MINNEAPOLIS, MINN. >> The Eagles believed. Then they beat Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots at their own game to register their first Super Bowl title.
Nick Foles threw for 373 yards and three touchdowns and Brandon Graham sacked Brady with 2:09 left, forcing a fumble to secure a 41-33 victory over the Patriots Sunday night at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Instead of Brady and the Bunch, it was Saint Nick for the Eagles. Foles was named MVP.
Eagles head coach Doug Pederson called an MVP-type game for Foles, just the third quarterback to win a Super Bowl with three or fewer starts.
“Our fans have been waiting a long time for this,” Pederson said. “Mr. Lurie has been waiting a long time for this. I’m so excited to be a part of this and bring the Lombardi Trophy back to Philadelphia. I just can’t wait to get back and celebrate with our fans.”
Pederson’s genius showed in a play designed to feature Foles as a receiver. Corey Clement took the Wildcat snap when Foles moved to a flanker position, and pitched the ball to Trey Burton, who lobbed it to a wide open Foles for a one-yard touchdown with 34 ticks left in the first half. It was a lot like the one the Patriots ran earlier for Brady – and unsuccessfully. It gave the Eagles a 22-12 lead in what proved to be a track meet, the teams combining for a Super Bowl record 1,151 yards.
“The Philly special,” Pederson said. “Part of having a great offensive staff is every week we look at different plays around the league and the collegiate ranks and things that may fit what we do. And we found this one that fit. We’ve been working on this one for the last couple weeks and tonight it fit.”
The triumph was powered by Pederson, overlooked in the voting for coach of the year. He was looking at fourth-and-one at the Philly 45-yard line, the Eagles trailing by a point with 6:26 left, his defense that allowed just two touchdowns and 17 points entering the game running on fumes.
Pederson’s instincts told him to roll the dice, and Foles lobbed a season-saving two-yarder to Zach Ertz.
Moments later Foles connected with Torrey Smith to the 43-yard line of the Patriots, and to Nelson Agholor for an 18-yard gain to the 24.
The Eagles reached the 11 of New England when Belichick started taking timeouts. Then came the biggest play of the game.
Ertz caught a slant from Foles, was tripped by former Eagle Eric Rowe and after a step, crossed the plane of the end zone with the ball in both hands. When Ertz crashed, ball first, the pigskin popped out and then back into his hands with 2:21 left.
After a few tense moments, referee Gene Steratore upheld the catch, the loud and vocal Eagles fans letting out a roar.
Foles’ two-point conversion attempt was incomplete. The Eagles led 38-33.
Rookie Derrick Barnett recovered Brady’s fumble and Jake Elliott kicked a 45-yard field goal to seal the decision for the Eagles, who were 0-2 in Super Bowls.
Before that late field goal, Brandon Graham got the sack that really turned the game. He played three quarters on an ailing hamstring.
“When the fourth quarter came, we had to make a stop on defense,” Graham said. “We hadn’t been doing it all game. But at the end of the day we just kept coming and it just opened up for us. It was the biggest game and I didn’t want to go out. I’m just glad I toughed it out.”
Now there are just 12 teams that haven’t won a Super Bowl.
Now there are eight head coaches, including Pederson, to win the ultimate prize in their second season on the job.
And Foles is just the third quarterback to win a Super Bowl after making three or fewer starts in the regular season. He replaced injured starter Carson Wentz late in the season.
“We’ve all waited a long time to be in this position of world champions,” Foles said. “The people who bleed green, the people from Philadelphia, the people across the nation that support the Eagles, they’ve waited a long time. Being a part of this, to be a piece of this puzzle, I know there’s going to be a lot of celebrating tonight.”
The Patriots, down by double-digit points in their third straight Super Bowl appearance, didn’t go quietly.
Brady threw his second touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski, and his third of the game to give the Patriots a 32-31 advantage, their first lead of the night with 9:22 remaining.
It was awful, at least for Eagles fans, in that Jim Schwartz’s defense couldn’t cover anyone. Receivers ran free all over the field. The pass rush was non-existent.
At that point Brady had thrown for 457 yards. But Foles and the offense kept coming, too.