MINNEAPOLIS — Brady, Shmady.
The greatest, most accomplished quarterback in NFL history put forth another Super Bowl performance for the ages, but this time it wasn’t enough.
In the largest explosion of offence in Super Bowl history, the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night outfought Brady’s New England Patriots, deservedly capturing the Philly franchise’s first Super Bowl championship, 41-33.
Both teams combined for an NFL championship-game record of 1,151 total yards.
This long-elusive Philadelphia victory thrilled most of the decidedly pro-Eagles crowd at the Midwest’s monument to girders and glass, 19-month-old U.S. Bank Stadium.
The Eagles hadn’t won an NFL championship since before the Super Bowl era began — in 1960, with a defeat of legendary Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers.
Now, they’ve got their first Vince Lombardi Trophy — given annually to the Super Bowl champion.
Quarterback Nick (Nick Who?) Foles was named MVP of Super Bowl LII. He headed the list of offensive heroes for the Eagles’ unstoppable offence.
“We have such a great group of guys,” Foles told NBC on the euphoric post-game champion’s podium, only about 10 yards from where his tight end, Zach Ertz, caught his game-winning touchdown throw with 2:21 left.
That was Foles’ third touchdown pass of the game. Inexplicably, in just his fourth career playoff game, and only his sixth start since the Eagles’ superstar second-year QB Carson Wentz was lost for the season on Dec. 10 with a blown-out knee, Foles played superbly, matching Brady clutch throw for clutch throw throughout, if not yard for yard.
Brady threw for three touchdowns without an interception and 505 yards. The latter mark broke the single-game Super Bowl record he set just a year ago, 466.
Foles, a sixth-year pro in his second stint with the Eagles, threw a few unwise passes in this gigantic indoor stadium, and got away with perhaps more than his share. But on third downs and, especially, on New England’s side of the field he performed spectacularly.
“To be part of this organization, to be in this moment is something you dream about as a kid,” Foles said. “To be right here with the confetti flying with the greatest group of men …”
As for long-suffering Philadelphians?
“We have been wanting this for a long time,” Foles said, “and I am just blessed to be a part of it. We have such a great group of guys. Such a great city to play for and I am proud to be a Philadelphia Eagle.”
Foles finished 28-of-43 for 373 yards, three touchdowns and only one interception. He also caught a touchdown pass on probably the greatest goal-line call in Super Bowl history, a play sure to go down in NFL lore.
With 34 seconds left before halftime, on 4th-and goal from the one, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson went for it. He had Foles line up in the pistol (the short shotgun) with third-string running back Corey Clement behind him. Then Foles repositioned himself as a wingback to the right. Clement took the direct snap, ran to his left, and handed off to backup tight end Trey Burton on an end-around back to the right.
Burton then slowed down and threw a pass to a wide-open Foles, who’d filtered out into the right flat of the end zone, uncovered.
The quarterback caught the pass for a startlingly cool touchdown.
“I hadn’t thrown a touchdown pass since high school,” Burton said in the incredibly jubilant Eagles locker room.
The Eagles never trailed until Brady hit his trusted tight end, Rob Gronkowski, with a four-yard corner lob with 9:22 left. That gave New England a 33-32 lead, after earlier trailing as much as 15-3 and 22-12 in the second quarter, and 29-19 in the third.
Foles showed steel-spine courage, though, in rallying the Eagles – on what surely will be remembered as the greatest drive in franchise history – to what proved to be the winning touchdown with 2:21 left. Foles hit tight end Zach Ertz on an 11-yard scoring slant.
Up 38-33, the Eagles went for two and didn’t get it.
It didn’t matter. One play after the kickoff, following an eight-yard completion to Gronkowski, Brady was stripped of the ball by fellow University of Michigan alum Brandon Graham, Philadelphia’s leading sacker in the regular season. Rookie defensive end Derek Barnett recovered the ball at the New England 33, with 2:09 left.
After three running plays the Eagles went up 41-33 on Jake Elliott’s 46-yard field goal, with 1:05 left.
Brady passed the Patriots from his own nine only as far as midfield in the dying seconds. After his Hail Mary heave on the game’s last play fell incomplete in the Philly end zone, it was over.
Canons sounded, and the green-and-white confetti machines went to work.
Before the end of the third quarter the offences combined for the most total yards in the 52-year history of the Super Bowl. Philly finished with 538, New England with 613.
Both defences performed awfully in the first half, mailing it in almost as much as Justin Timberlake did at halftime. Alas, defences cannot pre-record their performances, as it sounded like JT did.
Defenders got gashed again in the second half. They left receivers wide open all over the field, flailed meekly at tackle attempts (ProFootballFocus.com counted 10 by the Patriots alone) and made just about every offensive performer look like an all-pro.
But credit each team’s offensive play-callers: Pats offensive co-ordinator Josh McDaniels and Eagles head coach and chief offensive strategist, Pederson. Both called masterful games.
Although Brady threw for a startling 267 yards in the first half alone, Foles nearly matched him – completing 13-of-22 for 215 yards and a touchdown.
The first-half offensive fireworks immediately continued following the elongated halftime break.
Each team scored a touchdown on its opening possession, as Brady and Foles kept throwing darts into open receivers’ hands. The difference for Philadelphia is that running backs LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi kept bludgeoning the interior New England defence for huge gains.