The Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl for the first time after beating Tom Brady’s New England Patriots 41-33 in an extraordinary encounter in Minneapolis.
On a night when records tumbled and the expected norms of an NFL game went out the window, the Eagles – led majestically by quarterback Nick Foles – produced a brilliant offensive display to deny the Patriots a record-equalling sixth Super Bowl crown.
Zach Ertz’s touchdown with less than three minutes remaining put the Eagles into a five-point lead, but it took Brandon Graham’s sack on Brady just moments later to seemingly put the game beyond the reigning champions.
Even then the Eagles had to withstand a late march downfield by Brady, but victory was finally assured when a Hail Mary attempt came to nothing as the clock ticked down to zero.
In a game featuring just one punt and one sack – Graham’s key hit on Brady – the action was breathless and, for the most part, unprecedented in NFL history.
Chief among the highlights was the glorious moment when Foles – later named the game’s Most Valuable Player – caught a pass from tight end Trey Burton on a gutsy trick play on fourth-and-goal, making him the first player ever to throw and catch a touchdown in a Super Bowl.
Foles also threw for three touchdowns from 373 passing yards, as the 29-year-old Texan capped off his fairytale rise since being drafted in to replace injured regular Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz three games from the end of the regular season.
Opposite number Brady, meanwhile, will be left to reflect on his 505 passing yards – a new Super Bowl record – and three touchdown passes and wonder just how he failed to add to his five Super Bowl rings.
The explosive nature of the two offenses saw the Eagles and Patriots combine for 1,151 yards in total, a record not just for a Super Bowl but for any regular- or post-season game in NFL history.
The Patriots became the first team in NFL history to put up more than 600 yards of offense in a game and lose.
The Eagles set a new record for the highest number of points conceded by a winning team in the Super Bowl (33).
Brady became the first quarterback in any NFL game to lose after throwing for more than 500 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
One sack in the game tied the Super Bowl record.
Brady was appearing in his record eighth Super Bowl and was bidding to become the first man in the sport’s history to win six times.
Brady did at least set a new record for most career touchdowns in Super Bowls, with his three scores taking him to 18 in total
LeGarrette Blount won the Super Bowl for the second year in succession but with different teams, having been part of the Patriots’ victory over Atalanta Falcons a year ago.
The attendance of 67,612 inside Minneapolis’ US Bank Stadium took the combined total attendance at the 52 Super Bowls held so far past the four-million mark.
London-born Jay Ajayi ran for 57 yards for the Eagles as he became a Super Bowl champion just four months after he was traded by the Miami Dolphins.
A tale of two trick plays
Another takeaway statistic from this game was the fact that there were more passes thrown to the two quarterbacks than there were either sacks or punts.
Foles’ successful end-zone catch late in the second quarter was a moment of tactical brilliance from Eagles head coach Doug Pederson in his first ever Super Bowl, but was he inspired by the exact same play by opposite number Bill Belichick?
Earlier in the second quarter the Pats ran their own trick play when Danny Amendola turned quarterback and tossed the ball to a wide open Brady who just couldn’t haul it in.
It was only the third time in their long association that 40-year-old Brady and Belichick had attempted such a move.
Brady caught the other two.
As it was, the ball was soon back in the Eagles’ possession and in the end zone, former Patriot Blount running in for a touchdown.
A breathless, wide-open contest
“This is like they are playing basketball. What happened to the excellent defences? What happened to the Philadelphia pressure? I don’t know what is going on!”
BBC pundit Osi Umenyiora, a two-time Super Bowl winner himself, pretty much summed up the rollercoaster of emotion that came with watching a game in which offense was king.
The Eagles had been widely viewed as underdogs before the game, with New England seeking a third title in four years.
Add in the fact that most of the Eagles’ players were appearing in their first Super Bowl – their entire 53-man roster had seven appearances in the showpiece between them, a number matched by Brady alone – and the gulf in their respective pedigrees became all too clear.
Yet when the game kicked off, there was nothing to choose between them.
The two sides traded early field goals from Jake Elliott and Stephen Gostkowski before the Eagles scored the first touchdown when Foles found Alshon Jeffery for a spectacular catch.
Blount powered over to make it 15-3 after Brady’s agonising fumble, but the Patriots reduced the deficit with a James White touchdown before Foles delivered his party trick, turning receiver just before half-time.
The scoring continued at breakneck pace in the second half with Rob Gronkowski adding two touchdowns for the Patriots and Chris Hogan another, but the Eagles were matching them punch for punch as Foles found Corey Clement with a clinical pass before Ertz’s score and another Elliott field goal preceded a grandstand finish.
‘I expect to be back’ – reaction
MVP and Eagles quarterback Nick Foles: “I felt calm all night, we are such a great group of guys, we felt confident. We just went out there and played football. We’ve been dreaming of this since we were little kids.”
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady: “I expect to be back. I don’t see why I wouldn’t be back. It’s tough to lose these games. You play to win and sometimes you lose. Disappointed. Wish we could have done a better job.”
Eagles coach Doug Pederson: “I have got the best players in the world, I love this group. We have the best fans in the world and now the best team in the world. We wanted to stay aggressive. My mentality was stay aggressive and let Nick Foles make plays.”
Patriots coach Bill Belichick: “Obviously we didn’t do a good enough job coaching, we missed a lot of opportunities offensively in the first half, didn’t play good enough defense, didn’t play good enough in the kicking game.
“In the end, we just couldn’t quite make enough plays, and that was all on me. Disappointing, but I’m proud of the way our team competed.”
Eagles lineman Brandon Graham, who forced the match-winning sack: “We worked our butt off and we are world champs baby!”
Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie: “If there’s a word called everything that’s what it means to Eagles fans everywhere. This is for them.”