Super soar! Eagles clip Patriots in shootout for first title
Minneapolis — In a matchup featuring two of the NFL’s best scoring defenses, Super Bowl LII offered a night of record-setting offense.
The New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles traded big play after big play, before the Eagles defense delivered the knockout blow late in the fourth quarter — a strip sack of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady — to give the franchise its first Super Bowl championship, 41-33, Sunday night at U.S. Bank Stadium.
The fumble, forced by Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham and recovered by rookie Derek Barnett, was an ironic ending after the offenses combined 1,151 yards, breaking the combined record before the end of the third quarter.
“For us, it was all about one stop we had to make," said Graham, the former Michigan standout. "We went out here and made that one stop."
Both teams burst out of the blocks and never slowed down. The Eagles (16-3) took the opening kickoff and drove deep into Patriots territory before stalling in the red zone and settling for a short Jake Elliott field goal, kicking off the scoreboard operator’s busy night.
The Patriots (15-4) responded in kind, working inside the Eagles 10-yard line before Brady’s throw to into the end zone was broken up by Eagles cornerback Jalen Mills, leading to a game-tying 26-yard chip shot from Stephen Gostkowski.
The Eagles wasted little time regaining the advantage, racing 77 yards in three plays. Running back LeGarrette Blount burst up the middle of the line against his former team for a 36-yard gain, setting up a 34-yard, play-action touchdown pass from Nick Foles to Alshon Jeffery.
Jeffery perfectly tracked the throw and went up over cornerback Eric Rowe to make the scoring grab. A missed PAT left it, 9-3.
The Patriots looked to respond, once again driving into the red zone, but again coming up short of the end zone. This time, things went awry on the short field-goal attempt as the holder struggled to handle the low snap, leading to Gostowski stopping and starting on his approach and clanging the kick off the upright.
After an Eagles punt, the Patriots suffered a key loss. On the opening play of the drive, wide receiver Brandin Cooks suffered a concussion after he was blasted by a blindside hit trying to make a move in the open field. The Patriots ultimately turned the ball over on downs after Brady couldn’t haul in a pass thrown his direction on a trick play on third down and his deep pass to Rob Gronkowski on fourth was again knocked away by Mills.
Taking advantage of the favorable field position, the Eagles pushed their edge to double-digits when Blount cut an outside run around the left edge back to the middle of the field and rumbled for a 21-yard touchdown. The Eagles failed on a two-point conversion, making it 15-3.
After another Gostowski field goal, this one from 45 yards, the Eagles threatened to blow it open, but a Jeffrey couldn’t corral a deep pass with one hand, deflecting it up in the air where it was intercepted by safety Duron Harmon at the goal line.
The Patriots made the Eagles pay for the turnover, driving 90 yards for their first touchdown of the night. A holding call against Mills on third down extended the series, setting up Brady to connect with Chris Hogan for 43 yards. Running back James White finished the job, breaking three tackles in the second level on a 21-yard scoring run.
Philadelphia pushed the lead back up to 10 before the half, 22-12, with a little trickeration of their own. Going for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line, Foles deceptively motioned out of the backfield as the ball was directly snapped to running back Corey Clement. He handed it off to tight end Trey Burton, who flipped it to Foles, who had drifted wide open into the end zone.
The Patriots came back out of the locker room firing, focusing on Gronkowski. He caught four passes for 68 yards on the first possession of the third quarter, finishing the eight-play drive with a 5-yard touchdown catch.
Not to be outdone, Foles floated a beautiful ball to the back of the end zone, connecting with Clement coming out of the backfield for a 22-yard score. The play was challenged by the Patriots, but stood when officials determined the rookie running back maintained possession as he went out of bounds.
Again, the Patriots counterpunched. Brady got 18 yards on a toss to Danny Amendola to convert a third-and-1, then found Hogan running free down the seam out of the slot to get the Patriots back within three, 29-26.
The Eagles couldn’t keep the touchdown streak going, failing to convert a third-and-3 on the opening play of the third quarter, leading to a 42-yard field goal.
That opened the door for the Patriots to take their first lead. Amendola caught three straight passes for 46 yards on the series before Brady went back to Gronkowski for the go-ahead score from four yards out with 9:26 remaining.
Undeterred, Foles, a backup until a late-season injury to starter Carson Wentz, showed impressive poise. Foles converted a third-and-6 and fourth-and-1 in Eagles territory on a pair of throws to tight end Zach Ertz, and went back to Ertz on third-and-7 at the 11, allowing the tight end to take two strides and dive across the plane putting the Eagles back up, 38-33, with 2:21 on the clock. The two-point conversion again failed.
“If they would have overturned that, I don’t know what would have happened to the city of Philadelphia,” Ertz said. “But I’m so glad they didn’t overturn it.”
Looking to lead another late-game comeback, Brady barely got started. On the second play, Graham beat his block and knocked the ball loose. A 46-yard field goal by Elliott with 1:10 remaining pushed the lead to eight.
Brady was able to work the ball to midfield, but his Hail Mary attempt on the game’s final play fell incomplete.
Brady finished with 505 yards passing, breaking his own record from last year’s Super Bowl win over the Atlanta Falcons.
Foles ended his night 28-for-43 for 373 yards, three touchdowns and the one interception, earning MVP honors.
“If there’s a word (it’s) called everything,” Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said. “That’s what it means to Eagles fans everywhere. And for Eagles fans everywhere, this is for them.”