First, Nick Foles replaced an MVP candidate, then he slayed the NFL’s past two MVPs in the postseason, leading the Eagles to their first Lombardi trophy and – wait for it – earning Super Bowl LII’s most valuable player award.
Foles, who replaced injured star Carson Wentz in December and authored one of the greater playoff runs by any quarterback – much less a backup – bested the greatest ever, amid one of the finest Super Bowl performances of all time: Eagles 41, Patriots 33.
Foles was 28 of 43 for 373 yards, three touchdowns and one interception, and he tossed the game-winning score — an 11-yard strike to Zach Ertz with 2:25 remaining.
In a heart-pounding final that set all kinds of Super Bowl records for offensive fireworks, including the most combined yards (1,151) and Tom Brady breaking his own Super Bowl record for passing yards with 505 through the air, it seemed whichever club had the ball last would win.
Instead it was Foles engineering a 14-play, 75-yard game-winning drive with just more than two minutes remaining, immediately after the Patriots mounted their third consecutive 75-yard touchdown drive to take their first lead, 33-32. It’s when a backup is supposed to succumb to a legend, coming up just short after a heroic effort.
Except not in Super Bowl LII. Not when the Eagles’ margin for error was nonexistent, not only because they were going up against Brady, but because of a missed PAT by rookie PK Jake Elliott and an ill-advised two-point conversion attempt that failed on Philadelphia’s subsequent touchdown early in the second quarter.
No, Foles was a man on a mission from the opening kickoff. He led eight scoring drives on 10 Philadelphia possessions. He made arguably the best throw of the night, a 22-yard precision touchdown on third-and-6 over the shoulder of Corey Clement, one of countless Foles’ answers, after New England cut the lead to a field goal early in the third quarter.
In the 2017 playoffs, Foles’ Eagles converted a staggering 26 of 43 third downs, or 60.5 percent. That, like Foles rising to the occasion, isn’t remotely ordinary; it’s completely extraordinary.
So too was Pederson’s call early in the second quarter with the Eagles leading by a field goal and facing a fourth-and-goal at their own 2-yard line. Pederson said at halftime he refused to let his offense come away without six, and the Eagles had been working on the trick play about to ensue for a few weeks.
Corey Clement took the shotgun snap and pitched it back to TE Trey Burton, running in motion from left to right. Meantime, Foles snuck into the flat where Burton found the “pocket quarterback” for Foles’ first-ever reception, a one-yard touchdown in his first Super Bowl. Ho-hum.
On the game-winning drive and throughout the entire Super Bowl, Foles did it all. He slung a sidearm shot to Zach Ertz on third-and-6. He again found Ertz on fourth-and-1 in what likely would’ve been the ballgame without a conversion. Then he found Ertz a third time, on third-and-7, on a quick slant for the final touchdown, confirmed by replay after Ertz was deemed a runner who broke the plane and had the ball squirt out upon making contact with the ground.
Brady was superhuman, too, but Foles was undeterred in a performance rivaling XXXIV MVP Kurt Warner’s for the most unlikely by a Super Bowl quarterback in NFL history.