Eagles Finally Stop Brady, Win Super Bowl LII
MINNEAPOLIS (973espn.com) - A man who wasn't wanted gave Philadelphia what it wanted most ... a Super Bowl championship.
Doug Pederson's aggressive and inventive play-calling kept the best coach in NFL history on his heels and finally secured the Lombardi Trophy for the Eagles when Brandon Graham stripped Tom Brady late in the fourth quarter as Philadelphia held on for an electric 41-33 Super Bowl LII win.
There was a Super Bowl record 1,151 yards of combined offense and the Eagles went on top of the see-saw for good when Nick Foles, putting together his second consecutive superlative performance, found Zach Ertz for an 11-yard touchdown with just over two minutes remaining,
Plenty of time remained for Tom Brady, who had already thrown for 465 yards in the game at that point, but Graham finally broke through getting to the 40-year-old MVP and dislodging the ball before rookie Derek Barnett scooped it up.
Foles, who replaced Carson Wentz in the lineup after the MVP candidate went down with a torn ACL in Week 14, was named the game's MVP after throwing for 373 yards and becoming the first man in Super Bowl history to throw for a TD (he tossed three) and also catch one (more on that later).
The Super Bowl victory is the first in the franchise's history.
The Eagles' league-best 19th fourth-down conversion of the season, a 4th-and-1 dagger in which every other NFL coach probably would have simply taken a field goal before sitting back and watching Justin Timberlake electrify Minneapolis with an 18-12 advantage at intermission.
"All 31 would have taken the field goal," offensive coordinator Frank Reich tools 973espn.com after the game. "But, that's Doug's DNA. He is a star. He doesn't want to be a star. but he's a star.
"He came out of the timeout and said we are running Philly special."
With just a yard to go Pederson trusted his gut, one in which has turned him into what quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo described as the best play-caller he's ever been around earlier in the week.
The coach telegraphed wildcat with Corey Clement purposefully by moving quarterback Nick Foles out to a wing position opposite Zach Ertz. By showing run, the Patriots defense bit hard and Clement indeed got the direct snap, but quickly flipped into Trey Burton, who was once recruited by Urban Meyer at Florida, who tossed the ball to a wide-open Foles for a touchdown.
U.S. Bank Stadium, which tilted heavily green exploded, and you could almost hear the noise 1.100 miles away in Philadelphia.
The play may ultimately not be thought of as that big in coming years because Brady continues to throw it all over the lot and eventually put the Patriots on top, 33-32, with his third TD pass, a four-yarder to Rob Gronkowski with just over nine minutes left.
The game was hanging in the balance on the Eagles' ending possession when Philadelphia faced a 4th-and-1 at its own 45.
If it fails it's a short field for the insanely hot Brady.
"Game's over [if we don't convert]," Reich admitted.
Anyone who thought punting as an option hasn't been paying attention.
"We had already taken on third down about going for it," Reich said. "A lot of coaches would have punted and taken their chances but the way Ton was playing. Doug just had a feel.
Ultimately Foles extended that one a bit by drifting back and buying Zach Ertz enough time to separate for a 2-yard gain, the Eagles' 20th and final fourth-down conversion in 2017-18.
The drive ended with an 11-yard scoring pass to Ertz that ended up being the game-winning points.
"It kind of felt like whoever had the ball last could win this game," Pederson said. "We were just fortunate enough to put ourselves in a position to end the game with that drive for a touchdown. Our defense stepped up and a nice job to finish it for us."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen