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February 04, 2023

The top five plays from Super Bowl LII, five years later

On the five-year anniversary of the Eagles winning their first Super Bowl, here's a look at the top-five plays from that game.

Five years ago this Saturday, the Eagles were victorious in Super Bowl LII over the New England to hoist the Lombardi Trophy for the first time in franchise history. Beyond the obvious impact that 41-33 win had in Philadelphia, it went down as one of the best games in Super Bowl history, in a wild high-scoring affair that broke the record for most yards recorded on the NFL's biggest stage. 

With the Eagles eight days away from trying to win their second Super Bowl, this time over Andy Reid, Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, there's no better time to bask in the glory of that 2017 Eagles squad and look back at the top-five plays from the game that turned this group into legends.

5. Zach Ertz Scores; Cris Collinsworth Melts Down

Zach Ertz scored the game-winning touchdown to give a city its first ever Super Bowl win and NBC broadcaster Cris Collinsworth was crying like someone just stole his lunch money in second grade. 

Facing a third and seven at the New England 11 with 2:25 remaining in the fourth quarter, Nick Foles dropped back to pass and looked Ertz's way, as the tight end was lined up wide to the left. Running a perfect route, as he did time and time again during his tenure in midnight green, Ertz out-maneuvered a helpless Patriots defensive back, caught Foles' pass in stride and dove towards the end zone with the ball outstretched. Six:

To any reasonable mind, it was a touchdown, but with the bang-bang nature of Ertz and the ball hitting the turf as the ball itself crossed the goal line, there was a rampant discussion between Collinsworth and Al Michaels about whether it should be ruled a catch and, in turn, a touchdown. 

In a moment where the entirety of the Delaware Valley believed they were about to get a win stolen away from them, rationality prevailed. The Birds went up 38-33. 

4. Alshon Jeffery Mosses a Guy

This is the greatest catch in Eagles history. No, it was not more impactful nor more awe-inducing than some ahead on this list, but in terms of weighing the difficulty of this catch with the moment, it blew my mind watching it on TV. 

It was late in the first quarter and the game was tied up at 3-3. Neither team had yet to deliver a big strike. Foles was magical in the Eagles' NFC Championship Game win over Minnesota, but no one knew if he'd be able to replicate that performance in the Super Bowl. With one throw, however, it became clear that Foles came to play with even more fight than he displayed against the Vikings, tossing a brilliant 34-yard touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffery:

Jeffery's extension, going up there and getting the all like, is the reason he was brought to Philadelphia, to be a big-play, contested catch master and the type of receiver the Birds hadn't had in forever. Foles and Jeffery connected perfectly when No. 9 took over at quarterback for the Eagles. Look at Jeffery's body contort to haul this in:

It was a "oh, they're really doing this, huh?" moment. They came to battle the GOAT quarterback, the GOAT coach and the greatest dynasty in sports with everything they had and they were going to need more plays as improbable as this if they were going to gut this out over New England. Given that this is only the No. 4 play on this list, you know that those types of plays kept on coming. 

3. Foles Splits the Double Coverage

Corey Clement. 

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. 

I'm a huge David Bowie, right down to the "Aladdin Sane" lightning bolt tattoo on my lifetime. As the man once sang, "We could be heroes just for one day." On that night in Minneapolis, Clement became a hero in Philly, recording 100 receiving yards and this wild third quarter touchdown:

I went to college with a lot of people from Massachusetts. They love complaining about this touchdown, saying it wasn't a catch. Well, as someone's never had a single issue with referees at any point in history, I say we just defer to our wise zebra overlords here, okay?

With three Patriots defenders around Clement, Foles fired a rocket into a spot that only Clement could catch it. The sheer gall that Foles had tossing that touchdown is wild. A year ago at that time, Foles was contemplating retirement as he nearly bounced out of the league entirely. That night, he was lighting up Bill Belichick and causally tossing touchdowns to undrafted rookie seventh-string running backs in the Super Bowl. 

Five years later, I can't understand the guts it took to throw this ball. That was Winter 2018 Nick Foles for you. 

2. Philly Special

Easy, easy. Kill, kill. Lane, Lane.

For Foles to suggest this play to head coach Doug Pederson and for Pederson to go along with it is astounding. Pederson could've said no and opted for a different fourth down play or even went the cowardly route and trotted out the field goal unit. Nope. On fourth and goal in the Super Bowl, Pederson was okay with calling a reverse pass from the third-string tight end to the backup quarterback. In an alternate timeline where this play fails and the Eagles lose, Pederson would've been banished from this city and perhaps laughed out of a NFL head coaching circles for the rest of his life. 

That was the trust Doug Pederson had in this Eagles team and it was this respect and relationship that elevated a group of counted-out players to heights they could've never fathomed. 

It's a shame we didn't get to a camera in Belichick's face immediately after this play. 

1. The Strip Sack Heard 'Round the World

Brady was going to do it again. 

The Eagles were only up 38-33 with 2:21 remaining in the fourth quarter. The GOAT had done this innumerable times before across the regular season, playoffs and the Super Bowl. The Eagles delivered a valiant effort pushing New England to the brink like this, but, sometimes, luck just runs out in the face of total dominance like Tom Brady. 

Brandon Graham must not have liked the script and rewrote the season finale of the 2017 Eagles.

Graham will go down as beloved as an Eagle ever and has a shot to break the record for the most games played as an Eagle in 2023. Thinking that just a half-dozen years ago was laughable. 

Graham came to Philadelphia disliked already because of who he wasn't: Earl Thomas, the player Eagles fans wanted the team to select in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft. Thomas went on to an All-Pro career, but sitting right here, I don't think any Philadelphian would change a damn thing about how that pick played. 

He got the "bust" label early and spent his early prime years playing out of position in Billy Davis' 3-4 scheme in the Chip Kelly days. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz came to town and helped revitalize Graham's career, who never relented in getting better, trying harder and maximizing himself. 

That redemption arc culminated in the greatest play in the history of Philadelphia sports, as Graham took down a fellow Michigan man with a strip sack that changed just about everything in this city: 

With the ball back, Eagles kicker Jake Elliott would go on to hit a 46-yard field goal to pad the Eagles' lead to eight. With just seconds remaining and down by a TD and a two-point conversion, Brady and the Pats didn't have enough to upend the Birds. That was it. They actually won. 

"It's a life-changer. It changed my life," Graham said about the play to reporters at the NovaCare Complex on Thursday. 

I'm sure millions of Eagles fans would agree. 

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