by Andrew Marzullo
Green and black confetti rained down on U.S. Bank Stadium at approximately 10:17 PM on Feb. 4, 2018. David had beaten Goliath; the self-proclaimed “dogs” were finally out of their cage after a 58-year championship drought. Led by backup quarterback Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles defeated the New England Patriots 41-33 to take home their first Super Bowl in franchise history.
The matchup was billed as “Destiny vs. Dynasty,” and it truly was a season of destiny for the newly crowned champions. The Eagles sprinted out to a 10-1 start, and powered their way to the number one seed in the NFC behind a potent defense, one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, and the MVP caliber play of Carson Wentz. However, in Week 14, Wentz tore his anterior crucial ligament in a game against the Los Angeles Rams. Eagles’ fans believed the season, the team’s best season since 2013, was over. Fans and experts alike believed the loss of their MVP quarterback would be too much to overcome. However, backup Nick Foles, who played for the Eagles from 2012-2014 before being traded to the Rams and playing for the Chiefs, would fill the seemingly unfillable void incredibly well. The Foles-led Eagles would finish the season 2-1, behind Foles’ 5-2 touchdown-interception ratio, as well as incredible defensive play. The team finished first in the conference and earned itself a first round bye in the postseason.
The Patriots’ season went as many expected. Despite a “slow” 2-2 start, highlighted by uncharacteristically bad defensive play, the Patriots would surge through the rest of the season behind 2018 NFL Most Valuable Player Tom Brady. Brady, 40, had another otherworldly season for the Patriots, throwing for 4,577 yards, 32 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions, leading the Patriots to the number one seed in the AFC once again. Once the defense improved, the team was the force to be reckoned with it usually is, and were seemingly unstoppable heading into the playoffs.
Both teams’ postseasons went incredibly well. The Eagles began their postseason as home underdogs to the number six seeded Atlanta Falcons. The team would take that underdog mentality to heart, and use it as a chip on its shoulder. They defeated a sluggish Falcons team in the Divisional Round 15-10. The game was capped off by an incredible defensive performance, a fourth down goal line stop to end the game, and tackle Lane Johnson’s post-game interview in a dog mask, referencing the team’s underdog status. The team would go on to obliterate the Minnesota Vikings 38-7 in the NFC Championship game, a game in which Foles was nearly flawless, finishing 26/33 with 352 yards and 3 touchdowns. With the win, the Vikings were denied the opportunity to be the first team to host the Super Bowl, and the Eagles moved on to their first Super Bowl since the 2004 Season, a game they would ultimately lose to the Patriots.
The Patriots’ postseason was nothing short of spectacular either. The team started off by tearing apart an injured Tennessee Titans team in the Divisional Round, winning 35-14. Despite falling behind early, Brady would lead the team with 337 yards and 3 touchdowns, while the defense did its part in containing Titans’ quarterback Marcus Mariota. The team would play the “Cinderella” Jacksonville Jaguars, who shocked the Pittsburgh Steelers the week before. Jacksonville jumped out to a 17-10 lead, and quarterback Blake Bortles played nearly flawlessly. However, the Patriots would come back to win behind incredible performances by Brady and wide-receiver Danny Amendola. With the 24-20 win, the Patriots moved on to the tenth Super Bowl appearance in the Brady-Bill Belichick era.
In the weeks leading up to Super Bowl LII, many believed that defensive mastermind Belichick would find a way to limit Foles, as he is known for his ability to the opposing team’s best player completely out of the equation. For this reason, many believed the Patriots would easily win the game, as the team opened up as 5.5 point favorites. However, the Eagles would once again ride that underdog mentality to victory.
