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Super Bowl LII will go down as one of the most intense match-ups in history. Both offenses scored on almost every possession. The teams set a record for most total yards before the end of the third quarter.
But we all know defense wins games. In this instant classic, Philadelphia’s defense rose to the occasion in the final minutes. When the Patriots’ offense took the field down by five points with 2:10 left in the game, few doubted Tom Brady would lead his team to the go-ahead touchdown. The only question was whether he would work his magic fast enough to give Nick Foles a chance to pull out a win for Philly.
Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. On second down, defensive end Brandon Graham moved inside and overwhelmed the Patriots’ guard to strip sack Tom Brady. The ball was scooped up by Eagles’ rookie Derek Barnett. It was the only sack of the game and the only Patriots’ turnover.
Jake Elliott kicked a 47-yard field goal, the longest Super Bowl field goal by a rookie, to give the Eagles an 8-point lead. The Patriots still had 1:05 to work out a touchdown and 2-point conversion. The Patriots’ special teams tried a reverse on the short kickoff. It was snuffed out quickly by Philadelphia and left Brady 91 yards away from paydirt with under a minute to go.
Philadelphia’s defense almost ended the game quickly, but Danny Amendola made a great catch on a 4th-and-10 to keep the drive alive. Ultimately, the game came down to a Hail Mary pass as time expired. Things got exciting when the ball was tipped around for a while, but when it finally fell to the ground, Philadelphia had its first Super Bowl Championship.
New England did their best to knock Philadelphia out of the game, but the Eagles took punch after punch and never went down. When the Patriots stopped an impressive opening drive and forced the Eagles to settle for a field goal, Philadelphia returned the favor.
The Eagles then scored two touchdowns around a 3-and-out, while New England missed a field goal and turned the ball over on downs. Philadelphia was getting some pressure on Brady and held him to a second field goal before starting another good-looking drive in a bid to run away with the game.
But, an interception by Duron Harmon off a tip drill at the 2-yard line was followed by a quick Patriots touchdown drive. James White's impressive, tackle-breaking 26-yard touchdown run capped off the drive, making Philadelphia fans restless.
The Eagles, however, marched right back down the field. When they appeared to stall at the 1-yard line, the offensive play of the game was dialed up by coach Doug Pederson. On fourth-and-goal, Nick Foles started in the shotgun and appeared to be moving to tell his offensive line something. Instead, he got into the set position and the ball was direct-snapped to running back, Cory Clement.
Clement ran left but pitched the ball to tight end Trevor Burton on an apparent reverse. Foles drifted unnoticed into the right side of the end zone where he received the one-yard pass from Burton. It was the first touchdown pass reception by a quarterback in the Super Bowl and put the Eagles up 22-12 at the half.
The Patriots had the first possession of the second half and it became the Rob Gronkowski show. The big tight end caught four passes, including the five-yard touchdown that ended the 2:45 drive. Eagles fans got restless again.
Philadelphia answered as Foles perfectly placed a 22-yard touchdown pass to the rookie Clement. When the Patriots’ Chris Hogan caught a 26-yard touchdown pass on the next possession, it seemed the first team to not score a touchdown would lose the game.
That team was Philadelphia. They opened the fourth-quarter scoring with a field goal. Tom Brady went back to his tight end for a 4-yard touchdown on the Patriots’ next possession. The extra point gave New England its first lead of the game at 33-32 and quieted many of the Philly faithful.
Philadelphia would not be knocked out. On their next possession, they faced a fourth-and-one in their own territory and went for it. Coach Pederson said after the game he felt he had to score because his defense hadn’t stopped Brady in the second half yet.
Zach Ertz reminded New England they didn’t have the only Pro Bowl tight end on the field as he made a leaping grab and held on for the fourth-down conversion. Then he became the focal point of the inevitable Super Bowl’s catch rule controversy. Ertz took a pass and stretched toward the end zone as a Patriots’ defender tried to tackle him low.
Ertz extended his arms over the goal line for the apparent score, but the ball bounced out of his hands on contact with the ground. He grabbed it again and secured it. The play was reminiscent of the Jesse James catch that was ruled an incompletion earlier in the playoffs.
In this case, the referees ruled that Ertz had possession and took enough steps to become a runner. That meant the play was a touchdown as soon as the ball crossed the goal line. The Eagles took the lead, but their third failed two-point conversion left them up by only five points.
Whether they felt insulted by Pederson’s decision to go for it on fourth down or if they just became inspired to make sports history, Philadelphia’s defense went on to be the heroes of a game in which they gave up over 600 yards.
Tom Brady on the ground after the strip-sack fumble might be the iconic image of Super Bowl LII, but that hardly seems fair. After all, he threw for a Super Bowl record 505 yards and three touchdowns.
The Patriots and Eagles set Super Bowl records for combined total yards (1151) and combined passing yards (874). In fact, the passing yards are the most in any post-season game in history and the total combined yards is the most in any game, regular or postseason.
New England’s 33 points is the most for a losing team in Super Bowl history and the combined one punt is a record low. The one sack tied a record.
Philadelphia’s LeGarrette Blount and Chris Long became the third and fourth players to win consecutive Super Bowls for two different teams. Blount scored a touchdown and ran for 90 yards against his former teammates.
Nick Foles was the game’s MVP. He threw for 373 yards and 3 touchdowns. Foles became the seventh backup quarterback to win a Super Bowl, and only the third to win after starting three or less regular season games.
Foles wasn’t the only quarterback to go out for a pass. Tom Brady also tried to catch one, but he short-armed Danny Amendola’s delivery for an incompletion.