fourth quarter for the Birds.
Trailing by one point with 5:39 remaining in the game, the Eagles faced a fourth and one from their own 45. Some cowardly coaches out there would've punted, but Pederson rolled the dice, as he had done all season and game long, and went for it. He drew this baby up for the ever-reliable Zach Ertz.
This was listed as fourth and one, but watching on TV, it felt like the longest yard in the history of organized football. Foles dropped back to pass and found a wide-open Ertz for a two-yard gain. It was just two yards, but it was all that was needed to give the Eagles a shot to go win this thing:
Zach Ertz picks up the #Clutch 4th down on this #Reception from Nick Foles #Eagles #FlyEaglesFly #SuperBowl #SBLII #SuperBowlSunday #SuperBowlLII #PHIvsNE pic.twitter.com/1uzeojKNG0— @540Jason© (@540Jason) February 5, 2018
Everyone will remember the TD, but no one should forget that fourth-down conversion.
Alson Jeffery had just three catches in Super Bowl LII, but two of them, given the totality of the moment, were the toughest I've ever seen an Eagles pass-catcher make.
That first touchdown is a play where you could imagine the team saying, "You think you're the defending champs with the GOAT coach and GOAT player? Watch this real quick." Jeffery landed the first punch of the game and the offense did not stop laying those haymakers all night long.
There's Jeffery hauling in the first touchdown of the Super Bowl with a wildly acrobatic grab over former Eagle Eric Rowe:
Nick Foles goes long to Alshon Jeffery for the touchdown! #SuperBowl pic.twitter.com/dUZ3tMdXpb— FlurrySports (@FlurrySports) February 5, 2018
He Mossed him!
Then there's this catch from Jeffery on a second-quarter scoring drive:
thinking about the SB and this Alshon catch is so underrated.— broad & forever (@broadandforever) February 5, 2023
led to LeGarrette Blount’s 21-yard touchdown run later on the drive. pic.twitter.com/qeTa9P8Lp6
That's a combination of being Willie Mays and Aaron Rowand with the game's best corner (and his former college roommate) in Stephon Gilmore right on him. Not many receivers on the planet were showing up like Jeffery did that night.
Brandon Graham began his NFL career with the dreaded "bust label," rebounded, turned himself into a solid starter, then an All-Pro and then forever a Philadelphia legend with a single play:
Tom Brady throws for 505 yards but the Eagles put the clamps down on the Patriots offense with this BIG-TIME sack and fumble forced by Brandon Graham!! EAGLES WIN 41-33 #SuperBowl #NFL #Philadelphia #Eagles #NewEngland #Patriots pic.twitter.com/fDdgBKxQQ5— FanWagon (@FanWagonApp) February 5, 2018
On a team that wore its underdog ethos on its sleeves, no one embodied the Philadelphia spirit quite like Graham during the Eagles' first Super Bowl triumph. His name went from an eye roll from Eagles fans to one that's synonymous with winning.
With Tom Brady turning in a historic Super Bowl, Graham was still able to bull rush his way to TB12 and change the future of not just the franchise, but millions of Eagles fans everywhere.
Who knows. Maybe he tops this performance on Sunday against Patrick Mahomes.
Brady threw for the most yards of any quarterback in Super Bowl history in 2018. His passer rating was 115.4, the highest he ever had in a Super Bowl while playing for New England. On the greatest quarterback of all time's best day ever, Foles out-played him. It's commonplace to Philadelphians now, but imagine being told that before not just the postseason started, but the entire 2017 regular season.
Foles is the highest-variance quarterback ever. During the highs of his 2013 regular season, he looked like he was on a multiple-time MVP trajectory in just his second pro season. As he bounced around the NFL from 2014-2016, he didn't even look like he belonged in the league. Less than a year later after the Eagles signed him to be a backup in 2017, he had turned in two all-time playoff passing performances that are iconic not just in Philly, but in the entirety of the sport.
Foles won't ever get enshrined in Canton, but his uniform from this 373-yard game sits in a glass enclosing in the Hall of Fame. When called to step up, Foles played like a legitimate Hall of Famer. Maybe that glow only lasted for 120 minutes of football across the NFC Championship Game and the Super Bowl itself, but what a 120 minutes they were.
Oh, by the way, he caught a touchdown in the game on a play that will be shown on highlight reels until the end of time:
5 years ago today in Super Bowl 52:— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) February 4, 2023
The Philly Special happened.pic.twitter.com/pe4HRfufZP
Foles was special. The fate of both Foles and Philly will always be intertwined.
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