By: Bradley Kishiyama
In what many believed would be a defensive stand-off due to the Eagle’s dominant defensive front, the Super Bowl ended up being an offensive shootout. Both teams combined for 1,151 total yards, smashing records for most yards gained not only in Super Bowl history, but in any NFL game ever.
Few predicted Nick Foles, a quarterback who spent the first 14 weeks on the bench, would be the reason the Philadelphia Eagles would win their first Super Bowl title in franchise history. Even less people thought that he was going to throw for 373 yards and three touchdowns. And just about nobody predicted that he would become the Super Bowl MVP and join a list of legendary names like John Elway, Terrell Davis, and Joe Montana who have also won the award.
The Eagles’ 4th ranked defense knew they were going to have their hands full matching up against arguably the best coach in NFL history, Bill Belichick, and his number one-ranked offense. Going into the game, nobody expected the Eagles to be perfect, as it is rare to see a defense 100 percent stop a Belichick-coached team. But the Eagles’ defense showed no signs of weakness through most of the second quarter by only allowing a pair of field goals. It was only a matter of time, though, as Patriots running back James White broke through multiple tackles during his 23 yard run endzone run, closing the gap to make it only a 15-12 Philly lead. In what seemed to be a common theme in this game, a player missed the PAT (Point(s) After Touchdown). In this case, it was Stephen Gostkowski. There were four missed PAT’s in this game adding up to a Super Bowl record for most missed.
Only 2:04 was left in the half, but the Eagles weren’t finished yet. A few short plays and a check-down pass to running back Corey Clement that went for 55 yards quickly brought a 4rd and goal at the NE 1 yard line. An aggressive play call led to a trick play touchdown, giving the Eagles extra insurance going into halftime.
A large part of the the Eagles’ win is thanks to head coach Doug Peterson’s boldness and risk taking, with a few 4th down attempts, two 2 point conversion tries, and many shots downfield. The 4th and goal at the Pats 1 yard line was a perfect display of this, because instead of grabbing the go-ahead field goal, they wanted the touchdown. In the play that has earned the name “The Philly Special”, Foles lined up in a shotgun formation and pretended to audible, while Clement, also in the backfield, took the direct snap. Clement then pitched it to tight end Trey Burton, who then threw a 10 yard lob to Foles, who had snuck out to the right, and walked into the endzone untouched for a touchdown. It extended their lead to 22-12. The Patriots had attempted a play similar to this a few drives prior, but it only proved that New England quarterback Tom Brady is better at throwing a football rather than catching it, as he was unable to grab a perfectly thrown, potential touchdown pass.
Brady is often referred to as a top 5 quarterback in the NFL, but that’s in large part due to Belichick’s mastermind play calling and the Patriots superstar receivers like tight end Rob Gronkowski. Gronkowski had nearly zero impact in the first half, yet in the second half, he was the reason why New England kept the game close. He became an almost unstoppable threat against the Eagles and racked up 116 yards on 9 catches and added two key touchdown catches (including one that gave New England a 33-32 lead in the final quarter.)
The biggest offensive play of the game came in the following drive. The Eagles drove down the field, and with two and a half minutes left in the game, they were stuck at a 3rd and 7 at New England’s 11 yard line. Tight end Zach Ertz was lined up outside to the left, which allowed Foles to throw a short 6 yard in route which Ertz caught and dove into the endzone. The 2 point conversion fell incomplete, but the Eagles weren’t complaining with their new 38-33 lead. To some viewers, the touchdown was an incorrect call by the refs, as they were thinking that Ertz never actually caught the ball. However, the many replays clearly showed that Ertz had full control of the ball and four steps (you only need two) before the ball crossed the plane of the endzone resulting in a touchdown.
Brady had a little over 2 minutes left to illustrate his “elite” status and put together a drive to overcome a 5 point difference. With a Super Bowl on the line, neither Eagles nor Patriots fans were comfortable. The heated Eagles’ defense, who had been getting neutralized by the New England offensive line all game, came up big with their one and only sack, which stripped Brady of the ball and was recovered by the Eagles. This became the deciding play in the game because it allowed the Eagles to score and more importantly, knock off valuable time that the Patriots needed.
All the Eagles had to do from there was to survive. In what was 2 minutes and 9 seconds of stress for Eagles fans, they watched a successful Eagles field goal, Brady’s Hail Mary fall incomplete, and green confetti rain down signifying that the Philadelphia Eagles had just become world champs.
As the clock showed 0, it marked an end to Super Bowl 52 and the end to a great 2017 NFL season.