NFL fans rejoice, for the Eagles bested the Patriots in Super Bowl LII. “Why would NFL fans collectively rejoice over this result?” you may ask. Well, with all due respect to the great New England franchise, everyone is sick and tired of seeing you guys win!
What? With the G.O.A.T Tom Brady and the one-of-a-kind Bill Belichick on your side, the Super Bowl was starting to look like an annual Patriots invitational.
At this point, most people would want to see some change at the pinnacle of professional football, and that change was none other than the Philadelphia Eagles.
Now that I’ve gotten all formalities out of the way … Holy cow the Eagles finally won the Super Bowl! Considering the overall magnitude of the team and all the years that rolled by, fans of Philadelphia craved that Vince Lombardi trophy more and more ever since the first inaugural Super Bowl back in 1967.
Factor in two previous runner-up appearances (third time’s the charm), including a phenomenal 2017-18 season, and then you got the Eagles’ faithful talking about this being their year. Oh, how right they were.
Before I get into the Super Bowl itself and how ‘pundits’ alike were counting out the Eagles all year long, I’m going to mention a few key moments from both regular and postseason play that stood out that ultimately led up to the completion of the Philadelphia dream as well as football’s greatest underdog tale.
The Field Goal Heard Around the World
What a start to the season this was. Carson Wentz had begun to show signs of major second-year progression, the Eagles had seemingly found a No. 1 wide receiver in Alshon Jeffery and that four-headed monster of a defensive line had only just begun its rampage on opposing quarterbacks.
It was a Week Three divisional matchup at home for the Eagles when the New York Giants came knocking on Philadelphia’s door.
Thrust early on into desperation mode after conceding the first two matches of the new season, the Giants sought to upset the Eagles in their own backyard and spoil the festivities of what looked to be the start of a promising year.
It was a back and forth game throughout, but in the final minute of the fourth quarter, the game was tied at 24-24. The Eagles had moved up the field minimally but still had time to get into field goal range before the clock expired.
On a right side curl route, Wentz found Jeffery for a 27-yard gain who then stepped out of bounds with one second remaining.
Enter rookie kicker Jake Elliott, who landed the field goal from a franchise record of 61-yards out, earning the Eagles their second win of the season in very memorable fashion.
A Primetime Performance
With both teams at a 4-1 overall record, many analysts had the Eagles and Panthers battling for a top-three slot in the weekly power rankings. Luckily, the two teams would go on and face off in a primetime Thursday Night Football matchup.
This away game would prove to be the hardest meeting for the Eagles this far into the season. With Cam Newton on the rise once more, Philadelphia was the only thing standing in Carolina’s way.
The match was a hard-fought and close affair as both sides swapped leads several times.
Ultimately, the game came down to stamina as the Eagles’ defensive line completely halted the opposing run game, thus forcing Newton to overthrow and exhaust himself, resulting in a pair of late interceptions that halted all hope for a comeback.
The Eagles had done it again in the clutch, proving that they were definitely a team to keep an eye on.
Wentz in a Lifetime
In the following week, the Eagles would go on to host a divisional Monday Night Football game for the ages against the Redskins. More specifically, Carson Wentz would go on and shred Washington in the air for 268 yards and four touchdowns.
This standout game for Wentz would prove to be the platform for his potential MVP candidacy.
Putting on a show all season long, he once again achieved some unbelievable feats by escaping collapsing pockets and making almost impossible throws all across the field.
Truly, this was the start of something special for the Eagles’ organization and its fans, as talks of a deep playoff run were brewing.
Star Foles: A New Hope
Rams versus Eagles, Goff versus Wentz: a great battle in the NFC as well as the NFL Game of the Week at the famous Coliseum.
At this point in the season, Philadelphia was at the top of the league standings and was just one win away from clinching the NFC East Division title.
It was perhaps the most thrilling matchup yet — or perhaps I’m just biased because I saw it all go down live in person — as both sides just couldn’t stop scoring.
Then, tragedy: Wentz goes down with an ACL tear after diving into the end zone in order to hand his team the lead.
As Philly fans held their breath, they looked to backup quarterback Nick Foles to save the day. He’d go on to do more than just that, as we all know.
Thus, the start of the Foles era began in the midst of a potentially abrupt end to the season and minute hope for what he could possibly achieve in the playoffs.
“They’re the Best Defense in the League; You Can’t Win!”
Thirty-eight total points, that was just how much the Eagles dropped on what pundits proclaimed as, ‘the best defense in the NFL.’
The Vikings visited Lincoln Financial Field in hopes of earning a one-way ticket to the Super Bowl, which would be held in Minnesota regardless — that is, unless Foles and the Eagles had something to say about it.
Starting with a pick-six by veteran cornerback Patrick Robinson, the floodgates were opened in Philly as the scores began to rain down on the opposing defense.
Running backs LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi ground pounded, tight end Zach Ertz caught on third down to move the chains and Foles flung it into the end zone from deep … The Eagles had done it.
They had finally earned their chance to return to the Super Bowl, this time in hopes of exacting revenge upon a familiar enemy.
