National Football League

Eagles Stick to Air Attack to Take Down Patriots in Super Bowl Thriller

Eagles Patriots Super Bowl Football
Philadelphia Eagles’ Nick Foles holds his daughter, Lily, after beating the New England Patriots in the NFL Super Bowl 52 football game Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

In the second highest scoring Super Bowl in history, it wasn’t just the St. Louis Rams flavor of MVP Nick Foles, defensive end Chris Long and punter Donnie Jones of the Eagles that was striking.  The philosophy and play calling of Eagles head coach Doug Pederson was like that of former Rams coach Mike Martz.  Pederson, however, came away with a victory.

When New England decided to defer after winning the coin toss, Pederson and the Eagles went right to work.  Three passes picked up a first down.  Then LeGarrette Blount took a two-yard loss on a running play before Nick Foles threw it twice more to pick up another first down, and wound up passing nine times in a fourteen play, 67-yard field goal drive.

For the day, Philly threw the ball 44 times in 71 plays, running it 27.  We expect that from Tom Brady and the Patriots, who threw it 49 times in 72 plays.  Philly wasn’t intimidated, and didn’t back off when New England got close, or when the Patriots took the lead.

-On Philadelphia’s seventeenth play, in their second drive, Foles took a deep shot to Alshon Jeffery for a 34-yard touchdown and a 9-3 lead.

-In the Eagles’ fourth series, it was a pass to Zach Ertz on 3rd and 7 that ultimately led to Blount’s 21-yard touchdown run for a 15-3 advantage.

-On their sixth series, the Eagles started from their own thirty with 1:59 to go in the first half.  Foles hit Ertz for seven and Corey Clement for 55, setting up the play of the game.  On fourth and goal from the one, a brilliant, aggressive call of a reverse pass from Trey Burton to a wide open Foles made it 22-12 at halftime.

-Unlike Jacksonville in the AFC Championship game, the Eagles didn’t take their foot off the pedal after halftime.  After Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski combined for an 85-yard drive…Gronk accounting for 68 of those yards and the touchdown…Foles had throws of seventeen and 22 yards for a score to restore Philadelphia’s ten-point lead to 29-19.

-And then after New England took the lead in the fourth quarter, on the biggest drive of the game, Foles was at his best.  On 3rd and 6 from the 29, he hit Ertz for seven.  On 4th and 1 from the 45, Foles hit Ertz for two.  On 2nd and 9 from the 48, he hit Nelson Agohlor for ten, then eighteen and then ten more on consecutive plays.  Finally, on 3rd and 7 from the eleven-yard line, Foles hit Ertz for the game winning score.

The Eagles not only threw the ball, but they threw it deep.  Foles had seven completions of eighteen or more yards, and finished with 373 yards on 43 attempts.  But the key was consistency.  He had 22 attempts in the first half, for 215 yards, and 21 for 158 in the second half.  The Eagles came into the game with a plan, and stayed with it.

Philly DID run effectively, too, and was never averse to running the ball.  Unlike Martz and the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI against New England, those 27 times Foles handed the ball off represented 38% of their plays.  The 2001 Rams ran it just 22 times in 69 plays, 32%.  Of course, the game has changed dramatically since then, but a 62-38 pass/run ratio is great in 2017, especially when you’re taking on Brady and the Patriots.

Some other notes that portend the future of the league…

According to ESPN Stats and Info, the 1,151 combined yards mark the most in any game (regular season or postseason) in NFL history.  The league wants offense, and they got it on the biggest stage.  Even great defenses like those of the Eagles, Vikings and Jaguars are vulnerable to offensive explosions at any point.  Martz and The Greatest Show on Turf changed the sport.

Nine of the last eleven Super Bowls have come down to the final two minutes.  The only ones that didn’t in that time were Seattle’s 43-8 rout of Denver in 2014 and Denver’s 24-10 win over Carolina in 2017.  The competitive level of the two conferences is superb.  At one point, each conference had long winning streaks against the other.  Since a four game AFC winning streak from the 2003-2006 seasons, the NFC has had a 6-5 edge in those last eleven Super Bowls.

While the NFC West and South have gone 0-4 against the Patriots in the Super Bowl (Rams, Seahawks, Panthers, Falcons), the NFC East has gone 3-1 and has won three in a row against New England in Super Bowls…the Giants in 2007 and 2011, and the Eagles of 2017.

While Chris Long and Blount became the first players to win a Super Bowl with one team and then beat that team in the next Super Bowl with a different team, former St. Louis Rams Foles, Rodney McLeod and punter Donnie Jones got their first rings with the Eagles victory.

Finally, the Pittsburgh Steelers still have more Super Bowl victories than any other franchise.  While many fan bases are happy today, none are happy than Pittsburgh’s.  And they’re thanking their rivals from across the state.