It was a seesaw game that saw very little defense. Zach Ertz scored a spectacular touchdown to put the Philadelphia Eagles up 5 points. The broadcast debated whether it was a catch. Nonetheless, he clearly made three to four steps, which made him a runner who only needed to cross the plane with the ball in hand for the touchdown to stand. Regardless, it appeared like the team with the ball last would win the game. The script was set for Tom Brady’s legend to continue with another late game drive to win his Patriots a sixth Super Bowl with a little over 2 minutes left. However, there was a twist in the plot. The vaunted Eagles did not record a sack or put pressure on Brady the entire game. Nevertheless, it showed up when it counted and sacked and stripped Brady for a fumble. The Eagles ran down the clock to a minute and kicked a field goal to go up 41-33. Tom Brady would get another crack at it but his Hail Mary was deflected. A lot of credit goes to the Philadelphia Eagles and their head coach Doug Pederson for playing bold all game. Near the end of the first half, Pederson made one of the most daring calls in Super Bowl history by going for it on 4th and 1 on the goal line. In addition, the play call was a reverse to tight end Trey Burton who threw a touchdown to quarterback Nick Foles. Ironically, the Patriots ran the exact same play earlier in the quarter but Brady could not reach high enough to haul in the pass. As the broadcast noted, that play will be remembered as much as the New Orleans Saints’ onside kick against Peyton Manning’s Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV. Another gutsy play call by Pederson was going for it on 4th and 1 on their own 45 on the game winning drive. If the Eagles were stopped on that play, Brady and the Patriots would have surely scored a touchdown to seal the game because they were unstoppable at that point. Nonetheless, most of the credit for the win needs to reside with MVP Nick Foles. After franchise quarterback Carson Wentz suffered a season ending injury, the Eagles Super Bowl aspirations looked cooked. However, Foles was no ordinary backup. He had already had a great season with the Eagles as the starter when he was coached by Chip Kelly. He stepped up big time in the postseason. In the biggest game of his life, he matched and ultimately outdueled the living legend Tom Brady. Foles finished the game throwing for 373 yards, 3 touchdowns, and catching a touchdown. He was virtually flawless. The performance finished an incredible story for Foles, who contemplated quitting professional football a couple of years ago. Of course, it also completed an amazing journey for the Philadelphia Eagles. As a 1 seed, they were underdogs in every playoff game but won every single one of them to bring home the first Lombardi Trophy to the city of Philadelphia.
For Tom Brady haters, his fumble will be a point used to chip a little bit away from his legacy. However, I do not lay much of the blame on Brady’s shoulders. The loss lies on the Patriots defense. It was an average, bend but not break defense all season. It was atrocious at the beginning of the year but head coach Bill Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia patched it up enough to give the team a legitimate chance at another championship. In the biggest game, it got shredded for 538 yards and 41 points. It forced and relied on Brady to be perfect to bail them out. As a testament to his greatness, he almost pulled it off. He threw for 505 yards and 3 touchdowns but unfortunately for New England, that strip sack will be what is remembered from this game. Personally, I do not think this Super Bowl does much to change Brady and Belichick’s legacies. Every additional accomplishment pads their greatness but their places in NFL history are pretty set. The prolificacy of their winning ranks with the best dynasties: the 5 NFL Championships by the Vince Lombardi Green Bay Packers, the 5 Super Bowl wins by the 1980s-1990s San Francisco 49ers, and the 4 Super Bowl wins by the 1970 “Steel Curtain” Pittsburgh Steelers. Their longevity also outlasts all of those dynasties. It would have been a nice for Patriot fans to count a six championship, more than all others, for their argument to say they had the greatest dynasty ever. Nevertheless, they will make the argument and have a lot of strong points anyway. Completing the undefeated season in 2007 would have ended all debate. Winning or losing Super Bowl LII would have not sealed the argument either way. At worst, they are one of the greatest that rivals every other dynasty in the history of the league.
On the other hand, it is fair to start asking whether the end is near for the Patriot dynasty. In 2004, the Patriots defeated the Eagles to win 3 out of 4 Super Bowls. They were going for another 3 out of 4 years against the Eagles again. Instead, the Eagles pulled it out. In addition, a symbolic beginning of the dynasty was the “Tuck Rule” when Brady’s fumble in the snow against the Oakland Raiders was overturned and gave the Patriots second life in the 2001 AFC Divisional Game that they eventually won on route to their first Super Bowl championship. When the Eagles strip sacked Brady, the idea came to mind that things may come full circle and it may be the last time the Tom Brady led Patriots may have in the Super Bowl to win one last title. Again, he is 40 years old. He has fought off Father Time but he will eventually feel his age. Moreover, the Patriots traded their next franchise quarterback, Jimmy Garopollo, to the 49ers in the middle of the season. He looks like the real deal already. In my opinion, he could have extended the dynasty for another decade plus after Brady retires. Next, ESPN released an article about the tension between Belichick, Brady, and owner Robert Kraft with Garopollo being a key issue. From my perspective, I believe the infighting was overblown. They have been together for almost two decades so issues were bound to arise. However, I do not think they are ready to blow up the group because of tension. On the other hand, they will lose some key coaches even if Belichick stays as expected. Matt Patricia is definitely leaving for the Detroit Lions head coaching position. Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels looks like he will leave for the Indianapolis Colts head coaching job although it was reported that he may have reconsidered. If they both leave, they are big losses for the coaching staff. Nevertheless, I will not count out the Patriots. Until Brady and Belichick both retire, I will never doubt they will contend and be in position to win another Super Bowl.
For the Super Bowl winning Philadelphia Eagles, the future is bright. They are loaded on both sides of the ball and franchise quarterback Carson Wentz is in line to return in time for the beginning of next season. In addition to Foles’s performance, their running game was great. They rushed for 164 yards and 6.1 yards per carry. LeGarrette Blount got his revenge on his former team with 90 yards and a touchdown. Jay Ajayi had some monster runs and ran for 57 yards. He was acquired in the middle of the season and I expect the Eagles to utilize him a lot more next year now after he is completely assimilated into the team. Third back Corey Clement was also a weapon in this game with 100 receiving yards and a receiving touchdown. Despite how much Brady carved up the defense in this particular game, it is a top defense and showed up in the end with a game changing forced turnover. A big question going into the offseason will be what the Eagles do with Foles. In my opinion, they should hold on to him unless they get offered a 1st or 2nd round pick in the draft. Wentz is returning but is recovering from a significant injury. It would be prudent to keep Foles for insurance unless they get blown away by a trade offer. As much as the signing of Foles as a backup ended up as a brilliant move, the hiring of Doug Pederson was even better. After the Chip Kelly disaster, owner Jeffrey Lurie lamented his decision to fire former head coach Andy Reid. He went to Reid to ask him what to do and who to hire. Reid suggested his offensive coordinator with Chiefs, Pederson, and that decision has paid off quickly. The Eagles will have a great shot to repeat next year. I will refrain from saying that they will be a dynasty. It is extremely difficult to keep a team together in today’s NFL. Just look at the Seattle Seahawks. It is not as easy to win as the Patriots have made it seem.