Promise kept: Eagles, Alshon Jeffery win wild Super Bowl over Patriots
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MINNEAPOLIS — Turns out former Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery was right.
When he stood at his locker at the end of the Bears’ 2016 season and proclaimed he would be an NFL champion — ‘‘I guarantee you we’ll win the Super Bowl next year’’ were his precise words — many rolled their eyes.
He later said he never specified which team he was talking about.
On Sunday, the Eagles — the team that signed him away from the Bears last offseason — won one of the most thrilling Super Bowls in NFL history with a 41-33 victory against the Patriots.
Behind 373 passing yards from once-and-future backup Nick Foles — the Super Bowl most valuable player also caught a two-yard touchdown pass on a trick play late in the first half — the Eagles edged Tom Brady, who looked every bit the regular-season MVP he was named Saturday.
Eagles tight end Zach Ertz scored the go-ahead touchdown on an 11-yard catch with 2:21 left. With the Patriots trailing by five, Brady — who was 28-for-48 for a Super Bowl-record 505 yards — had a chance to march them to his sixth Super Bowl title. But the Eagles’ Brandon Graham swatted the ball out of his hand with 2:09 left, and the ball landed in teammate Derek Barnett’s arms at the Patriots’ 31.
‘‘They got a good rush,’’ Brady said. ‘‘They got what they needed. Somebody needed to make a play.’’
Rookie kicker Jake Elliott, a graduate of Lyons Township High School, made a 46-yard field goal with 1:05 left to put the Eagles ahead by eight. Brady then threw incomplete into the end zone from midfield as the clock expired.
Jeffery finished with three catches for 73 yards, including a touchdown — all in the first half. He was limited by cramps late in the game.
‘‘I went where I was wanted, not where I was not wanted,’’ Jeffery said. ‘‘Speaking it into existence. Hard work and dedication.’’
From start to finish, Super Bowl LII looked like a video game played by over-caffeinated teenagers. There was one punt combined.
After the sides traded field goals, Jeffery provided the first sure-fire highlight of the game. Split left at the Patriots’ 34, Jeffery streaked down the sideline toward the end zone. Foles lofted a pass deep, and Jeffery leaped and plucked the ball out of the air. Cornerback Eric Rowe only could look over his shoulder.
‘‘Nick just threw it up and gave me a chance,’’ Jeffery said. ‘‘And I made a helluva play.’’
Elliott, though, missed the extra point. Not to be outdone, Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski missed a 26-yard field-goal attempt on the next drive. After the Eagles punted and the Patriots turned the ball over on downs, Jeffery caught a 22-yard pass before LeGarrette Blount ran for a 21-yard touchdown on the next play. The Eagles went for two , but a lob to Jeffery fell incomplete.
The Patriots countered with a field goal before Jeffery provided another turning point in the game. On first-and-10 from the Patriots’ 43, Foles threw deep for Jeffery, who was covered by former South Carolina teammate Stephon Gilmore.
Jeffery jumped for the ball, which hit the crook of his right arm. He batted at the ball with his left hand but whacked it into the arms of Patriots safety Duron Harmon at the 2.
Less than three minutes and exactly 90 yards later, the Patriots scored on a 26-yard run by James White with 2:06 left in the half. Gostkowski missed the extra point.
Foles’ trick-play catch came at a pivotal moment of the first half. He had driven the Eagles deep into Patriots territory before calling a timeout on fourth-and-goal from the 1 with 38 seconds left in the half. A notoriously aggressive play-caller, Eagles coach Doug Pederson decided to go for it.
Foles walked to the line of scrimmage, as if to tell his offensive linemen he was changing the play, then slid outside of his right tackle. The ball was snapped to running back Corey Clement, who flipped it to tight end Trey Burton on a reverse. Burton pulled up and threw to Foles, who was wide-open in the end zone. The Eagles took a 22-12 lead into halftime.
The Patriots made a sudden adjustment during the 30-minute break. On their first drive of the second half, Brady targeted Rob Gronkowski five times, completing four passes for 68 yards, including a five-yard touchdown.
Foles and Brady traded touchdowns — a 22-yarder to Clement and a 26-yarder to Chris Hogan, respectively — and the Eagles led by three entering the fourth quarter. Elliott made a 42-yard field goal a minute into the quarter, but Brady found Gronkowski for a four-yard touchdown to give the Patriots their first lead at 33-32.
The Eagles got the ball back and stayed aggressive. Facing fourth-and-one from their 45 with 5:39 left, Pederson again went for it, and Foles threw a two-yard pass to Ertz for a first down.
Six plays later, on third-and-seven from the Patriots’ 11, Ertz split left against cornerback Devin McCourty and ran a slant route. McCourty slipped, and Ertz caught the ball and tumbled into the end zone.
‘‘I told y’all we were bringing this trophy back to Philly,’’ said Jeffery, who repeated his promise last week. ‘‘I guaranteed it.’’
Follow me on Twitter @patrickfinley.