Eagles Flying High

The Eagles won their maiden Super Bowl against the reigning champions, the New England Patriots

There was a high level of confidence in the New England Patriots’ camp coming into last Sunday. This was set to be their third Super Bowl in four years – winning their last two – and they would be going into the game as favourites against the Philadelphia Eagles, who were without their franchise quarterback, Carson Wentz. Tom Brady, at the tender age of 40, was in good form, dispatching the Jaguars team in the AFC Championship two weeks before. He and Bill Belichick are one of the most successful quarterback and head coach combinations the NFL has ever seen. It was no wonder that they were being pegged for another Super Bowl win. However, Messrs Foles, Blount and Jeffrey had other ideas.

The game started slowly, with all eyes on Wentz’ replacement, Nick Foles. The quarterback, who almost retired from the sport a few years ago, stayed calm despite the watching millions and started superbly.  His downfield throw from inside his own 40 found wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey who impressively held on to the ball after leaping high to get it. This was to set the precedent of a breathless game of offence vs offence to come.

Brady was by no means on bad form in Minneapolis but, ultimately, his battle versus Foles would come down to two trick plays. Brady went first, offloading the ball to HB James White and then running wide to receive a pass. However, he couldn’t catch the ball when it was thrown to him. One Patriots touchdown later – thanks to a battling run from White – Nick Foles, fourth and goal, had 40 seconds until the end of the half. Instead of kicking, as most teams would, Doug Pedersen called an almost identical trick play which saw Foles run right, unfollowed, into the touchdown zone. A perfect throw from tight end Trey Burton found Nick Foles who did what Brady couldn’t and held the catch. It was to be a pivotal moment in the match, giving the Eagles a ten-point advantage going into the second half.

However, the Patriots, known for their fightbacks, did not give up. They continued to pile on the pressure and, briefly, took the lead in the fourth quarter. But it was a controversial touchdown from Zach Ertz, reviewed by the referees for what seemed an eternity, that gave the Eagles the lead with just three minutes left on the clock. NFL fans will know though that three minutes is plenty of time for Tom Brady to find some points for his team. It was going to take some special defensive performances to ensure he couldn’t and that is exactly what we saw.

The game had, up to that point, no sacks. With two minutes left, Brandon Graham changed that. Piling in from the left, Graham knocked the ball out of Brady’s hand causing it to spill out and into the arms of Derek Barnett. This meant the Eagles drove forward into field goal territory, where rookie Jake Elliott kicked over another three points to extend the Eagles’ lead to eight with a minute left. Philly fans must have had their hearts in their mouths when Brady threw a 55 yard attempted hail mary into the end zone, but Gronkowski could not secure the ball. It would finish 41-33 and give the underdogs an historic win.

By Elliot van Barthold