PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 41 NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 33
In the early hours of Monday morning, it saw the Philadelphia Eagles becoming Super Bowl champions with victory over the favourites in the New England Patriots at Minnesota’s US Bank Stadium, as the NFC East side were crowned World Champions for the first-ever time at Super Bowl LII. Eagles quarterback Nick Foles was named the MVP of the game, after the former University of Arizona player, threw for three touchdown passes and even caught a touchdown pass himself, as the Philadelphia man threw for 373-yards in his sides 41-33 win over the most dominant team of recent times.
It was a game that was action-packed from the opening kick off to the final play of the game, as many pundits had already decided the outcome beforehand, with the New England Patriots being crowned champions before a ball was even snapped. But the NFC champions were more than happy enough to play up to the role of underdogs, with Philadelphia having been using that terms for the whole of these post-season match-ups.
The traditional clash of AFC and NFC Champions clashing at the Super Bowl saw many records broken during this year’s contest, as the teams combined for the most offensive yards in a single game this season, as no regular season or postseason could boast that over that year. Another record that got broke was one that had lasted for thirty years, as the two sides totalled 1,151 for offensive play and were 222 more yards than what the previous record was set when the Washington Redskins beat the Denver Broncos back at Super Bowl XXII.
Many former players and commentators felt that the AFC division is the weakest of the two in the National Football League, and when comparing the contenders for this year’s Super Bowl, it is pretty hard to disagree with that point at all, as the New England breezed through their conference games with relative ease over their respective rivals in the Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars. It felt that the Patriots only challenge in the postseason would come at the Super Bowl itself, as the NFC was one of the toughest conferences to win and that proved to be the case with many sides showing their title credentials.
For Philadelphia, getting to Minnesota and setting up a rematch of Super Bowl XXXIX was a battle itself, following tough games against the Atlanta Falcons and host city Minnesota in the NFC Championship game a couple of weeks ago. Facing the Patriots again seemed to be a way of expelling their Super Bowl past, as back in 2005 the Eagles lost out to New England and this was a great chance to gain revenge against the side that beat them thirteen years ago. The Eagles started the game with possession and saw Nick Foles engineering a drive that saw Torrey Smith completing a 30-yard catch on a 3rd & 12 that eventually culminated in a 25-yard field goal being kicked over by Rookie Jake Elliott to give the NFC side a 3-0 lead early on. New England responded in kind with a field goal of their own to level the game at 3-3, and it saw the game starting to take shape with both sides looking to assert their dominance and have both defences struggling early on after the first couple of opening drives for both sides.
Former Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount, saw him cutting through New England defense and moved his side from the Eagles 30-yard line to the Patriots 33-yard line with a solo run. Philadelphia then scored the opening touchdown of Super Bowl LII thanks to a catch in the end zone by Alshon Jeffery, as the former Chicago Bears man made a superb grab from a Nick Foles throw towards the wide receiver for a score and have the NFC East side retaking the lead. Elliott then went to add the extra point for Philadelphia, but his kick had some curl on it and it missed the uprights and left the score at 9-3. Tom Brady then came back onto the field and saw him struggling to find one of his receivers with the Eagles defense on top and closing down all options that were normally on offer to Brady. Rob Gronkowski was given special treatment, as he proved to be ineffective in the entire first half for the defending champions, with ‘Gronk’ being shut down by the Philly defensive unit. That meant that New England needed guys to step up, and Chris Hogan and ‘Mr Postseason’ Danny Amendola stood up and accepted the challenge and both of them came up huge for the Patriots when they needed them.
Amendola soon found himself in acres of space near the sidelines for a pass by Brady, as he got the reigning champs upfield. Brandin Cooks then attempted to hurdle Eagles Safety Rodney McLeod on the ten-yard line but instead saw the Philadelphia man catching Cooks in mid-air and looked like he was going to go WWE on him, as he had him in a kind of powerbomb position, but Cooks failed to get by. Stephen Gostkowski then stepped out onto the field for the Patriots and saw his 26-yard field goal attempt botched in the lead up to it, with the snap to Ryan Allen having the ball bobble to the punt kicker, and that led to panic and saw Gostkowski quickly putting boot to ball and could only watch it swerving away and hitting the goalposts to see no points. There was a slight hint of frustration on the face of the Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick, but his poker face didn’t give too much at all away.
Prior to the game taking place, there was some concerns from the kickers on where the ball was being snapped too, as the logos on the field were causing problems for both sides on special teams and had the logos leaving the kickers a bit ‘unsteady’ and even saw the Super Bowl logos being painted on the pitch only hours before the big event.