Super Bowl LII: Eagles 41 – Patriots 33
The previous section’s subheader was a critic’s quote for a reason. I can’t even begin to tell you the number of Eagles nonbelievers that were present in both national coverage and local media.
You would think after all the counting out going on during the season and through the playoffs that the dialogue would change from “you can’t” to “maybe you can.” Inevitably, the Eagles went on and achieved as the underdogs once more.
It was Brady, the G.O.A.T., versus Foles, the hope. Early on the Eagles took and maintained the lead.
Following a pair of field goals on each side, a deep throw from Foles found its way into Jeffery’s control as he made a spectacular catch that resulted into a 34-yard touchdown.
With a score of 9-3 early in the 2nd quarter, the Patriots would go on to travel all the way down the field until eventually missing on a muffed field goal attempt.
The Eagles would go on and take advantage of Patriots turnovers on downs and hand the ball to Blount for a 21-yard rushing touchdown and extend their lead to 15-3.
New England would soon respond after with a made long field goal, interception near the end zone, and a James White rushing touchdown with no extra point after.
Halftime was on the horizon, but second year head coach Doug Pederson had something special planned for the Patriots on 4th and Goal; the “Philly Special” that is.
The “Philly Special” play will go down in the Super Bowl history books as one of the best trick plays ever accomplished.
This formation featured Foles ushering over to the shotgun position as yelled at his offensive line in order to distract New England’s defense.
The ball was then abruptly snapped to halfback Corey Clement who ran left until he lateral passed possession to tight end Trey Burton.
All the meanwhile Foles had sneakily walked unmarked into the right side of the goal line, then catching the easy touchdown pass from Burton.
I’ll be honest, I screamed at the top of my lungs when I saw this entire maneuver get pulled off on the big screen in real-time.
As the halftime whistle was blown, the Eagles entered the locker room with a lead of 22-12 and were just two full quarters away from the franchise’s biggest victory ever.
Entering the third, Brady had a point to prove, likely relating to his moniker of ‘the Comeback Kid.’
He ended the first possession of the new half with a darting touchdown pass to his favorite target in tight end Rob Gronkowski, bringing the score to 19-22. Foles then responded on the following drive with a touchdown pass of his own to Clement and expanded the Eagles’ lead once more to 29-19, but it was still a game that could burst wide open at any second.
Then, as if the current trend was a surprise to anyone, Brady brought it back to within a score by way of touchdown pass to wide receiver Chris Hogan. The 4th quarter whistle would then bring the game to its most crucial point as time appeared to slow down entirely in this for the most part fast paced game.
The Eagles started the last quarter of the match with a long field goal kick courtesy of Elliott, Philadelphia lead 32-26.
On the next drive, Brady knew a touchdown would be enough to earn the Patriots the lead and shift the momentum in his side’s favor.
Considering this game broke the record for most offensive yards in a Super Bowl back in the 3rd quarter, this possession was no different as Brady had his team travel down the field as he once again delivered a touchdown pass to Gronkowski.
Down for the first time since the field goal exchange in the first quarter, Foles and the Eagles needed one last feat of skillful endurance as the clock wound down with the score still at 32-33.
Clutch player spoiler, here comes Zach Ertz.
Following a pair of first-down catches made by Ertz himself, the star tight end went on to catch the game-winning score that put Philadelphia up 38-33 late in the game.
The two-point conversion failed but that didn’t matter because it was still all hands on deck regardless if the Eagles defense had any chance of stopping Brady and his bunch.
Then, the greatest defensive play in Eagles history occurred right before everyone’s eyes.
“Brady gets hit, the ball is out!” yelled play-by-play announcer Kevin Harlan as Philadelphia defensive end Brandon Graham strips possession away from the New England quarterback’s grasp.
The ball ended up getting recovered by Eagles first-round drafted rookie Derek Barnett and his side was now in prime position to run out the clock and earn their first ever Super Bowl.
Goosebumps ran rampant on both sides’ fans as each hoped for the best. Ultimately the Patriots would go on to hold the Eagles to only a field goal, but used up all their timeouts in the process.
With the score at 41-33 and the clock within the final minute of play, the Eagles just needed a single defensive stop on downs.
Playing deep in their own secondary, the Eagles only allowed Brady to get into a Hail Mary passing range as the whole nation held its breath for the last play of Super Bowl 52.
They had done it. It was over.
The Eagles had won.
The final play resulted in that Hail Mary pass and the obvious target of Gronkowski’s huge frame was covered by six different Eagles cornerbacks.
As the failed ball fell on the ground, so did all the green confetti.
It was a night to remember for a new dynasty, and a night to forget for the old dynasty.
We can all now breathe a sigh of relief Eagles fans; we made it into the circle of champions.
Hopes were high for this glorious match and hopes will remain high as our team’s future remains bright with the help of both Wentz and Foles, the young and experienced star core on both offense and defense, as well as the coaching and administrative talents involved with the Eagles organization. Now as the offseason approaches and we let this win sink in, all I have to say is one last thing… Go Birds.
A version of this story appeared on p. 7 of the Feb. 22, 2018, edition of the Daily Nexus.