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Eagles win first Super Bowl 41-33, stop Tom Brady, Patriots

Zach Berman, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Football

MINNEAPOLIS -- For decades upon decades, parents will tell their children about Feb. 4, 2018. They'll remember when Doug Pederson called the trick play at the goal line, when the Eagles kept attacking Tom Brady, and when the greatest dynasty in NFL history fell to an improbable champion from Philadelphia.

The Eagles are Super Bowl champions. You can read that again. It's not going away. The Eagles beat the Patriots, 41-33, at U.S. Bank Stadium to hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy for the first time in franchise history. A team with a backup quarterback and that wore underdog masks throughout the playoffs because they were never favored to win sent Brady and Bill Belichick home with a Super Bowl loss.

This moment is bigger than 60 minutes. Try nearly 60 years, generations of Eagles fans waiting since 1960 for this type of celebration. There were all those autumn Sundays, from the Franklin Field bleachers to the 700 Level at Veteran Stadium to the pristine Lincoln Financial Field. There were seasons that started with championship promise. They all ended with bitter disappointment of the city's desire going unquenched. And it would renew each year, from the draft to training camp to the preseason into the regular season, with every weekend serving as a referendum and the Monday-morning mood throughout the region dictated by the final score the day before. If the fans were lucky, they had postseason football. But the last game was never a victory.

Not this year. Not these Eagles. There will be a parade down Broad Street this week. It might be the biggest moment in Philadelphia sports history. And it happened because the Eagles were the better team on Sunday.

By the time Justin Timberlake came out for the halftime performance, the Eagles held a 22-12 lead and there was optimism that could continue into third down. Pederson's ingenuity and aggressive nature was apparent to a worldwide audience, Nick Foles stayed on the right end of his wide-variance spectrum, and the defense was bending against Brady -- but not breaking.

The Eagles marched downfield for a 14-play, 67-yard opening drive that took more than seven minutes off the clock. It finished with a field goal instead of a touchdown, but it allowed Foles to find an early rhythm, including completions on his first three passes. The Eagles converted two third downs, and they would have had a better shot at a touchdown if Zach Ertz was not flagged for a false start while the Eagles were on the 2-yard line.

The Patriots answered with a 67-yard drive of their own, although like the Eagles, they sputtered when they reached the red zone. The Eagles forced the Patriots to a 26-yard field goal after stopping New England on a third-and-4 at the 8-yard line, and the Patriots tied the game.

If the Eagles' first drive was methodical, their second drive relied on a quick-strike, "chunk" plays. LeGarrette Blount rushed for a 36-yard gain up the middle against his former team, setting up one of the highlight-reel plays of the game. Foles faked the handoff and passed it deep to the left corner of the end zone to Alshon Jeffery, who hauled in an acrobatic catch over former Eagle Eric Rowe.

Jeffery was signed during the offseason to be the Eagles' No. 1 wide receiver, and though he didn't put up Pro Bowl numbers this season, he showed how he's a difference-maker in the Super Bowl. After a primetime game in Dallas earlier this season, Jeffery said: "bigtime game, big-time players make big plays." The Super Bowl would qualify.

The Patriots again drove into the red zone, but their hopes for a touchdown were halted when Rodney McLeod wouldn't allow Brandin Cooks to leap over him on an end around and kept Cooks from reaching the first down. Belichick sent his kicker onto the field, and a bad snap caused them to miss the 26-yard chip shot.

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There was no scoring for both teams' next drives, although Cooks needed to depart the game when Malcolm Jenkins rocked Cooks with a vicious hit after Cooks spun right into the Eagles safety. Cooks left the game with a head injury and did not return.

The Eagles were the more physical team throughout the first half, and that showed when the Eagles fed Blount. He rushed for a 23-yard score to give the Eagles a 15-3 lead -- the Eagles missed an extra point and a two-point conversion -- although no lead is safe against New England.

They scored the game's next nine points -- first with a 45-yard field goal and then after an interception when Jeffery couldn't haul in a deep pass that Duron Harmon caught off a Jeffery tip. The Patriots' drive was extended when Jalen Mills was charged with a defensive holding penalty after the Eagles stopped New England on a third down, and the Patriots used the extra downs to score. James White rushed for a 26-yard touchdown later in the drive, and the Eagles' lead was cut to three.

Before halftime, the Eagles made a play that will long be remembered in Super Bowl history. After driving to the Patriots 1-yard line with 38 seconds remaining before halftime, Pederson elected to keep his offense on the field on fourth down. Those who haven't seen the Eagles this season might have been surprised. But Pederson has been aggressive all year, and he wasn't going to stop in the Super Bowl. He's also a fearless play-caller, and he made the boldest call of his career.

Jason Kelce snapped the ball to running back Corey Clement, who pitched it to Trey Burton, who threw the pass to a wide-open ... Foles. Yes, Foles caught a touchdown. Brady dropped a catch earlier in the game on a Patriots trick play. Foles showed he has the better hands, catching the 1-yard score to give the Eagles a 22-12 lead in halftime. The Eagles did not call that play all season, and Pederson put it in the game plan to call in one of the biggest moments on the biggest stage.

That's how the Eagles have been all season, and that's why they're Super Bowl champions.

(c)2018 The Philadelphia Inquirer

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