1,151. That’s the number of yards both the victorious Philadelphia Eagles and vanquished New England Patriots jointly produced during Super Bowl LII. One-thousand-and-fifty-one. To put that into context, this matchup broke the record for the most yards in any game in NFL history, not just Super Bowl history. It’s fair to say that viewers have been blessed with their fair share of memorable Super Bowls in recent times. As the build-up to the 2018 edition, to be held in Minneapolis, began to reach fever pitch, many speculated how on earth it could match up to contests such as in 2013 when the Ravens held off a power cut and a rampant 49ers to secure victory; 2015 when Malcolm Butler’s goal line interception won it for the Patriots; and of course last year when New England produced a stupendous comeback to leave the Falcons broken-hearted. Well here was the answer: The Eagles and Pats uniting to produce an offensive extravaganza the like of which we may never witness again. It will never be forgotten.
It may not have been one for the defensive aficionados and it became apparent early on that both offenses may have been gearing up to some-thing special. Eagles backup Nick Foles, who started the game because Carson Wentz was stricken with a sea-son-ending injury in December, struck first after both sides traded field goals, finding receiver Alshon Jeffery for a 34-yard touchdown. The Eagles soon stretched this lead out to 15-3, showing that despite being heavy under-dogs, as they had been throughout the playoffs, this wouldn’t be a one-sided stroll for the Pats. Almost inevitably, however, New England struck back, first through a field goal and then a 26-yard James White touchdown run to narrow the score to 15-12. However, as soon as it looked as though the Patriots would begin to take control, the Eagles responded with one of the most outrageous trick plays in Super Bowl history, with quarterback Foles catching a touchdown pass from tight end Trey Burton, restoring Philly’s double-digit advantage at 22-12 going into the halftime break.
No sooner had Justin Timberlake’s mesmerising halftime performance concluded than this back-and-forth matchup resumed, with both offenses trading touchdowns almost like they were three-pointers in an NBA game. It was the Patriots who drew first blood in the third quarter however, with Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski combining as they had done so many times over the season to narrow the Eagles’ lead back to three. Yet Philly’s offensive juggernaut was showing no signs of slowing up, as they stretched their lead back out to 10 before an-other Brady touchdown brought the Pats back to within three as the third quarter drew to a close. At this point, as the local time on the East Fife coast passed 2 am, many St Andrews students (yours truly included) simply resigned themselves to the fact that their Monday was going to be significantly lacking in productivity as there was no chance they were going to miss the denouement of what was already a classic. And boy what a finish it was. After a Philadelphia field goal opened the scoring in the final quarter, New England took their first lead of the game after Brady threw his third touchdown of the game to take the score to 33-32. At this point it would have been easy to assume another strong Patriots finish, as was seen in the AFC Championship game against the Jaguars two weeks prior, and a sixth Lombardi Trophy heading to Gillette Stadium. How wrong this prediction would prove to be. Firstly, as he had done all game, Nick Foles led his offence back down the field and into the end zone courtesy of a nine-yard touchdown pass to Zach Ertz. Then came the critical play of the game: with the Pats aiming to re-take the lead, Tom Brady was sacked by Brandon Graham resulting in him fumbling possession and the Eagles defence coming up with the ball. From the resulting possession Philadelphia stretched their lead out to eight points at 41-33 and despite a desperate Hail Mary attempt from New England on the final play, that ultimately proved to be the final score, thus closing the book on a once-in-a-generation contest.
It’s fair to say this game wasn’t without its fair share of controversy. Bostonians would argue long into the night about the validity of Philadelphia’s fourth touchdown, with receiver Cory Clement appearing to step out of bounds before fully gaining control of the ball. However, it’s testament to the efforts of both sides that such decisions didn’t over-shadow this remarkable contest. It was also hard not to feel for Brady, who was denied a sixth Super Bowl ring despite turning in arguably the greatest performance of his already exemplary career, throwing for 505 yards (a Super Bowl record) and three touchdowns, proving once again that in sport, as in life, your best some-times just isn’t good enough. The defeat also signals the start of an un-certain offseason for the Patriots, with defensive coordinator Matt Patricia leaving to take charge of the Lions while star tight end Gronkowski also seems to be flirting with retirement. However, as long as Bill Belichick and Brady remain at the helm there is no reason to think they won’t be among the contenders to lift the Lombardi Trophy at the close of next season; this is a dynasty that has overcome far greater challenges.
This result did, however, cap off a fairy tale few months for MVP Nick Foles. At the end of last season his NFL career was in doubt having been released by the Chiefs before finding himself as the Eagles’ back-up Quarterback. After starter Wentz was ruled out for the year at the back end of the regular season, most pundits wrote off the Eagles’ chance of any playoff success before Foles put together a series of remarkable performances culminating on Super Bowl Sunday, ensuring he will likely be handed a handsome contract over the offseason and probably a starting Quarterback role, even if that will almost certainly be away from the Eagles. Without a doubt, however, the biggest celebration of the night erupted across the city of Philadelphia after the finish as this success-starved region finally had a reason to party hard, courtesy of their first ever Super Bowl title and the Eagles’ first championship in 58 years. For many fans, this had been a very long time coming – a sight some must’ve thought they’d never see. After Super Bowl LII, no longer will Philly fans have to put up with taunts from rivals like the Cowboys and the Giants owing to their lack of a Lombardi Trophy. Put simply, they are losers no more.