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Late TD catch, fumble recovery lift Eagles over Patriots 41-33 for first Super Bowl title

Ben Goessling, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in Football

By the 2:35 mark in the third quarter, the teams had combined for a Super Bowl record in yards, surpassing the 929 from the Denver Broncos and Washington Redskins in Super Bowl XXII.

The Eagles' Donnie Jones had the only punt of the first three quarters, and Brady -- who set the Super Bowl record with 466 passing yards in last year's overtime comeback victory over the Atlanta Falcons -- had 404 by the end of third quarter.

As the game moved into the fourth quarter, it entered a realm that Brady has owned for the better part of two decades. The 42-yard field goal Jake Elliott kicked at the beginning of the fourth quarter, at the end of a drive scuttled by a Foles pass to Agholor that lost eight yards, might have been the Eagles' biggest mistake.

It put Philadelphia up by just six, creating an opening for Brady to direct the Patriots to a lead for the first time. The three-time league MVP snatched it with an efficiency that would have been stunning if not for seven Super Bowls' worth of precedent.

He completed five of his six passes for 52 yards on the Patriots' 75-yard march, throwing a four-yard pass to the back corner of the end zone so sublime that all two Eagles defenders could do was watch Gronkowski cradle it for a game-tying score.

Stephen Gostkowski's extra point, in a game where he and Elliott combined to miss two PATs and a field goal, gave New England the lead for the first time with 9:22 to play.

Foles, though, had an answer again.

He completed a two-yard pass to Zach Ertz for a fourth-down conversion that might have saved the Eagles' season, and drilled Ertz for an 11-yard touchdown that was again subjected to the NFL's catch process rule. For the second time, a replay review upheld the touchdown, finding that Ertz had established himself as a runner before lunging for the end zone and losing the ball on the ground as he stretched for the end zone.

 

And in a game that had gone more than 57 minutes without a sack, an Eagles defensive line that helped Philadelphia lead the NFL in quarterback pressures struck the blow that felled Brady.

Brandon Graham stripped the ball from Brady's hands as the quarterback prepared to release a throw. The tuck rule that famously helped start the Patriots' dynasty wasn't there for Brady this time, and Derek Barnett -- the rookie whom the Eagles drafted with the first-round pick they acquired from the Vikings in the Sam Bradford trade -- recovered the loose ball. Another Eliott field goal put Philadelphia up 41-33 with 1:05 left.

Brady moved the Patriots to their own 38, dodging pressure in time to heave one final prayer to the end zone. As the ball fell incomplete, U.S. Bank Stadium went silent for half a beat, as if to fully process the fact Brady didn't have one more lightning bolt.

This time, it was not to be. Green confetti fell from the U.S. Bank Stadium rafters, confirming that the Eagles would raise the Lombardi Trophy at last.

(c)2018 Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

Visit the Star Tribune (Minneapolis) at www.startribune.com

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