The Eagles opened up the Super Bowl with a strong, statement drive that ended with a Jake Elliot field goal. While the team did not score a touchdown in the red zone, it showed that head coach Doug Pederson would not limit his quarterback. Curiously, the Patriots benched Super Bowl XLIX hero Malcolm Butler, a decision many are attributing to the team’s eventual downfall. The Pats answered with a similar drive that would also end in three points. Brady moved the ball down the field almost effortlessly, and showed he would come out of the gate firing. The Eagles marched right back down again in three plays, capping off the drive with an incredible touchdown from Foles to Alshon Jeffery. The Eagles took a 9-3 lead, after Elliot missed the point after touchdown attempt. The Patriots would once again drive the field on the ensuing drive, but a botched snap and hold on the field goal attempt would cause a rare Stephen Gostkowski missed field goal attempt. Once of the game's highlights – or lowlights, depending on who is asked – would occur on the next Patriots’ drive. The Patriots broke out a trick play in which Brady would become a receiver. The play left Brady wide open, but he dropped the pass, much to the chagrin of his wife Gisele Bundchen who correctly stated that Brady could not, in fact, throw and catch the ball.
The Eagles would score on the next drive behind a powerful run by former Patriot LeGarrette Blount, extending the birds’ lead to 15-6. The Patriots would eventually score a field goal, and, behind a “Madden-like” interception from Foles, the Patriots would march down the field once again and close the lead to 15-12. The Eagles would march down the field once more, and, with 38 seconds left in the half, would attempt a fourth down play that will go down in history as one of the greatest plays of all time. In the play, dubbed as the “Philly Special” by Pederson, Foles acted as if he was making a call to his tackle, and center Jason Kelce would snap the ball directly to running back Corey Clement, who would hand the ball off to wide receiver Trey Burton. Burton would throw to a wide open Foles in the end zone for an Eagles’ touchdown. This would send the game to halftime with a 22-12 lead.
The Patriots received the ball first in the second half, and Brady led the team down the field, capping off the drive with a Rob Gronkowski touchdown. The Eagles would score a touchdown on the next drive, with Foles throwing a dime to Clement in the back of the end zone. After review of the play, the call stood, and the Eagles once again extended their lead to 29-19. Brady would, once again, cut through the Eagles’ vaunted defense like a hot knife through butter, marching down the field for yet another touchdown drive, cutting the lead once again to 29-26. The Eagles would settle for another Elliot field goal to jump out to a 32-26 lead. Brady played like a man possessed, and led the offense down the field for another Gronkowski touchdown to take the first lead of the game. The 33-32 lead was short lived, as Foles led an incredible drive down the field, throwing a touchdown to tight end Zach Ertz to reclaim the lead once again. Brady was left with over two minutes on the clock, which many would consider too much for the MVP quarterback who has made a name out of late-game heartbreaking drives. However, in an offensive dominate Super Bowl, it was the defense that would eventually seal the win for the Eagles. Defensive end Brandon Graham stripped Brady in Eagles territory, and the Eagles would recover the fumble for the Patriots’ only turnover of the game. Following an Elliot field goal that extended the game to 41-33, the Patriots were left with one more chance. Brady would get the team to the 49 yard line before launching a Hail Mary pass. The pass was batted multiple times, but would fall harmlessly to the blue and white Patriots’ colored end zone turf, sealing the first ever Super Bowl win for the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Eagles dethroned the defending champions and regular season MVP behind their backup quarterback, who mulled retirement entering the 2016 season. Foles played incredibly well, finishing with 373 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 1 interception. The performance was enough to warrant his being named Super Bowl LII MVP. On the other side, Brady was lights out. He finished with 505 yards – a postseason record – 3 touchdowns and no interceptions. The Patriots did not punt once in the game, yet still found themselves on the losing end of the Super Bowl for a record fifth time. The teams earned a combined 1,151 yards, a postseason record. The offenses dominated the game, yet it was a defensive play by the Eagles, and arguably a defensive decision by the Patriots, that would seal the deal for the Eagles. At long last, the Eagles are Super Bowl champions for the first time ever, winning a game that will go down in history as one of the best Super Bowls ever.
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