5 days later and we’re still reeling.
The mighty Patriots, seemingly on an unstoppable crash course towards their 6th Super Bowl win, were taken down on Sunday by a team that was written off in January, led by a quarterback who was written off years ago. It’s hard to believe that Napoleon Dynamite (also known by his alias, Nick Foles), went toe-to-toe with the best quarterback of all time and outsmarted a literal rocket scientist in Patriots’ defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. But here we are, and your Super Bowl LII champions are the Philadelphia Eagles.
But how did this happen? How did a team that lost its star quarterback in December still manage to dethrone the league’s Evil Empire, as well as the cream of the NFC crop? Did Bill Belichick mispronounce some latin in his pregame sacrifice to the Old Gods? Or was it just some old-fashioned, good ole football? Surprisingly, it’s the latter, and here’s how:
Nick Foles: Napoleon Dynamite jokes aside, this guy can play- and besides, he kinda looks more like Ryan Gosling anyways. Foles was lights out all game. He threw for 373 yards and three touchdowns, and that impressive stat line doesn’t even tell the entire story. Foles’ accuracy was incredible all game, slotting darts into windows with a pinpoint accuracy that the statline can’t describe. He even managed to out Brady Brady, pulling in a touchdown catch on a trick play similar to the one that the Patriots failed to execute successfully.
Doug Pederson: The Falcons in Super Bowl LI. The Jaguars in the AFC Championship. What do they have in common? Well, they both put up substantial leads against the Patriots in big time games. But once they took those leads their play calling became about as exciting as a bag of milk. By playing not-to-lose, they forgot that they had to play to win. Eagles’ head coach Doug Pederson didn’t have that mentality. Pederson’s playcalling was aggressive all game, defined by that gutsy trick play on 4th and 1 from the 1 yard line. But just as impressive as the aggression was the theory behind that aggression. In our Super Bowl preview last week, I predicted that the Eagles would lean heavily on their powerful rushing attack of Jay Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount. But Pederson was one step ahead of me- and of the Patriots. Anticipating that the Patriots would focus on stopping the run, rather than on stopping a journeyman quarterback, Pederson called for play-action 21 times- the most in Super Bowl history. And it worked- Pederson’s faith in Foles was rewarded with a thorough shredding of the Patriot’s defense.
The Defense: The Eagles defense also got shredded, as the two teams accounted for the most yards in Super Bowl history. And the Eagles’ defensive line, one of the best in the league, wasn’t doing what it had to do to win the game: get to Brady. The Patriots’ offensive line played spectacularly, and didn’t give up a sack...until it really mattered. With the game on the line, the Eagles’ D came through in a big way, with a critical strip sack to set up a Jake Eliot field goal. They weren’t perfect by any means, but they delivered when it counted.
So what’s next for the Super Bowl champs? One story-line to keep an eye on this off season has to be the quarterback controversy that has yet to develop, between an MVP candidate in Carson Wentz and a postseason legend in Nick Foles. The Eagles would be wise to deal Foles in the offseason while his value is high and before the media can capitalize on a locker-room splitting story. And for the Patriots? Back to the grind. The pessimist in me knows that they’ll be back next year. And they’ll be mad.