Philadelphia Eagles 41
New England Patriots 33
Sunday, February 4 th , 6:30 PM EST.
US Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN
While we anticipated a good game on Sunday, this one didn’t go exactly as expected. I don’t think anyone could have predicted the wild offensive show that was unleashed in Minnesota. Highest scoring Super Bowl losing team, check. Most yards in a Super Bowl, check. Most passing yards total, and by a quarterback (Brady), check-check. First QB to CATCH a touchdown pass (Foles), bizarrely, check. In all, sixteen records were tied or broken on Sunday. None of them were defensive.
We knew it would take a solid effort by the Eagles to upset the defending champions, but the sheer determination to play full-tilt by these Eagles was very, very impressive. They played at full gas for sixty minutes, and all of their gambles paid off. Coach Doug Pederson talked all week about not changing his tactics for the Super Bowl, but he did. He went even more aggressive than he’s been all year long, risking everything, and taking home the Lombardi trophy for his hubris. Situationally, it was a solid tactic, actually. The Patriots are great at defending offenses that act predictably. They haven’t been as good defending against desperation and frequently get burned by mobile quarterbacks and extended plays.
Three plays defined this game for these Eagles, and two of them were successful fourth down conversions. One was the trick pass to QB Nick Foles that ended in the end zone, the other, a fourth quarter desperation play to keep the ball out of New England’s hands. Making both plays accounted for fourteen Philadelphia points and swung the clock in their favor. When Brady and the Patriots got the ball back with 2:21 to play, trailing by five, fans all over New England sat up a little straighter, anticipating yet another Brady-orchestrated drive to win the game. What they got, however, was a dose of shock and awe, as Eagles DE Brandon Graham got to Brady for the only sack of the game, knocking the ball loose in the process. It was a matter of a milliseconds. Any later and Brady’s arm would have started the throwing motion. Any earlier and it would have just been a sack. In either situation, the seemingly inevitable would have probably happened; Brady would very likely have marched down the field. By taking the ball away and then adding a much needed field goal, the Eagles forced the Patriots into an unsuccessful desperation heave to close out the game.
Much has been made of the benching of Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler, the hero of Super Bowl XLIX who snatched a goal line interception from Seattle to seal the win. His tear-filled eyes during the national anthem have caused something like outrage on his behalf. The Patriots coaching staff have indicated that it was simply a football decision to leave their cornerback on the sideline during this offensive firework show. I’m inclined to believe them. It was reported that Butler was sick in the week leading up to the Super Bowl, and that Eric Rowe had been taking the first string reps in his place. While Butler is undoubtedly the more solid defensive playmaker, the Eagles length at wide receiver was a problem that Matt Patricia and Bill Belichick had to contend with. Rowe is several inches taller, and that, combined with the specter of Butler not being at 100% likely tipped the scales.
One final point to wrap this up. Non-Eagles fans, I’m, talking to you.
While many neutral football fans seem to hate New England with a feverish tone, I honestly can’t see why. Yes, New England has played in eight of the last seventeen Super Bowls. Yes, that’s a lot. Regardless of the results of the Super Bowl, it’s the most impressive stretch by any franchise in the history of professional sports. You might be feeling Patriot-fatigue, I get it, but those eight games have been among the most exciting Super Bowl games during that stretch. Every single Super Bowl featuring the Patriots, win or lose, has been a single score affair with drama until the final moments. Want to know the average margin of victory in the Super Bowl over that time when the Patriots aren’t involved? Fourteen points. Super Bowls without the Patriots tend to be a snooze-fest. Just sayin’. Congrats to the Eagles for one of the riskiest and exciting Super Bowl wins on record. Something tells me that Belichick, Brady and company are on to 2018 already.
Image source: twitter.com/eagles
Tom Capo writes about sports, parenting, food, wine and travel; but seldom all at once. He’s currently working on his first novel and collection of shorter fiction. He lives in the Bay Area with all of his girls; wife Allison, daughter Liliana and dog Artemis.