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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

MINNEAPOLIS -- They traded blows in a duel that will lead to as many retrospectives as it did records, the five-time champion and the unheralded former backup trading touchdown drives like Tiger Woods and Bob May trading birdies at the 2000 PGA Championship.

But in a quarterbacking bout that will be celebrated for ages, it was Nick Foles, not Tom Brady, who ended the night doing the celebrating.

In a game where Brady broke his own record for passing yards and became the first passer to eclipse 500 yards in a Super Bowl, Foles got the better of him. He threw for 373 yards, overcoming his only interception and conjuring up two of his three passing touchdowns in the second half, as the Philadelphia Eagles won Super Bowl LII over the New England Patriots by a score of 41-33.

It was the Eagles' first Super Bowl title, and their first NFL championship since 1960. The loss dropped the Patriots to 5-3 in Super Bowls since they began their remarkable run with Brady and coach Bill Belichick.

Foles, named the MVP of the game, hit eight of his 11 passes for 102 yards in the first quarter, while Brady connected on six of his nine passes for 100 yards. It was the first time in Super Bowl history both quarterbacks had thrown for more than 100 yards in the first quarter.

In the first half alone, the two teams combined for 673 yards of offense. Both had two running backs who averaged at least five yards per carry. Seventeen plays went for 15 yards or more.

Accompanied by a huge video projection of Prince in "Purple Rain," Justin Timberlake sang "I Would Die 4 U" during the halftime show at Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

And in perhaps the strangest twist, both Brady and Foles were targeted with passes coming off reverses; Danny Amendola's was a touch too far for Brady's outstretched hands, while Trey Burton hit Foles for a one-yard score on fourth down near the end of the first half, making Foles the first player in Super Bowl history to record passing and receiving touchdowns in the same game.

The duel between the most decorated quarterback in NFL history and the Eagles' serendipitous hero continued in the second half. Brady found Rob Gronkowski -- limited to one catch for nine yards on five first-half targets -- for back-to-back strikes of 25 and 24 yards, before hitting him for 14 yards on a 3rd-and-6 and connecting with him for a five-yard touchdown.

Foles came back with another scoring drive, hitting Nelson Agholor for 17 yards and Zach Ertz for 14 on a drive augmented by the Eagles' zone runs. A replay review upheld his 22-yard strike to Corey Clement, beyond two Patriots defenders, for a touchdown that restored the Eagles' 10-point lead, until Brady led a seven-play, 75-yard drive for another touchdown that made it 29-26 Eagles at the end of three madcap quarters.

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)

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