The Vince Lombardi Trophy has finally made its way to Philadelphia
By Al Thompson
The Philadelphia Eagles, riding the arm of backup quarterback Nick Foles and an opportunistic defense, defeated the New England Patriots 41–33 in epic fashion and captured the first Super Bowl championship in franchise history.
Foles was named MVP of the game after outdueling the sport’s all-time great, Tom Brady, who the day before was named the AP Player of the Year for 2017.
The Eagles defense, which had been under siege by Brady the entire second half, made the play of the game when veteran defensive end Brandon Graham stripped-sacked the New England quarterback on a second and two from the Patriots 33-yard line with 2:21 left in the fourth quarter. Rookie defensive end Derek Barnett recovered the fumble.
The Eagles ran the ball three times to eat up clock, kicked a 46-yard field goal by Jake Elliott with 1:05 left, then held off Brady’s last gasp effort to save the game.
Foles was 28 of 43 for 373 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. He was not sacked. Foles also caught a one-yard touchdown pass from Trey Burton on a daring fourth down trick play that gave the Eagles a 22–12 lead at the half.
On the post-game podium, Foles had to pause and compose himself after being asked about delivering a NFL championship to a city that had not had a football title in 58 years.
“To be a part of the Philadelphia Eagles first championship,” said Foles, referring to the Super Bowl era. “We’ve all waited a long time to be in this position, to be world champions. The people who bleed green, the people of Philadelphia, the people all across the nation that support the Eagles, they’ve waited a long time. Mr. (Jeffrey) Lurie has waited a long time. Being a part of this, being drafted to Philadelphia, being fortunate enough to come back and be a part of this team, to be a piece of this puzzle, it has been a long time coming, and I know there’s going to be a lot of celebrating tonight.”
The game went from a 9–3 score after the first quarter, to an old-fashioned shootout that saw the two teams set a record for most total yards in a game by two teams with 1,151 yards.
The Birds scored their first touchdown with 34 seconds left in the first quarter on a 34-yard rope from Foles to wide receiver Alshon Jeffery who made a fingertip catch in the back of the end zone. Elliott missed the extra point.
The second touchdown came on a six-play, 65-yard drive that ended with a 21-yard runaway-freight-train run by LeGarrette Blount, who ended up with 90 yards on 14 carries for the day.
The Birds final touchdown of the half was the Foles reception from a play that Pederson said he and his staff had named the “Philly Special.”
On the play, Foles — in shotgun formation — stepped aside at the last moment, moved up to the line of scrimmage, center Jason Kelce then snapped the ball directly to running back Corey Clement who tossed it to Burton. Burton then threw it to a wide open Foles. The catch gave the Birds a 10-point lead going into intermission.
“That’s something we’ve been working on, and Doug (Pederson) and I were talking. I was like, ‘Let’s just run it.’” Foles said. “It was a good time, and the end was a little wider than I thought, so I was like, ‘I really need to sell like I’m not doing anything.’ And it worked. Trey made an amazing throw, right on the money. I just looked it in, and yeah, we’ve repped it for awhile, so I was excited to get it run in the Super Bowl.”
The Patriots’ scores in the second quarter came on a 45-yard Stephen Gostkowski field goal and a 26-yard run by James White.
The Patriots got their offense back on track the first drive of the third quarter when Brady led New England on an eight-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a five-yard touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski. The All Pro tight end had been held to one catch for nine yards in the first half. Gronkowski had 68 yards on the drive himself.
Foles answered with an 11-play drive that ended with a 22-yard touchdown pass to running back Corey Clement that made the score 29–19. The rookie ,who hails from Glassboro N.J., finished with 100 yards on four catches.
Clement who was not drafted last year, came to the Eagles as a free agent. He not only made the team but became an integral part of the Birds offense. On Sunday he had 133 all-purpose yards and a touchdown.
“We just believed in our preparation,” Clement said. “I have to thank the Philadelphia organization for giving me a shot as an undrafted rookie free agent, being put on such a big stage and believing in me. I can only thank them. Thank you.”
After Clement’s touchdown, the Pats were not finished. Brady led his team on a seven-play drive that ended with a 26-yard touchdown from Brady to Chris Hogan. The score now was 29–26.
The Birds made the score 31–26 on a 42-yard Elliott field goal after an eight-play 51-yard drive stalled at the Patriots 24-yard line.
Then it seemed like the Eagles would be another Brady fourth-quarter victim when the veteran led the Pats on a 10-play drive that ended with another touchdown pass to Gronkowski, this time from the four-yard line. New England led 33–32 with 9:26 left in the fourth. It was the Pats first lead of the game.
But this was the year of the Eagles, it was their time, and this year’s squad would not be denied.
Foles led his team on a nail-biting 14-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a 11-yard touchdown pass to tight end Zach Ertz. The pass was reviewed for what seemed like an eternity because Ertz dropped the ball after he crossed the goal line, but the initial touchdown call was upheld, and the Eagles led 38–33 with 2:25 left in the fourth.
Could the Eagles finally stop Brady? It took just two plays to find that out when Graham finally solved the Patriots offensive line which had held the Eagles without a sack for the entire game.
“We just said, ‘hey, whoever makes the first stop wins the game,’” Graham said. “I’m just happy our offense went down and scored on that second-to-last drive. That fourth-and-one (to Ertz) they got on that drive was big. The offense carried us all night. The rest is history…we’re Super Bowl champs now, baby.”
Brady finished 28 of 48 for 505 yards, three touchdown passes and the fumble. He was sacked once and finished with a quarterback rating of 115.4.
Brady was asked if he felt confident when the Patriots got the ball with just over two minutes left that he could drive his team down for a touchdown. “We hit the first one,” Brady said of his eight-yard completion to Gronkowski. “Obviously, the strip sack, and they made a good play. They got a good rush. That’s what they needed, somebody needed to make a play.”
They didn’t get that play. Brady’s line was outstanding all day. It turned out the team that made the one real stop ended up winning the game.
The Eagles and Foles pasted 41 points on the Patriots and soon-to-be-leaving defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. New England coach Bill Belichick did have a lot of praise for Foles and the Eagles offense.
“The Eagles played great offensively — everybody,” Belichick said. “Foles played good, the backs played good, tight end, receivers. It’s a good offensive team.
“They did a good job. They did a good job all the way around,” the five-time Super Bowl Champion coach continued. “They got the best out of all of their skill players. They had a good design and kept us off-balance. The offensive line played well. They were getting pressure on the quarterback. Just give them credit — they did a great job.”
Pederson said the reality that the Eagles won the Super Bowl hadn’t hit him yet.
“It hasn’t really sunk in, but I’m so excited for that locker room,” Pederson said. “For Mr. Lurie to give me the opportunity to coach this team, and then everything that we’ve been through this season, to get to this point — a lot of people counted us out — but that locker room believed, believed in each other, believed in me. I have a great staff and great players, and we found a way to get it done.”
No one can count them out now. The Philadelphia Eagles are Super Bowl Champions.
Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii