Eagles soar over Patriots on wings of backup QB
The Philadelphia Eagles’ flight from last to first ended up with a Lombardi Trophy.
In a record-setting shootout between Nick Foles and Tom Brady of the favored New England Patriots, the backup quarterback led a pressure-packed 75-yard drive to the winning touchdown, 11 yards to Zach Ertz with 2:21 to go Sunday night. Then a defense that had been shredded throughout the second half made two final stands to win 41-33.
Brandon Graham strip-sacked Brady and Derek Barnett recovered, setting up rookie Jake Elliot’s 46-yard field goal for an 8-point lead.
Brady got his team to midfield, but his desperation pass fell to the ground in the end zone.
The underdog Eagles (16-3), even injured starting quarterback Carson Wentz, came bolting off the sideline in ecstasy while Brady sat on the ground, disconsolate.
“For us, it was all about one stop we had to make. We went out here and made that one stop,” Graham said.
It was the first Super Bowl title for Philadelphia (16-3), which went from 7-9 last season to the franchise’s first NFL title since 1960.
“If there’s a word (it’s) called everything,” Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said. “That’s what it means to Eagles fans everywhere. And for Eagles fans everywhere, this is for them.”
Super Bowl MVP Foles orchestrated the victory with the kind of drive NFL MVP Brady, a five-time champion, is known for. The drive covered 14 plays, including a fourth-down conversion.
“I felt calm. I mean, we have such a great group of guys, such a great coaching staff,” Foles said. “We felt confident coming in, and we just went out there and played football.”
The Patriots (15-4) seemed ready to take their sixth championship with Brady and coach Bill Belichick in eight Super Bowls. Brady threw for a game-record 505 yards and three TDs, hitting Rob Gronkowski for 4 yards before Stephen Gostkowski’s extra point gave New England its first lead, 33-32.
Then Foles made them forget Wentz — and least for now — with the gutsiest drive of his life, including a fourth-down conversion to Ertz at midfield.
Foles has been something of a journeyman in his six pro seasons, but he has been spectacular in four career playoff games. He finished 28 of 43 for 373 yards and three TDs.
The combined 1,151 yards were the most in any modern NFL game, and Brady’s 505 were the most in any playoff contest. The 40-year-old master finished 28 of 48 and picked apart the Eagles until the final two series.
It was such a wild game that Foles caught a touchdown pass, and Brady was on the opposite end of a Danny Amendola throw that went off his fingertips.
Eagles coach Doug Pederson brought home the championship in his second year in charge. Belichick is 5-3 in Super Bowls and his teams have only a plus-4 overall margin in those games.
Brady and the Patriots looked more like five-time champions by opening the second half with a 75-yard touchdown drive. Gronkowski was unstoppable, grabbing four passes for 69 yards, including the 5-yard score.
Philly didn’t flinch, answering with a precise 75-yard march and three more third-down conversions; the Eagles were 10 for 16.
Brady shrugged and, getting steadfast protection, went over 400 yards passing on the next TD drive. Chris Hogan scored from the 26 as he turned around safety Rodney McLeod.
When all the Eagles could manage was Elliott’s 42-yarder for a 32-26 lead, it seemed inevitable the Patriots would go in front.
Foles, Ertz, and — at last — a revitalized defense said otherwise.
New England lost receiver Brandin Cooks to a concussion on a vicious but clean hit by Malcolm Jenkins in the second quarter. Amendola’s pass required an over-the-shoulder grab and the ball fell off Brady’s outstretched hands.
Brady led a 90-yard drive following an equally strange play. Alshon Jeffery nearly made a spectacular attempt near the Patriots’ goal line, only to juggle the ball into the air while off-balance. Duron Harmon picked it off at the 10. Moments later, Brady was connecting with Chris Hogan for 42 yards.
When LeGarrette Blount, who won the title last season with the Patriots, scored on a 21-yard burst, Pederson went for 2, but the pass failed, making it 15-3.
The Eagles and Pederson brushed it off and stayed with their usual aggressive approach. Breathtakingly, it eventually paid off.