MINNEAPOLIS – If someone were to tell you Super Bowl LII would be a game of dueling quarterbacks between Tom Brady and Nick Foles, you would assume the winner would, of course, be Brady, right?
The NFL MVP forever. The GOAT. The owner of five Super Bowl rings.
Sunday night, the script changed. Sure, Brady put up magnificent numbers, completing 28 of 48 passes for a Super Bowl-record 505 yards and three touchdowns. But it was Foles who not only had the strong stats, throwing for 373 yards and three TDs, but also came away with the win, 41-33.
In one of the most stunning and entertaining NFL championship games ever played, a game virtually devoid of defense, the teams combined for a Super Bowl-record 1,151 yards.
Foles, who replaced Carson Wentz after his MVP-type season ended with a knee injury on Dec. 10, gave an amazing performance to earn Super Bowl MVP honors as he gave the underdog Eagles their first Super Bowl win in three tries.
"We've been doubted since Day One," said tight end Zach Ertz, who caught seven passes for 67 yards and a decisive, 11-yard touchdown to put the Eagles up, 38-33, with 2:21 left. "This team, no one picked us."
More specifically, no one picked Foles. The joke was on everyone else.
He showed the necessary poise and play-making that the Eagles needed to overcome Brady, coach Bill Belichick and the rest of the Patriots' dynasty.
"I felt calm," Foles said. "I mean, we have such a great group of guys, such a great coaching staff. We felt confident coming in and we just went out there and played football. We've played this game since we were little kids, we dreamed about this moment."
"He's amazing," Ertz said of Foles. "The past three weeks, he's been playing out of his mind. People panicked when Carson went down. Nick, we had all the confidence in the world in him."
With 4:52 left, the Eagles, trailing 33-32, converted on fourth-and-one when Foles scrambled and then connected with tight end Ertz for two yards to the Philadelphia 47. Foles continued to work his magic with passes of 10, 18 and 10 yards to receiver Nelson Agholor to put the Eagles in business at the Patriots' 14. Three plays later, Foles hit Ertz over the middle and he dived into the end zone, losing the ball as he broke the plane of the goal line. After a replay review, the officials allowed the touchdown to stand.
On the next possession, Brady fumbled while being hit by defensive end Brandon Graham and fellow end Derek Barnett recovered at the Patriots' 31. That set up a 46-yard Jake Elliott field goal for the Eagles' eight-point margin of victory.
"I knew I had a one-on-one with the guard," Brandon said. "I knew he liked to be aggressive, so I tried to act like I was pulling. I snatched it right off and Tom Brady's arm was right there and I went for the ball."
The Pats had one last-gasp attempt, but a Brady throw for tight end Rob Gronkowski fell incomplete to end the game and prevent New England from winning back-to-back Super Bowls.
The first half set the wild tone for the game as a pure shootout. Both offenses moved up and down the field (there was only one punt) and combined for 673 yards of offense – 323 by the Eagles and 350 by the Patriots – as Philadelphia built a 22-12 halftime lead.
The Patriots came out with a fast-paced offense that caught the Eagles' defense off-guard. Philadelphia was penalized for having 12 men on the field because of a slow substitution.
Brady connected on a 28-yard throw to former Buffalo Bills receiver Chris Hogan. However, on third-and-4 from the Eagles' 8, Brady's pass for Rob Gronkowski was broken up and the Pats had to settle for a 26-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski to make it 3-3 with 4:17 left in the first quarter.
On the very next possession, the Eagles showed the firepower they displayed in their 38-7 pounding of the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship Game. Foles fired deep into the back of the end zone for Alshon Jeffery for a 34-yard touchdown. A missed point-after attempt by Elliott gave the Eagles a 9-3 lead with 2:34 remaining in the first quarter.
After forcing the game's first punt on the next series, the Patriots tried to get tricky, with what looked like a double-reverse but ended up being a throw from Amendola to a wide-open Brady. The ball was just out of Brady's reach. The Pats went for it on fourth-and-5 from the Eagles' 35, but Brady couldn't connect on a deep outside throw to Gronkowski.
That set up the Eagles on an impressive drive that included a 19-yard Foles pass to Ertz and a 22-yard throw to Jeffery to the New England 21. Blount then took off around left end and went virtually untouched to the end zone. A failed two-point conversion try put Philadelphia ahead, 15-3, with 8:48 left in the half.
Gostkowski's 45-yard field goal made it 15-6 with 7:24 remaining in the second quarter.
A 43-yard Brady pass to Hogan highlighted a march that ended with James White running over left guard for a 26-yard touchdown. Gostkowski missed the extra-point try to pull the Pats to within three, 15-12.
The Eagles kept their foot on the gas.
A short throw from Foles to Corey Clement turned into a 55-yard gain to the Patriots' 8. After two Clement runs and an incomplete pass, the Eagles faced a fourth-and-goal from the New England 1. Coach Doug Pederson, whose team is second in the NFL in fourth-down attempts and third in the league in conversions, went for broke while taking a page from the Patriots' playbook in the process.
He called a direct snap to Clement, with Foles lined up at tight end. Clement handed off to tight end Trey Burton Foles on a reverse, Foles ran into the end zone wide open, and Burton threw a pass that Foles caught for a touchdown to give the Eagles a 22-12 halftime advantage.
At the start of the third quarter, Brady began attacking the Eagles' secondary by targeting Gronkowski. After a misfire on the first play from scrimmage, they connected four times for 68 yards, the last five for a touchdown to cut the Eagles' lead to 22-19.
But Eagles' offense was undeterred.
With a nice mix of runs and passes, Foles marched the Eagles from their own 15 to the New England 22 from where, on third-and-6, the quarterback found Clement for his second scoring throw of the game to give Philadelphia a 29-19 lead.
Now, it was the Patriots' turn.
Brady, hardly looking like someone ready to retire at age 40, continued to look every bit like the NFL's MVP on the ensuing drive. He marched New England 75 yards on seven plays, the last of which was a 26-yard touchdown pass to Hogan to pull the Patriots back to within three, 29-26.
Once again, the Eagles proceeded to rip through the Patriots' defense, although this time New England forced them to settle for a 42-yard Elliott field goal that made it 32-26.
What did the members of the Patriots' offense do? They shrugged, and then Brady led them on yet another 75-yard scoring march. This one ended with his second touchdown of the game to Gronkowski, from four yards, to give the Pats their first lead of the game, 33-32, with 9:22 left.
"Coach Pederson is the best," Clement said. "His philosophy, his game plan and not only that, the players around us. We believed in the system and this is what we have to show for it."