In what might have been the most breathless offensive showing in Super Bowl history, the Philadelphia Eagles claimed their first ever Lombardi Trophy with a massive defensive play late.
The Eagles beat the New England Patriots, 41-33, in an absolute thriller at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Tom Brady, the 2017 NFL MVP, was absolutely brilliant for the Patriots, breaking the Super Bowl passing mark he set just one year ago in Super Bowl LI with 505 yards. But the Eagles’ Brandon Graham strip-sacked Brady with just over two minutes left in the fourth quarter, and rookie Derek Barnett recovered. It was the Patriots’ first turnover of the game.
Brady got the ball back after the Eagles turned the turnover into a field goal to give them the winning margin with just over a minute remaining. The Patriots bobbled the kickoff, however, and when Brady's Hail Mary hit the end zone as the clock struck zeroes, they were denied their shot at a sixth championship in the Brady-Bill Belichick era. They are now 5-3 in Super Bowls in the past 18 years.
"I'm disappointed," Brady said. "We could have done a better job, but we fought until the end."
The underdog Eagles won their first title since the 1960 NFL championship, setting off a massive celebration in the football-crazy town of Philadelphia that had seen the Eagles lose their two prior Super Bowls — in 1981 and in 2005, the latter against Belichick and Brady.
Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles was nearly perfect against a Patriots secondary that benched Malcolm Butler before the game. Foles completed 28-of-43 passing for 373 yards with three TDs passing and one receiving on a trick play. His one interception came off his own receiver’s drop. The man who considered walking away from football a few years ago is now indelibly etched into Philadelphia sports lore forever, along with head coach Doug Pederson, who somehow only received one vote for Coach of the Year.
The combined 1,151 yards of offense in the game were the most in any postseason game in NFL history. There was a combined one punt in the game — the fewest ever in a Super Bowl. Foles might have been overshadowed by Brady’s stats, but he delivered the performance of a lifetime in replacing the injured Carson Wentz when few thought it was possible. The Eagles were underdogs in every playoff game despite being the NFC's No. 1 seed.
Corey Clement caught four passes for 100 yards and a TD as a surprise hero. Nelson Agholor added nine big catches for 84 yards. Alshon Jeffery had a big first half, with 73 yards and a score. Zach Ertz caught Foles' final TD pass — one where there was some question initially whether he caught it cleanly — with 2:21 remaining as the Eagles regained the lead.
For the Patriots, three players — Danny Amendola, Chris Hogan and Rob Gronkowski — surpassed the 100-yard receiving mark. Gronkowski was a monster in the second half, catching two TDs and giving the Patriots their first lead of the game with just over nine minutes left.
Both offenses got cooking from the opening kickoff. Foles got hot early with a series of short passes on the Eagles’ first drive, but they bogged down in the red zone following an Ertz false start and settled for a field goal. The Patriots went hurry-up on their first drive and also were stopped short of the end zone when Brady couldn’t hit Gronkowski, singled up against cornerback Jalen Mills, on a slant. Stephen Gostkowski’s field goal tied it — and they were the first points any Brady-Belichick team had scored in the first quarter of a Super Bowl, amazingly.
The Eagles then struck back quickly as ex-Patriot LeGarrette Blount ripped off a 36-yard run and Foles found Jeffery on a jump ball for a 9-3 lead. It was the longest TD pass allowed by the Patriots since the Week 1 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Eagles kicker Jake Elliott missed the extra-point try, his fifth such miss of the season, to make it a 9-3 Eagles lead.
The Patriots once again rolled down the field, highlighted by Brady hitting a wide-open Amendola for 50 yards — his longest catch since the divisional round against the Baltimore Ravens in 2014. But Eagles safety Rodney McLeod made a beautiful tackle on a Brandin Cooks end around, and the Patriots would follow it up with their own kicking mishap. Joe Cardona bounced the short snap, holder Ryan Allen struggled to grab it, and Gostkowski hit the post with his desperate attempt.
The Patriots’ defense held on the next possession, but Cooks was knocked out of the game following a 23-yard catch. He never saw the Eagles’ Malcolm Jenkins coming, and Cooks (concussion) was knocked for the remainder of the game. Then Amendola appeared to hit Brady on a wide-open trick-play pass, but Brady — who was not wearing a glove on his previously injured right hand — just flat out dropped it. Brady’s 4th-and-5 pass was incomplete to Gronkowski down the right sideline.
