In what might have been the most breathless offensive showing in Super Bowl history, the Philadelphia Eagles claimed their first Lombardi Trophy with a massive defensive play late.
The Eagles beat the New England Patriots, 41-33, in an absolute thriller at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Tom Brady, the 2017 NFL MVP, was brilliant for the Patriots, breaking the Super Bowl passing mark he set only one year ago. But the Eagles’ Brandon Graham strip-sacked Brady with just over two minutes left in the fourth quarter. It was the Patriots’ first turnover of the game.
Brady got the ball back after the Eagles converted the turnover into a field goal to give them the winning margin with just more than a minute remaining. The Patriots bobbled the kickoff, however, and when Brady’s Hail Mary hit the end zone as the clock struck zero, they were denied their shot at a sixth championship in the Brady-Bill Belichick era. They now are 5-3 in Super Bowls in the past 18 years.
“I’m disappointed,” Brady said. “We could have done a better job, but we fought until the end.”
The underdog Eagles won their first title since the 1960 NFL championship, setting off a massive celebration in the football-crazy town of Philadelphia that had seen the Eagles lose their two previous Super Bowls – in 1981 and in 2005, the latter against Belichick and Brady.
Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles was nearly perfect against a Patriots secondary that benched Malcolm Butler before the game. Foles completed 28 of 43 passing for 373 yards with three TDs passing and one receiving on a trick play. The man who considered walking away from football a few years ago now is indelibly etched into Philadelphia sports lore forever, along with coach Doug Pederson.
The teams’ combined 1,151 yards of offense were the most in any postseason game in NFL history. There was a combined one punt in the game – the fewest in Super Bowl history. The Eagles were underdogs in every playoff game despite being the NFC’s No. 1 seed.
Corey Clement caught four passes for 100 yards and a TD as a surprise hero. Nelson Agholor added nine big catches for 84 yards. Alshon Jeffery had a big first half with 73 yards and a score. Zach Ertz caught Foles’ final TD pass – one where there was some question whether he caught it cleanly – with 2:21 remaining as the Eagles regained the lead.
For the Patriots, three players – Danny Amendola, Chris Hogan and Rob Gronkowski – surpassed the 100-yard receiving mark. Gronkowski was a monster in the second half, catching two TDs and giving the Patriots their first lead of the game with just more than nine minutes left.
Foles got hot early with a series of short passes on the Eagles’ first drive, but they bogged down in the red zone after an Ertz false start and settled for a field goal. The Patriots went hurry-up on their first drive and also were stopped short of the end zone when Brady couldn’t hit Gronkowski on a slant. Stephen Gostkowski’s field goal tied it.
Credit the Patriots and Brady for repeatedly striking back. Starting at their own 10, they drove 90 yards for a touchdown, cutting the Eagles’ lead to 15-12 in just less than three minutes.
The Eagles couldn’t be stopped either. Clement took a wheel route 55 yards, spurred by a huge stiff arm, to help set up the play of the game, called “Philly Special” – Clement taking the direct snap, tossing to Trey Burton, who threw it back to Foles for the touchdown.
The first two men to touch the ball were undrafted; the man who caught it, Foles, was doubted from the moment Carson Wentz went down with a torn ACL.
“Our coach has got some guts, huh? Some big ones,” Burton said.
The Eagles only could muster a field goal after a strange play call for a swing pass in the red zone for an 8-yard loss. Jake Elliott’s kick upped the Eagles’ lead to 32-26. The fourth quarter began with the Patriots trailing by a touchdown without punting or turning over the ball.
The Eagles hadn’t stopped the Patriots to this point, and they wouldn’t again. Brady once more leaned on Amendola, hitting him on a big third-down conversion against a Philly blitz and then found him for catches of 30 and 9 yards to set up goal-to-go. That’s when the Patriots took the first lead of the game. Gronkowski beat Ronald Darby on a fade, and just like that it was 33-32.
Foles, playing the game of his life, hit Ertz on a crucial fourth-down conversion after the Patriots’ defense appeared to stiffen slightly. Then Foles found Agholor for grabs of 10 and 18 crucial yards and moved the Eagles to the edge of field-goal range as the clock ticked down to the three-minute mark.
Ertz then hauled in a brilliant strike from Foles and was ruled to have held onto the ball, despite bobbling it as he crossed the end zone. The two-point conversion failed after the seven-minute drive, leaving the Eagles up, 38-33.
It didn’t feel safe. Brady got the ball back with 2:22 left, looking ready to drive the Patriots down the field for another shot at glory. But Graham’s strip and Barnett’s recovery helped set up Elliott’s insurance kick to secure the Eagles’ first Super Bowl victory.