MINNEAPOLIS – Boy, it’s really a shame there wasn’t much going on in Super Bowl LII, isn't it?
Purists and conspiracy theorists had to be miserable in Minneapolis and almost anywhere else in the world a TV was turned on Sunday night, but other than that, what a game.
Granted, defense wasn’t on the menu as the Eagles and Patriots broke the record for most total offense in a Super Bowl . . . before the end of the third quarter.
We knew the Patriots would play some bend-don’t-break and let the Eagles pile up some offense, but who saw the Pats' fifth-ranked defense in points allowed allowing the Eagles 32 in the first three quarters and 538 yards and 41 points on the night?
The same folks who predicted Philadelphia’s fourth-ranked total defense — in yards and points allowed — would buy tickets and just watch as the Patriots offense shattered almost every postseason and Super Bowl record known to man?
If anyone who knows anything about the game had been told the Patriots were going to put up 613 yards of offense and 33 points, those people would have given the Eagles absolutely no chance whatsoever to win the game.
Even leading by five with 2:21 to play, the Eagles still felt like a huge underdog as Brady had the ball at his own 25 with two timeouts and absolutely no one in the stadium believing he could be stopped.
But the Philly ‘D,’ for the most part, made one play all night, one "Michigan Man" to another, with Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham bull rushing an offensive line that had collared him all night long to get a hand up and strip the ball away from Brady at his own 26-yard line with 2:16 to play and effectively salt the game away.
Who can say if this was the best Super Bowl of all time or not? I don’t know, but I do know this: It certainly was the most fun.
Many will argue the most important play of the game came with 38 seconds to play in the first half, Philadelphia leading 15-12 and holding the ball on fourth-and-1 at the New England one-yard line.
Everybody and their brothers knew Eagles coach Doug Pederson had to take the three points with New England getting the ball to start the second half – except Pederson.
The Eagles lined up in a one-back set with Nick Foles in the shotgun, and just before the snap Foles stepped right and up into the slot. The ball was snapped directly to running back Corey Clement, who ran left and flipped to former high school quarterback-turned-backup tight end Trey Burton coming around on a reverse, and Burton threw an easy touchdown pass to Foles, who had slipped out into the right flat all by himself.
It was a brilliant call, an unbelievably gutsy call and one that probably should have been flagged.
Cue the conspiracy folks who actually believe the Patriots aren’t that great and it’s all about the officials putting the fix in.
The replay shows fairly clearly the Eagles only had six men on the line of scrimmage — an illegal formation — but no one in stripes saw it in real time, no flags flew and Philly went to the locker room with a 10-point lead.
There was more to come.
The Eagles' first touchdown of the second half was a brilliant throw from Foles to Clement that left it unclear whether he had possession before he stepped out of the back of the end zone.
It was ruled a touchdown on the field and New York (replay officials) let it stand.
After the Patriots had taken their first lead of the night, at 33-32, Zach Ertz took an 11-yard toss from Foles with 2:21 in the game that he lost as he hit the ground in the end zone.
After it was ruled a touchdown on the field, the officials again chose to let the call stand.
It was clear to me the Foles' receiving touchdown should have been flagged, but officials miss those all the time, and whining is for losers.
The Patriots had plenty of chances to win after that.
Whether the Clement and Ertz TD catches met the standard of the NFL’s version of the “Nunes Memo,” the “Catch Rule,” I don’t know and I doubt anyone else really does either.
It’s a shame that some will use the debate to try and color a brilliant win for the ages by the Eagles.
But that is what the league has wrought with its absurd rule that should have been changed years ago, and now it must pay the price.
Only the Eagles will get rings, so it is impossible to say there were no losers in Super Bowl LII.
There was, however, brilliance on both sides all night long, and I suspect strongly that is what most of us will choose to remember in the days and years ahead.
And none were more brilliant than the two men, one old and one still relatively young, who led the charge all night long.
On the strength of his 28-of-48, 505 yards (10.5 YPA), 3 TDs and 115.4 passer rating performance, Brady could easily have been named the game’s MVP, again, even in defeat.
But instead that award went to the one guy few in Philly wanted on the field — QB Nick Foles — who took over for the injured Carson Wentz and was brilliant throughout the playoffs but never more so than in Minneapolis Sunday night, going 28-of-43 for 373 yards (8.7 YPA), 3 TDs, 1 INT a 206.1 rating and, of course, a 1-yard touchdown catch that changed the course of history.
So it looks like the Eagles finally have their franchise quarterback — but which one is it? Let the 2018 season begin.