Brandin Cooks was then forced to leave the game with a head injury following a scary moment with 13.03 to go in the second quarter when Cooks completed a catch and was looking for a gap to run into, but instead he was hammered hard by Malcolm Jenkins and saw the New England man knocked out cold by the Eagles Safety. That then left a huge hole in the New England offense, with the Patriots on a 3rd & 5 they then attempted a trick play involving Brady as a receiver and have Danny Amendola taking a pass and becoming the quarterback on the play and throwing a pass towards Tom Brady down the sidelines but he was unable to take in the pass and moved the Patriots to fourth down situation.
Philadelphia managed to stop the 4th down conversion attempt and saw them looking now to take advantage of shaky New England side that wasn’t looking too good, especially with Cooks being knocked out cold and being assessed for a concussion protocol and then had their star man in Gronkowski being frozen out by their opponents. LeGarrette Blount continues his assault on the opposition with a score and picked up the Eagles second touchdown of the game, after he powered his way through the New England side and was a similar story back at Super Bowl XLIX, when Marshawn Lynch did the same to the Patriots with the Seattle Seahawks and saw New England having no answers to stop him in that game either.
Stephen Gostkowski then kicked over a 45-yard field goal to see New England trailing by nine points at the midway point of the second quarter came around. Nick Foles threw an attempted pass out wide to Alshon Jeffery as he battled with Stephon Gilmore – of which Gilmore replaced the ‘benched’ Malcolm Butler in the lineup, as the ball came towards the two battling players it saw Jeffery juggling the ball and fell into the hands of Duron Harmon for the Interception. The Philadelphia defensive was doing a great job of stifling the play of Brady and co but then hit penalty trouble when Jalen Mills was guilty of a hold against Chris Hogan and saw the ball moved upfield for the Patriots to get outside of field goal range. Brady then threw to Hogan for a 38-yard catch that saw New England inside the Eagles half. Minutes later saw James White grabbing a touchdown for New England with just over two minutes remaining, as the running back bounced off a tackle or two and broke free of the Eagles clutches for a score.
Gostkowski then missed another kick, as his extra point attempt was no good and went nowhere remotely near the posts at all and saw the AFC side trailing 15-12. Philadelphia then found themselves deep in Patriots territory and when a pass for Jeffery saw the wide receiver failing to get the better of Gilmore who looked better the more the game went on, Philadelphia Head Coach Jim Schwartz then opted to run on a fourth & goal instead of going for a field goal and it was viewed by many to be a ‘gutsy’ call by the Eagles coach.
Prior to the snap, Foles shouted towards his offensive linemen a change to the play call and perhaps trying to draw a offsides penalty as well. Instead, though, it saw the ball being snapped towards Corey Clement in the backfield and he flipped it to Trey Burton on the run, before Burton fired a nice weighted pass to quarterback Nick Foles in the end zone for a touchdown and see a surprise play that caught everyone out. That score was also the first time in Super Bowl history that a quarterback had caught a pass for a touchdown and more importantly saw them extend their lead to 22-12 with Elliot kicking the extra.
Following the Half-time break of which Justin Timberlake performed his back catalogue of hits, it saw the second half starting off well for the New England as the Patriots came out a different team and had the Eagles probably wishing that they didn’t have a break, as there wasn’t much momentum. As it was, Tom Brady led a recovery for his side and led to Rob Gronkowski making a grab in the end zone for a touchdown to get his team back in it. It also saw the re-emergence of the Patriots wide-receiver in the second half as ‘Gronk’ threw away the shackles that the Eagles had him in during the first half.
Midway through the third quarter, it saw some controversy in the game, as all season the ‘catch’ rule has been the bain of many NFL fans, players, coaches, pundits and probably even officials too. This time saw a deep pass thrown towards Corey Clements who made the grab before heading out of bounds. This then led to the officials reviewing the play and deciding whether it was a score or if it should be overturned. Using the old style ruling it was a good catch, but using the catch rule today – and it divides opinion. On review, it didn’t look like he had completed two steps with the ball before hitting the whitewash, but then on another angle, he did. Eventually, the ruling of a touchdown stood and the Eagles moved out to a ten points lead at 29-19 with 7.18 left in the third.
New England has made it a habit of always coming right back at opponents and this was no different, as Chris Hogan made a catch in the end zone to score a touchdown and bring it to a three-point ball game. Jake Elliott then gave the Eagles some breathing space with a 42-yard field goal at the start of the fourth quarter to help extend their lead to a six-point gap at 32-26. In last year’s Super Bowl, it saw the New England Patriots infamously put up 19 points in the fourth quarter en route to see them go from dead and buried, to tying the game and winning in overtime for the craziest ever finish to a championship game.