Foles made the Patriots pay. He hit Ertz on a seam route for 19 yards and a corner route to Jeffery, who made an over-the-shoulder catch, for 22 more. Then Blount stung his old team again — this time with a 21-yard run for a score (big blocks from Jason Kelce and Brent Celek) and a 15-3 Eagles lead.
The Patriots chipped away with a quick field-goal drive in less than 90 seconds, and they got the ball back on the next possession. Foles looked to have Jeffery again on a long play downfield, but he bobbled the ball and it was picked at the New England 2-yard line by safety Duron Harmon. It was the Patriots’ first takeaway since Week 15.
Credit the Patriots and Brady for striking back. Starting at their own 10, they drove 90 yards for a touchdown, cutting the Eagles’ lead to 15-12 in just under three minutes. The key play was a third-down defensive hold by Mills, which kept the drive alive. Hogan then beat Mills for a 43-yard grab, and James White capped it with a 26-yard TD run through contact. Gostkowski got a clean snap this time on the extra-point try but just hooked it wide left.
But the Eagles wouldn’t let up before halftime, continuing to press the gas pedal down. Clement took a wheel route 55 yards, spurred by a huge stiff arm, to help set up the play of the game, called "Philly Special" — Clement taking the direct snap, tossing to Trey Burton who threw it to back Foles for the touchdown.
The first two men to touch the ball were undrafted; the man who caught it, Foles, was doubted from the moment Wentz went down with a torn ACL. It was the first TD catch of Foles’ NFL career and Burton’s first TD pass, too. It was a stunning development — Brady dropping a trick-play pass his way and Foles hauling one in.
"Our coach has got some guts, huh? Some big ones," Burton said.
That gave the Eagles a 22-12 halftime lead, and we were just getting started. Brady finally got going with Gronkowski on the opening drive of the second half, even after badly missing him on the first snap for what could have been a big play. No matter: Gronkowski caught four passes on the drive for 68 yards, including the 5-yard TD to make it 22-19.
You thought it would slow down here? Negative, ghost rider.
The Patriots’ defense had no answers for Foles and the Eagles’ run game. Foles hit Agholor on a checkdown on 3rd-and-6, and he broke the tackle of Johnson Bademosi for a big first down. The Eagles kept pushing the ball forward with consistent gains, and Foles — as dialed in here as he was in the NFC championship game — hit Clement on a strike for a shocking 22-yard touchdown pass. Replay confirmed the call on the field when it was ruled he had complete control of the ball before hitting the end line.
And you thought Brady was done? Of course not.
All he did was systematically cruise down the field — seven plays, 75 yards — and cut the lead back to three points. Brady hit on passes of 16 yards to Hogan, 18 to Amendola and then 26 for the score to Hogan. The most accomplished quarterback of his generation was completely dialed in.
The Eagles could only muster a field goal following a strange play call for a swing pass in the red zone for an 8-yard loss. Elliott’s kick upped the Eagles’ lead to 32-26, and the tension started setting in. Amazingly, the fourth quarter began with the Patriots trailing by a touchdown without punting or turning the ball over.
The Eagles hadn’t stopped the Patriots to this point, and they wouldn’t again. Brady once more leaned on Amendola, hitting him on a big third-down conversion against a Philly blitz and then found him for catches of 30 and 9 yards to set up goal-to-go. That’s when the Patriots took the first lead of the game — Brady on the fade to Gronkowski, like child’s play. Gronkowski beat Ronald Darby, and just like that it was 33-32, New England.
Foles, playing the game of his life, hit Ertz on a crucial fourth-down conversion after the Patriots’ defense appeared to stiffen slightly. Then Foles found Agholor for grabs of 10 and 18 crucial yards and moved the Eagles to the edge of field-goal range as the clock ticked down to the three-minute mark.
Ertz then hauled in a brilliant strike from Foles and was ruled to have held onto the ball, despite bobbling it as he crossed the end zone — almost a replay of the Jesse James play that came against New England in the Week 15 game at Pittsburgh. The two-point conversion failed following the seven-minute drive, leaving the Eagles up 38-33.
It didn’t feel safe. Brady got the ball back with 2:22 left, looking ready to drive the Patriots down the field for another shot at glory. But Graham’s strip and Barnett’s recovery helped set up Elliott’s insurance kick to secure the Eagles’ first-ever Super Bowl victory.