SUPER BOWL 52 RECAP
Nick Foles outduels Tom Brady, Philadelphia Eagles top New England Patriots for Super Bowl LII Title
Backup quarterback Nick Foles and former backup quarterback-turned-head coach Doug Pederson did what Ron Jaworski, Dick Vermeil, Randall Cunningham, Andy Reid, Donovan McNabb, Michael Vick and every other person who represented the Philadelphia Eagles prior to February 4, 2018 could not accomplish – bring a Super Bowl title to the City of Brotherly Love.
Foles, who caught a touchdown pass on one of the most clutch play calls in the history of the NFL’s showcase game, capped an unlikely run through the playoffs by taking home Super Bowl MVP honors a 41-33 win over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
Philadelphia barged out to a 15-3 lead with LeGarrette Blount’s 21-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter, but a James White touchdown run brought the score to 15-12 with two minutes left before halftime.
The Eagles took the ball all the way to the New England 1-yard line, but the drive stalled there, with the Eagles facing fourth-and-goal. Pederson decided to go for it, calling a play named “Philly Special,” where the ball was directly snapped to running back Corey Clement, who pitched it to Trey Burton. The tight end then found Foles wide open in the end zone for the score to give the Eagles a 22-12 halftime lead.
The play made Foles the first player in Super Bowl history to both throw and catch a touchdown pass, and it was the gutsy play call that set the tone for the Eagles’ victory.
“We just wanted to stay aggressive,” said Pederson after the game. “My mentality coming into the game was that I was going to stay aggressive with (Foles) and allow his playmakers to make plays.”
Besides the touchdown catch, Foles finished 28 of 43 for 373 yards, tossing three touchdowns and one interception.
“We have such a great group of guys, such a great coaching staff,” said Foles. “We felt confident coming in, and we just went out there and played football.”
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who fell to 5-3 in Super Bowls, was also stellar, throwing for a single-game Super Bowl record 505 yards, along with three touchdowns and no interceptions.
The Patriots came back in the fourth quarter, as Brady engineered a 10-play, 75-yard scoring drive, culminating in a four-yard touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski, that gave New England a 33-32 lead with 9:22 to play.
Foles responded with poise, guiding the Eagles downfield in a 14-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a Zach Ertz 11-yard touchdown catch at the 2:21 mark. Philadelphia had to survive some anxious moments with a replay review, as the ball popped in the air as the tight end crossed the goal line, but the play was upheld by the officials.
“if they would have overturned that, I don’t know what would have happened to the city of Philadelphia,” Ertz said.
The Eagles defense then came up big, as Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham strip-sacked Brady. Derek Barnett recovered the fumble, which led to Jake Elliot connecting on a 46-yard field goal to put Philadelphia up by eight points.
New England got the ball back with one minute to play at their own 9-yard line, but Brady made things interesting. A 4th & 10 conversion to Danny Amendola and two completions to Gronkowski got the ball at midfield, but a Hail Mary pass to the end zone as time ran out fell to the ground in the end zone, giving the Eagles their first NFL championship since 1960, sending fans in Philadelphia into delirium.
“If there’s a word … everything,” Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said. “That’s what it means to Eagles fans everywhere. And for Eagles fans everywhere, this is for them.”
Both offenses set several records – the combined 1,151 total yards was the most in the Super Bowl era. Brady’s 505 passing yards was not only the most in Super Bowl history, but the most in any playoff game. New England’s 33 points was the most by a losing team in a Super Bowl, Brady broke the career Super Bowl record for touchdown passes with 18, and Brady and Gronkowski tied Joe Montana and Jerry Rice for most touchdowns by a quarterback/wide receiver duo with 12.
Despite rewriting the record books, the Patriots leave Minneapolis with a bitter taste in their mouth.
“The Eagles played a better game today they deserved to win,” Brady said. “You show up, and you try to win, and sometimes you lose, and that’s the way it goes.”
Belichick, who will be looking for a new defensive coordinator next season as Matt Patricia is expected to become the head coach of the Detroit Lions, took the blame for the team not being able to make stops when they needed them.
“In the end, we just couldn’t quite make enough plays, and that was all on me,” said Belichick, who is now 5-3 in eight Super Bowls coached. “Disappointing, but I’m proud of the way our team competed. Tough, tough way to end.”
Belichick took responsibility for benching cornerback Malcolm Butler, who was the hero of Super Bowl XLIX three years ago when he intercepted a Russell Wilson pass at the goal line to preserve a Patriots victory over Seattle. Belichick called the benching a football decision.
But this night belonged to Eagles and their backup quarterback. Foles, who started 24 games for Philadelphia from 2012-14, rejoined the Eagles this season after spending the last two years with the Rams and Chiefs. He was thrust into the starting role when Carson Wentz was injured in a Week 13 game at the Los Angeles Rams. Foles went 2-1 down the stretch to lock up homefield advantage in the NFC playoffs, and then edged Atlanta in the divisional round before crushing Minnesota in the NFC title game two weeks ago. Now, he – and the “Philly Special” – will go down in Philadelphia lore.
“I think the big thing is: don’t be afraid to fail. In our society today, Instagram, Twitter, it’s a highlight reel. It’s all the good things,” Foles said. “(But) failure is a part of life. Without failure, who would you be? I wouldn’t be up here if I hadn’t fallen thousands of times.”
“If something’s going on in your life and you’re struggling, embrace it.”
Chances are, Foles will have no trouble being embraced when he returns to Pennsylvania as the king of Philadelphia.