The Philadelphia Eagles won Super Bowl LII over the New England Patriots 41-33 Sunday night at U.S. Bank Stadium. Here’s how it happened:
Key drive: After the Patriots took their first lead of the game, at 33-32 with 9:22 remaining, the Eagles could have wilted. But quarterback Nick Foles led the Eagles on a 14-play, 75 yard touchdown drive to retake the lead with 2:21 remaining on an 11-yard pass from Foles to tight end Zach Ertz. The drive included a fourth-down conversion near midfield, also on a pass from Foles to Ertz.
Key play: The Eagles defense, who struggled to pressure on Tom Brady throughout the game, finally got to Brady as the Patriots’ quarterback was trying to lead yet another game-winning drive. But defensive end Brandon Graham pushed his way into the pocket and knocked the ball from Brady’s hand, and teammate Derek Barnett recovered the fumble with 2:16 remaining. It was the first turnover of the game for the Patriots. The Eagles again held firm against Brady and the Patriots on the final drive.
MVP: Nick Foles started this season as a backup quarterback, and he ended it as Super Bowl MVP. Foles threw for 373 yards and three touchdowns, with one interception (that was not his fault) and also caught a touchdown in the Eagles upset win.
Spoiled comeback bid: Most teams would panic with a double-digit deficit in the second half of the Super Bowl, but not the Patriots. This wasn’t rallying back from 28-3 like they did last year, but the Patriots erased a 29-19 third-quarter deficit to take a 33-32 lead early in the fourth quarter. Brady threw three second-half touchdowns to spark the rally.
Officiating questions: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has vowed to rewrite the catch rule this offseason, and now the league has two more controversial calls to review. Two of the Eagles’ touchdowns went through lengthy reviews, in the first half by Corey Clement, on a pass he caught near the back line of the end zone, and late in the fourth quarter by Ertz, who dived across the goal line. The ball bobbled as it touched the goal line while in Ertz’s grasp, then popped up in the air. Ertz caught that deflection. Both touchdowns were upheld upon review.
Best adjustment: Patriots coach Bill Belichick is the king of in-game adjustments, and he made another brilliant one that changed the game for the Patriots in the second half. After tight end Rob Gronkowski was largely shut out in the first half, the Patriots started the third quarter by splitting the tight end out wide, and feeding him. The first three plays of the third quarter went Gronkowski, and he caught four passes for 68 yards, including a five-yard touchdown on the drive. He later scored the Patriots’ go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter.
What we’ll be talking about Monday: Where was the defense? Much of the game felt like a 7-on-7 passing drill, as both quarterbacks racked up yards in chunks. By the end of the third quarter, the teams had combined for 962 yards, a Super Bowl record. Brady went over the 400-yard passing mark with about four minutes remaining in the third quarter. It was the third 400-yard passing performance in Super Bowl history – and the second for Brady in the last two years. It wasn’t an entirely surprising performance from the Patriots defense, who routinely gave up lots of yards this season but held strong in the red zone, but it was certainly out of character for the Eagles, who finished fourth in the NFL in total defense this year with 307 total yards allowed per game.
Best play: The Nick Foles touchdown catch in the second quarter was such perfectly executed trick play that will go down in Super Bowl history. The ball was snapped directly to running back Corey Clement, who handed it to tight end Trey Burton (a former college quarterback at Florida), who lofted a pass to a wide-open Foles in the right side of the end zone. What made the play even more spectacular was that it came on a fourth-and-one at the one yard line with 34 seconds remaining – a time when most coaches would opt to take the points with a field goal rather than take such a risk. With the catch Foles became the first player in Super Bowl history to catch and throw a touchdown in the same game.
Second guessing: After missing an extra point in the first quarter, the Eagles tried to get that point back with a two-point conversion attempt in the second quarter. That try failed, and it came back to haunt the Eagles later, after the Patriots took their first lead, at 33-32 with 12:15 left in the game. Instead of trailing, the Eagles could have at least been tied in that situation.
Key injury: The Patriots lost wide receiver Brandin Cooks in the second quarter after he appeared to be knocked out on a hit by safety Malcolm Jenkins, following a long completion. Cooks was blindsided by the hit as he turned to run Jenkins’ direction, and the safety’s shoulder collided with Cooks’ helmet.