Philadelphia is one of the biggest “lovable loser” cities in American sports. Of course, many people don’t particularly love Philadelphia, for multitudes of reasons, but the fact stands that Philadelphia is one of the most snake-bitten sports cities in the United States.
After today, that is no longer true. Backup quarterback Nick Foles–who took over when MVP candidate starter Carson Wentz went down with a season-ending injury–did not start so great when he took over. He absolutely stepped up in the playoffs, though, and will go down in Philadelphia sports history as capturing the city’s first (and only, for now) Super Bowl title.
The game did not have much defense, and it was evident from the opening drive of the game. The Eagles, led by Foles, moved the ball easily down the field. A false start at the New England one-yard line meant that the drive ended in a field goal, and the Patriots answered in kind. The indications were there that this would be an offensive game, but no one quite could have expected what was to come.
The teams combined for over 600 yards at halftime, and the Eagles led 22-12. The Eagles carried a 15-12 lead into a fourth-and-goal from the one with less than a minute left in the half. After a timeout, the Eagles came out with a trick play, as Trey Burton threw to a wide-open Foles for an easy touchdown. Much like last year, the underdog carried serious belief into halftime against the favored Patriots.
Much like last year’s game, though, Tom Brady and the Patriots were not going to go away easily. If the defenses were porous in the first half, they were all-but nonexistent in the second. The Patriots moved the ball easily down the field, heavily featuring star tight end Rob Gronkowski on the drive, and cutting the lead to three points with a touchdown. The Eagles had an answer, though, responding with a touchdown pass from Foles to Corey Clement.
After the Patriots responded with a second straight touchdown drive, the Eagles couldn’t punch the ball in on the following drive. After a third-down play deep in New England territory went awry, Philadelphia had to settle for a field goal. Brady and the Patriots had no such issue on the following drive, and another Gronkowski touchdown catch gave New England its first lead of the game.
Foles, who was widely reported as nearly retiring from football a few years ago, wasn’t ready to give up just yet. He converted a huge third down and an even bigger fourth down to keep the following drive alive. Tight end Zach Ertz was huge on the drive, as Foles found him on the biggest of plays. Foles found Ertz for a touchdown pass to end the drive (though a controversial review followed, as the play was reminiscent of Jesse James’ controversial non-touchdown against the Patriots late in the regular season), and the Eagles suddenly had a five-point lead with just over two minutes to play after the two-point conversion failed.
For what feels like the first time in Brady’s career (and actually for the first time against a team other than the New York Giants), the Michigan alumnus didn’t have another bit of magic in him. On the second play of New England’s ensuing drive, Brandom Graham got to Brady and stripped the ball, which was recovered by rookie Derek Barnett. The Patriots had a chance to get the ball back with a stop, and did hold Philadelphia to a three-and-out. Jake Elliot made the field goal, which meant that Brady would have one more chance at magic–but he would need a touchdown and two-point conversion just to force overtime. (Then again, the exact same thing happened last year.)
After a short kickoff and a bad reverse return, Brady had to start from his own nine-yard line. The Patriots couldn’t get anything going, though, and three straight incomplete passes meant the Patriots needed a miracle. Brady converted on fourth-and-ten to Danny Amendola, and then earned another first down to Gronkowski. After a second first-down pass to Gronkowski, the Patriots were suddenly in Hail Mary range. The Hail Mary bounced around and had a real chance–it almost bounced right to Gronkowsky–but it fell harmlessly incomplete as time expired.
Nick Foles didn’t get a chance to take the final snap and a knee, but he earned his way into Philadelphia sports history nonetheless. The Eagles may be lovable losers no more, but the people of Philadelphia aren’t complaining about it. They’re celebrating.
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