2018-02-05 00:42:02
Eagles 41, Patriots 33 | Eagles win Super Bowl LII: Eagles Hold Off the Patriots to Win Their First Super Bowl

00:42, February 05 193 0

MINNEAPOLIS — Philadelphia is a grand old city with a grand old football tradition defined not by trophies hoisted but the cocktail of emotions — nihilistic despair tinged with unfounded confidence — produced by its beloved Eagles coming so close, so many times.

The last 57 years had passed without a championship. It was never Ron Jaworski’s turn or Randall Cunningham’s or Donovan McNabb’s. It was always something — always.

The paradigm shifted Sunday, when a backup quarterback who nearly retired two years ago and who hadn’t taken a snap with the first-team offense until two months ago delivered Philadelphia its first Super Bowl title, and at the expense of the N.F.L.’s enduring dynasty.

For the rest of his life, Nick Foles will be hailed as the savior who matched a resplendent Tom Brady and authored a 41-33 victory against the New England Patriots for Philadelphia’s first football championship since 1960.

Back then, Philadelphia also conquered an iconic coach and Hall of Fame quarterback, but that win came before Green Bay’s reign of dominance. In Brady and Bill Belichick, bidding for their sixth title together, these Eagles outdueled a tandem in full bloom, the N.F.L.’s premier comeback artists, and avenged a defeat from their last Super Bowl meeting 13 years ago.

Before that game, Belichick inspired his players by relaying the victory parade route — of the Eagles. That parade will finally meander down Broad Street this week.

What made it possible was an unforgettable performance by Foles, who has started for Philadelphia since its star quarterback Carson Wentz tore up his knee on Dec. 10 in Los Angeles. Foles earned the Most Valuable Player Award for catching one touchdown and throwing for three more, including an 11-yarder to Zach Ertz with 2 minutes 21 seconds remaining that put the Eagles ahead, 38-33. The aggressiveness of Coach Doug Pederson, a former Eagles quarterback, helped outsmarted Belichick en route to winning a championship that Pederson’s mentor, Andy Reid, never could in Philadelphia. An improbable late stand by a defense that yielded 613 yards — 505 passing by Brady — produced the most critical play at the most critical time of the season.

Seconds feel like minutes, and minutes feel like hours, when Brady jogs onto the field in the fourth quarter of a Super Bowl with New England trailing. The Patriots, after scoring on their first three second-half possessions, needed to go 75 yards in 2:21 for a dynasty-extending touchdown.

On second and 2 from the New England 33, Brady stepped up in the pocket and either never felt defensive end Brandon Graham or thought he could evade him. Graham slapped the ball out, and it bounced into the arms of Derek Barnett, who recovered at the Patriots’ 31. Brady sat on the ground, his head down, stunned.

After the Eagles turned that turnover into a field goal, Brady had one final chance, but his desperation heave from his own 49-yard line fell incomplete.

Long after the Patriots cleared the field, the theme song to “Rocky” blared over the U.S. Bank Stadium loudspeakers as fans hailed another cherished underdog from Philadelphia. In a measure of how General Manager Howie Roseman revamped the Eagles’ roster, the first 85 points of the playoffs — and first 32 on Sunday — were scored by players who were not on the team last year.

On the surface, the quarterback matchup was more lopsided than a three-legged table. Brady entered Sunday with more victories and touchdown passes in the playoffs than Foles has across his entire career, including the postseason. But the Eagles’ confidence in Foles swelled during their bye week before the opening playoff game against the Atlanta Falcons, when they conducted two practices with training-camp intensity: first-team offense against first-team defense.

Foles guided them past the Falcons, then flourished in a rout of the Minnesota Vikings, rewarding the investment made by the owner Jeffrey Lurie, who prized allocating more money than any other team for a credible backup. As Wentz looked on, Foles threw for 373 yards and led Philadelphia to points on eight of 10 possessions.

On his most lethal playoff days, that is what Brady does.

The Patriots’ dynasty began in the 2001 season, with their first of three titles in four years, a run of excellence that continued unabated even as the league around them evolved. New England’s offensive scheme capitalizes on nameless, faceless positions — with running backs who catch like receivers and tight ends who run like running backs and receivers who do both.

