By Jason Keidel
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These underdogs had some bite.
The home of Rocky, the Declaration of Independence, and a slew of German Shepherd masks is now the home of the Super Bowl champs for the first time.
And there’s some cool symmetry seeing the Lombardi Trophy end up in Philadelphia, as the Eagles are the only team to beat Vince Lombardi in the NFL championship — or any playoff game. And no team or town deserves it more.
Considering the Super Bowl featured two of the top-five scoring defenses, considering offense requires more precision, and considering there would be opening-moment jitters, we all knew there would be a dearth of dominant offense to kick-start Super Bowl LII.
So, of course, for the first time in Super Bowl history, both teams racked-up 300 total yards of offense in the first half. And it was the first time both quarterbacks tossed for at least 200 yards in the first 30 minutes. Indeed, Tom Brady had more than 400 yards as the third quarter wound down and went on to become the only one in Super Bowl history to throw for 500 yards. By the end of the third quarter, the teams had already combined for a record 955 total yards. The 1,151 yards overall was an NFL record for any playoff game.
Imagine this for a moment: If Brady had blown out his knee in Week 14, what would have been the chances of the Patriots playing in Super Bowl LII? With Brian Hoyer under center?
Yet the Eagles somehow survived a similar scenario. When MVP favorite Carson Wentz snapped is ACL diving for a TD against the Rams on Dec. 10, the Eagles were left with NFL gypsy Nick Foles, who was plucked from the QB recycle bin and thrust into the cauldron of playoff football — in Philadelphia, no less, with perhaps the most carnivorous fan base in the world.
Foles looked typically woeful to end the regular season, then somehow, miraculously morphed into Otto Graham. Or Joe Montana. Or Carson Wentz. Pick your icon, and Foles is now iconic as a Super Bowl champion.
Foles isn’t Brady, but he did a decent impersonation, completing 28 of 43 passes for 373 yards, with three touchdowns and one interception. Numbers befitting not just a starter, but a star.
While Foles may not have outplayed Brady, the headline here is that Doug Pederson out-coached the immortal Bill Belichick. Pederson not only led his team a victory over the favored Patriots, but he also joined Tom Flores, Mike Ditka, and Tony Dungy as the only men to win a Super Bowl as a player and head coach. Pederson had the Eagles ready, hungry, and focused, keeping the Pats off-balance and on their collective heels for four quarters.
Perhaps the gutsiest call in Super Bowl history was that first-half fourth-and-goal. Rather than kick the easy field goal, Pederson dug deep into his magician’s hat and pulled out the perfect play, with Foles sneaking away from center, leaking out into the end zone, and catching a TD pass. In the process, he became the only QB ever to do so in a Super Bowl. It wasn’t just six points; it signaled that the Eagles came to win, and would not turtle into eternity, as the Atlanta Falcons did the year before.
The Eagles flipped so many odds and orthodoxies, becoming just the fourth team in history to win a Super Bowl when having a losing record the year prior, joining the 1981 San Francisco 49ers, 1999 St Louis Rams, and 2001 Patriots. And at the risk of bragging, when I picked the Eagles to win this game on Friday, I noticed something seemingly evident. The Eagles have a better team than the Patriots — and they beat them without their best player.
It is hard — no, make that impossible — to feel sorry for the Patriots, who have their mail forwarded to February. Brady and Belichick have now been to eight of these games, and have won five. But it’s quite possible to crack a small smile for the City of Brotherly Love. You need not be from Philly to find a few hairs spiked on your arms, a vicarious sense of victory and happiness for our neighbors about 95 miles down the NJ Turnpike.
And even New Yorkers can take some provincial pride in the Rocky theme, as Sylvester Stallone may be the emblem of Philadelphia’s blue-collar ethos, but he was really born in the Big Apple.
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