This year, however, they only trailed by six in the fourth quarter, but they still showed their battling qualities and came storming right back at a tough brash Philadelphia side in the second half. As the game went on it saw Philadelphia being limited in their attack, thanks to New England now turning the tables on their opponents and saw their game suffering because of it. With 9.22 left to play, it saw Rob Gronkowski claiming his second touchdown pass of the game and drew New England level with the score. Gostkowski who had such a mixed game with the boot, saw him making no mistake this time around and kicked the extra point for AFC Champions and give them the lead for the first time in the contest.
With the Patriots on top, in both scoreline and play, the Eagles now badly need a response and so with 2.30 left to go in the game, it saw them reaching the New England 12-yard line and needing looking for a score. That response came in the form of Philadelphia’s Zach Ertz, as he dived his way into the end zone for a score and have the ball popping up before regathering for a score. Once more it saw the call being looked at and was just more drama and tension added to this game. The officials decided to double check the play and it dragged up that unwanted argument of ‘catch or no catch’ again.
In a season, where this rule has reared it’s ugly game on pretty much every game and has done more damage than it is meant to do, so this call was gigantic in the grand scheme of things. If it was ruled a ‘no catch’ then it would be 4th & 7, but should it be good then the Eagles were leading again. The touchdown stood and saw the Eagles trying for a two-point conversion to make it a one-score game that would need New England needing to get a PAT to tie the game.
The game clock said 2.21 left to play and saw the defending champions with one time-out remaining, but the telling factor without question was the man with the ball and perhaps the ‘greatest’ quarterback to ever play the game in Tom Brady, as he looked to engineer another possible Super Bowl winning drive. During an incredible game between two top teams, it saw neither side giving up a single sack in the contest.
With most people thinking, “could the Eagles stop Brady from delivering yet another Super Bowl championship for New England?”, It was probably doubtful that any person in the US Bank Stadium thought “‘WHAT IF, Philadelphia could force a turnover?”, but that is exactly what happened. As the ball got snapped to Brady on 2nd & 2, it saw the quarterback scanning the field and looking to throw the ball, however, Brandon Graham knocked the ball from the gloved hand of Brady and forcing a fumble to which teammate Derek Barnett recovered the ball for the Eagles. Following that huge play by Philadelphia, it saw the Eagles unable to make the most of the great field position they had got from forcing the turnover and were forced to settle for a Jake Elliott field goal from 46-yards out with just over a minute of play to go.
Despite Philadelphia holding an 8-points lead, it saw the Patriots still not giving up hope of producing a late twist to this game, as Tom Brady was nearly tackled in the build-up; but Brady managing to get free and fire off a ‘Hail Mary’ pass upfield and have the ball tipped and see some desperate defending by the Eagles defense to close the game out as time expired and have the NFC East side crowned Super Bowl champions for the first time in their history.
It saw a bitter-sweet ending for the Philadelphia Eagles at quarterback, as Carson Wentz who was on course to be the MVP of the league until he tore his ACL in his knee on a scramble against the LA Rams in Week 14, was forced to watch from the sidelines as back up Nick Foles took on the mantle of trying to carry on with his good work. In six weeks, it saw him from the bench to now being made MVP at Super Bowl LII. For Carson Wentz, it would have been a bitter pill to swallow for the Eagles starter as he had been the man for Philadelphia before his injury.
The victory is the first championship-winning side to come from the ‘City of Brotherly Love’ since the Philadelphia Phillies won the World Series back in 2008 in Major League Baseball. There was some joy for the Brits too, as Running back Jay Ajayi became only the fifth player to win a Super Bowl from the United Kingdom and proudly showed off his national pride with the Union Flag draped around his shoulders.
For the Patriots, it seemed like an ‘end of a era’ of sorts to their team, as talk after the game was of Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels leaving New England to become the new Head Coach of the Indianapolis Colts and also the likely move of defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, becoming the Detroit Lions new Head Coach later this week. Rob Gronkowski admitted that he was to review his options and that this game could very well have seen the last ever ‘Gronk Spike’ from the big man. Meanwhile, Tom Brady said in his press conference that he plans to continue on past forty, but what does the future hold for the Legendary head coach Bill Belichick? Rumours have been rife in the media that Belichick may choose to leave New England in the summer with a possible rift inside the camp being blamed.
One thing for sure though, this game will go down in the history books as one of the most entertaining Super Bowl’s played out, with non-stop action and drama in one game.