By Chris Emma–
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. (670 The Score) — It ain’t about how hard you can hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.
All along the Eagles’ improbable run to a Super Bowl championship, Jason Kelce kept coming back to those words from Rocky Balboa. His team had been hit hard this season, and the city of Philadelphia has taken its share of blows, but they pushed onward for a day like this in which the Eagles hoisted the Lombardi Trophy for the first time ever.
Philadelphia has a new underdog to call a champion — a team befitting of its city. The Eagles overcame the loss of Carson Wentz in December and defied the odds en route to a 41-33 victory over the Patriots in an instant classic Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday.
“This sums up Philadelphia,” Kelce said. “Everybody together.”
Nick Foles became the first backup quarterback to win a Super Bowl since Tom Brady, the future Hall of Famer who came up short Sunday. Foles was traded by the Eagles to the Rams in 2015 and released a year later. He played three games with the Chiefs in 2016 but had an option declined. There was a time two years ago Foles considered leaving the game.
It was a twist of fate that Foles became Super Bowl LII MVP. The torn ACL suffered by Wentz on Dec. 10 seemed to mark the end of the Eagles’ hopes as a contender. They were the NFC’s top seed but an underdog in each of their three playoff games. Few believed in Foles and the Eagles.
“Just to be in this moment,” Foles said, “unbelievable.”
Foles finished the game 28-of-43 for 373 yards, three passing touchdowns and one receiving score on a bold fourth-down call by head coach Doug Pederson. The play “Philly Special” was derived from the Bears, who during a Week 17 game in 2016 scored on a pass from receiver Cam Meredith to quarterback Matt Barkley. This time, it was Trey Burton to Foles on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line.
The pride Pederson felt for Foles was clear in the aftermath of Sunday. He, too, was a career backup quarterback who bounced from team to team, and he became an unlikely coaching candidate. Ten years ago, Pederson was head coach of Calvary Baptist Academy in Shreveport, Louisiana.
Pederson out-coached Bill Belichick, arguably the greatest coach of all time, with selective aggressiveness and some bold convictions leading to victory over the Patriots. On that fourth-and-goal, he defied convention with a tight end pitching the ball to a receiver, who would pass to the quarterback. Most coaches would run right up the gut.
Trailing 33-32 with 5:39 remaining, the Eagles faced fourth-and-1 from their own 45-yard line, and Pederson elected to go for it. A quick strike from Foles to Zach Ertz moved the chains and extended the Super Bowl-winning drive.
Brady got the ball in his hand with the game on the line and had it stripped away. Brandon Graham batted it out, and Derek Barnett picked it up. The celebration was raring to go back in Philadelphia.
There was one last heave for Brady with nine seconds remaining, but his Hail Mary was deflected to the turf. Instead of another chapter in a storied career, Brady and the Patriots lost the game. They led just once, by that 33-32 margin in the fourth quarter, and struggled to keep up with the Eagles.
“Never really got control of the game,” Brady said, still in a state of disbelief. “We never really played on our terms.”
Super Bowl LII will be remembered as one of the greatest ever — a record-shattering performance by both teams on offense. The Eagles and Patriots combined for 74 points, 1,151 yards and one punt. Brady threw for a record 505 yards, three touchdowns, zero interceptions and lost.
The Patriots faced a double-digit deficit that has become customary in recent Super Bowls. There was a time in the fourth quarter in which New England seemed destined for its sixth championship. The Eagles had another punch back, but Brady got the ball with a chance to be great once again.
It would’ve been the latest chapter to Brady’s remarkable career, yet another trophy for New England and perhaps the greatest in Eagles heartbreaks, but it wasn’t meant to be.
Underdog Philadelphia finally had its day as a Super Bowl champion.