Everything was in place for the New England Patriots to once again storm to a last-minute Super Bowl victory. The Patriots had the ball in the hands of quarterback Tom Brady. There was plenty of time on the clock in the fourth quarter. The collective fandom of the NFL had seen this before.
However, Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham shot through the offensive line improbably strip-sacked Brady. The Eagles recovered the football. Despite a last-ditch Hail Mary heave by Brady towards the end zone, Philadelphia held on to snare a shocking 41-33 upset in Super Bowl LII. It’s the team’s first championship since 1960, and first of the Super Bowl era.
Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, completed 28 of 43 passes for 373 yards and 3 touchdowns, and he even caught a touchdown pass in an offensive effort that few predicted he was capable of coming into the game. He repeatedly converted third-down opportunities, threw aggressively into coverage all game, and appeared every bit as poised and confident as Brady; the five-time champion on the other side of the field. It was this performance that earned Foles Super Bowl MVP honors.
On the other side, the Patriots battled defensive problems throughout the game. They were unable to stop the Eagles from scoring at will. They missed key tackles and were routinely beat on third down conversions. Also, in a surprising turn of events, cornerback Malcolm Butler was active but was held out of the Patriots defense throughout the entire game. While details remain scarce as for the reasoning behind this, head coach Bill Belichick told reporters that Butler’s game status was the result of a “football” decision, and did not indicate any disciplinary action.
Regardless of the personnel, it is nearly impossible to win with the type of defensive effort the Patriots put forth, especially on the biggest stage. In doing so, they squandered an incredible effort in which Brady and Co. generated more than 600 yards of offense. Brady passed for 505 yards, three touchdowns. He compiled a passer-rating of 117.8. Despite the costly fumble, he and the offense played well enough to win.
That being said, the Philadelphia Eagles deserve credit where credit is due. The self-proclaimed ‘Underdogs’ had offensive stars all over the field. Former Patriot LeGarrette Blount rushed for 90 yards and a touchdown. Corey Clement contributed 108 yards of total offense, and Nelson Agholor caught 9 passes for 84 yards. However, it was Zach Ertz (Foles’s favorite target) who got the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter. Ertz dove over Devin McCourty for a thrilling 11-yard touchdown pass that stood up to a long review by the officials who were trying to determine if he had possession of the ball before it shot out of his hands in the end zone. Ertz finished the day with 7 catches for 67 yards.
However, on the final drive, Brady drove his team 40 yards, too little too late. As a result, he and the Patriots lost a Super Bowl for just the third time in eight tries.
Congratulations to the Eagles on their well-deserved win.
As for the Patriots, they’re on to 2018.
–Mike D’Abate is a Managing Editor and National Columnist for Full Press Coverage Sports Media. He covers the New England Patriots and the AFC East. Follow him on Twitter @mdabateFPC