On Sunday, Brady completed passes long and short and in between, to Chris Hogan and Rob Gronkowski and Rex Burkhead, gashing the Eagles for 276 yards at halftime and 404 through three quarters. Across the first 45 minutes, New England shredded Philadelphia for eight plays of at least 20 yards.

An entertaining first half featuring nearly 500 passing yards, a missed field goal, two shanked extra points, a bungled 2-point conversion, a Brady drop and a Foles touchdown reception gave way to a second half that contained multitudes, if not defense.

The first three possessions ended with touchdowns, and the first five produced points. New England kept scoring, until it couldn’t.

Three rules govern the Eagles’ quarterback room: be on time, take great notes and play with swagger. In complying with that final edict, Foles does not strut or preen. He merely delivers what his position coach, John DeFilippo, calls mailbox throws — as in, the ball flies so purely and precisely that it could land in one.

After the teams exchanged field goals on their opening series, it was as if a mailbox materialized above Alshon Jeffery’s hands in the end zone, and Foles lofted it into them, and beyond the outstretched arms of cornerback Eric Rowe, from 34 yards.

Jake Elliott hooked the extra point, though, and as if to commiserate, the Patriots countered with their own kicking woes. A botched snap caused Stephen Gostkowski to hesitate before clanging the left upright from 26 yards.

The Patriots, masters of the fundamental, rarely traffic in such mundane mistakes. It was disorienting to see Brandin Cooks, needing 2 yards for a first down, unsuccessfully try to hurdle Rodney McLeod, just as it was to see Cooks, instead of bolting down the field after a long reception, double back. He was blindsided by a legal hit from Malcolm Jenkins and within mere minutes Cooks, the Patriots’ deep threat, was ruled out for the rest of the game. Even Brady, so calm and cool, dropped a third-down pass from Danny Amendola.

When, on the next play, New England failed to convert on fourth down, Philadelphia took over on the Patriots’ 35, and the Eagles stampeded 65 yards in six plays, a drive capped by the former Patriot LeGarrette Blount’s 21-yard touchdown that extended the lead to 15-3 with 8:48 left before halftime.

Embodying Lurie’s demand for a coach with emotional intelligence, Pederson has fomented a locker-room culture that empowered players to flaunt their personalities. They choreographed elaborate touchdown celebrations and railed against social injustice and donned goofy dog masks to signify their underdog status.

After Duron Harmon halted a promising drive by intercepting Foles on a ball that caromed off Jeffery, and after the Patriots proceeded to march 90 yards to draw within 15-12 with about two minutes remaining in the first half, the Eagles regrouped.

Summoning the play-calling mojo of Philadelphia’s N.F.C. championship rout of Minnesota, Pederson embarrassed the Patriots. On the ensuing drive, he conjured a third-down wheel route to Corey Clement that netted 55 yards, though that play seemed more of an amuse-bouche to Philadelphia’s audacity on fourth and goal from the New England 1.

All season the Eagles have flouted conventional wisdom by going for it in counterintuitive situations. Only one team, Green Bay, went for it more often on fourth down. Instead of attempting a field goal, Philadelphia called its inverse: a direct snap to Clement, who pitched to Trey Burton, who tossed to Foles, who scored a touchdown.

The Eagles’ sideline turned into a mosh pit, with players and coaches jumping around, as it did a few hours later, when their only sack of the game dislodged the ball from the greatest quarterback in history.

The other day, center Jason Kelce remarked that he had seen that coming up is the Chinese Year of the Dog. “So maybe the odds are in our favor,” he quipped.

Indeed, they were. The Eagles lost a franchise quarterback, an All-Pro left tackle, their most versatile running back, their best special-teams player, and they still beat the mighty New England Patriots in the final game of the season.

Outside the Eagles’ locker room, a sign read: “An individual can make a difference. A team can make a miracle.” It must have felt like a miracle from Northern Liberties to Manayunk to the Northeast, cathartic joy that will not dissipate for months, if ever. They will scale lightpoles and drive dune buggies up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and chant, “Fly Eagles Fly,” until their voice vanishes because the improbable has happened.

The Eagles, finally, are Super Bowl champions.