By RYAN BRAUCH
The Philadelphia Eagles made headlines on Sunday night when they won their first Super Bowl Championship in organization history, as they edged the New England Patriots. Head coach Doug Pederson and the Eagles relished their role as the underdogs all throughout this season’s playoffs after they lost starting quarterback Carson Wentz to an ACL tear in Week 14 in a win over the Los Angeles Rams.
The Patriots won the coin toss but elected to defer and give the Eagles the ball to start the game, in which Philadelphia pounded the ground game early with their hefty dou of power backs in Jay Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount. After grinding their way down the field, the Eagles struggled to get in the endzone and had to settle for a field goal.
Once New England got the ball, they almost effortlessly made their way down the field but failed to get a touchdown but tied the game 3-3 with a field goal. Starting their second drive, the Eagles were swift to strike back, fueled by an explosive 36 yard run from Blount, followed by a an acrobatic catch from wide receiver Alshon Jeffery that led to a touchdown. Following the score, rookie kicker Jake Elliott missed the extra point and started the special team woes as the Eagles took the lead 9-3.
Tom Brady fired back by aiding the Patriots downfield but once again New England found themselves being stopped in the red zone and were forced to kick another field goal. While taking the snap for the field goal, holder Ryan Allen mishandled the ball, causing kicker Stephen Gostkowski to miss the field goal.
After a failed drives from either team, the Eagles got the ball back and had several short yardage plays before a 21 yard touchdown run from Ajayi. Pederson and the Eagles attempted to correct the missed extra point by going for the two point conversion but failed to do so, leaving the score at 15-3.
New England managed to get back into the game by upping their defensive pressure and forcing an interception, which later allowed them to kick a field goal and for Brady to find Chris Hogan for a touchdown pass to close the gap, leaving the score 15-12.
Philadelphia ended the half with a bang as they ran an impressive trick play on fourth down in which tight end Trey Burton threw a touchdown pass to Foles, putting the Eagles up 22-12 at half.
Entering the second half, the Patriots’ halftime adjustments were evident as it was clear to see that head coach Bill Belichick wanted star tight end Rob Gronkowski more involved in the offense. Gronkowski tallied four catches for 68 yards and a touchdown on the Patriots’ opening drive of the half.
Aiming to keep pace with the accelerating New England offense, Foles took some time off the clock by taking an almost five minute drive down the field, while also sending Corey Clement to the endzone for a controversial touchdown upping the score to 29-19.
As anticipated, the Patriots had no plans of slowing down as they pounded their way down the field once more to conclude with a 26 yard touchdown connection between Brady and Hogan. With this score, the relentless Patriots inched closer on the scoreboard, making it again a one score game standing at 29-26 as the third quarter neared a close.
With a determined and absolutely hot offense, the Eagles penetrated the Patriots’ defense yet another time but only managed a field goal.
Although the time remaining in the game was scarce, there was no shortage of drama and lead changes as Brady stepped on the field to march his team down field. With the Eagles’ defense locking down Gronkowski, Hogan and Brandin Cooks, slot receiver Danny Amendola found himself making big contributions on a Patriots drive that gave them the first lead of the game. Amendola racked up three receptions for 46 yards that set up a Gronkowski touchdown.
Facing a deficit for the first time in the game, the Eagles’ offense went onto the field determined not to fall into the same trap that the Atlanta Falcons did last year, letting the Patriots back into the game. With Foles under center, all of the pressure of the team and city of Philadelphia rested on his shoulders, as he could either be a hero or just another disappointment at the end of this game.
Pederson and Foles did a great job milking the game clock to leave little time for a Patriots comeback, while also finding the endzone, as Foles threw to tight end Zach Ertz for a touchdown that raised eyebrows, giving Philadelphia the lead once more.
With less than two and a half minutes left and down by five points, there was still plenty of time left for Brady to glide past the Eagles’ defense and score again to win the game. In a game where both defenses have struggled to contain the opposing offenses, the first sack of the game for either team came at a perfect time for the Eagles as defensive end Brandon Graham made contact with Brady while also forcing him to fumble the ball, in which rookie teammate Derek Barnett recovered. Forcing New England to use all of their remaining timeouts, the Eagles kick another field goal to increase their lead to eight points.
With a minute left, Brady and the Patriots just could not get through the Eagles defense, who were now full of energy.
As time expired, the Eagles’ sideline erupted as they finally secured the city’s first Super Bowl Championship. Over the course of the regular season, Philadelphia enjoyed being one of the most dominant teams in the league but hope faltered after the Wentz injury. Foles crushed all doubt surrounding him and the team for the past two months and topped it off by rewarding the city and team with their first title.