MORRISSEY: A crazy-good Super Bowl, with a catch — by Eagles QB Nick Foles
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Back and forth Super Bowl LII went, and where it would stop, no one had a clue.
Two quarterbacks — one the NFL’s most valuable player, the other a backup as of a few months ago — traded completions and touchdowns as absolute equals.
By the time the night was over, by the time the two men and their teams had finished exchanging punches, the Eagles were the only ones standing Sunday, a 41-33 victory over New England in their hands. It was as improbable a game as can be, as long as your definition of “improbable’’ includes the aforementioned former backup quarterback catching a touchdown pass on the biggest stage of all.
We knew the Patriots’ Tom Brady. By comparison, we knew of the Eagles’ Nick Foles. Now we know better: Never count out the underdog.
Foles was magnificent. He completed 28 of 43 passes for 373 yards and three touchdowns. He looked like he was born for this moment, even though he had never been in the vicinity of this moment before. He threw pinpoint passes all over the field. He was unflappable. He did everything that Brady did and more. And he caught that second-quarter touchdown pass when Eagles coach Doug Pederson went for it on fourth-and-one at the goal line. A crazy decision. Crazy until it became genius.
Crazy was 1,151 yards of total offense between the two teams. Crazy was Brady throwing for 505 yards. Crazy was a couple of controversial replays on receptions. Check that — that’s standard NFL fare. Crazy was whatever the city of Philadelphia was doing late Sunday night and into Monday morning. It was the Eagles’ first Super Bowl title.
What had been a sack-less game finally turned when Philadelphia defensive end Brandon Graham stripped Brady of the football late in the fourth quarter. Derek Barnett, Graham’s teammate, recovered.
“We said we needed a play,’’ Graham said.
A play, they got. And the Eagles held on for dear life.
America was gifted a phenomenal game, full of action, some of it imperfect, but — and this can’t be overstated — so what? Too many Super Bowls have been ponderous things. This one was light on its feet. Between missed extra points by both teams were wonderful performances by Brady and Foles. Brady had 276 passing yards in the first half.
This game will be remembered for Foles morphing into a wide receiver. The play started with a direct snap to running back Corey Clement, who pitched the ball to tight end Trey Burton, who threw a pass to a wide-open Foles in the end zone with 34 seconds left in the half. Are you kidding? When Carson Wentz blew out his knee in early December, there were questions whether Foles could play quarterback in the league. And now here he was throwing passes and catching one. If you say so.
“I wasn’t going to let our offense be stopped on the 1-yard line,’’ Pederson said.
Foles caught a gadget-play pass, and Brady dropped a ball on another. What world had we been dropped in?
A three-point lead became a 10-point halftime lead.
The Patriots roared out of the locker room, thanks to Brady’s recognition that Rob Gronkowski, a non-factor in the first half, was indeed a member of his team. He hit Gronk with back-to-back passes of 25 and 24 yards, added another one for 15 yards and topped it off with a five-yard touchdown pass to his tight end. And just like that, the Patriots had cut the lead to 22-19.
The Eagles came right back, building the lead back up again when Clement “caught’’ a pass from Foles. It looked like Clement was still bobbling the ball when he stepped out of the end zone. But officials reviewed the play and called it a touchdown.
So this Super Bowl had a player lost to what looked like a concussion (the Patriots’ Brandin Cooks) and a touchdown gained on a controversial catch. A perfect reflection of today’s NFL.
The two teams continued trading points. Back and forth it went, an outrageous show to the very end, when the Eagles knocked down Brady’s desperation pass in the end zone.
Philadelphia defied odds, history and whatever the rule is about what’s a catch and what isn’t. No one said bringing down the team that America loves to hate was going to be easy.
Lots of yards. Lots of action. Lots of fun.
And only one question: What’s a punt?
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