Rick Weegman column: Foles excels on biggest stage
MINNEAPOLIS — The Philadelphia Eagles aren't the Atlanta Falcons.
They aren't the Minnesota Vikings or Buffalo Bills, either.
What the Eagles are is Super Bowl LII champions.
After two previous losses, Philadelphia earned its first Super Bowl title with a thrilling 41-33 victory over New England at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday night behind a quarterback who contemplated retirement a couple seasons ago, a freight train of a running back who was determined to show up the team that let him go after winning the Super Bowl last year and the play-calling wizardry of head coach Doug Pederson.
Nick Foles, as was the case in a 38-7 rout of the Vikings in the NFC championship game, did more than just manage the game, he excelled in front of 67,612 fans and earned the MVP award.
He was on target with his check-down throws, found Alshon Jeffery on a 34-yard strike in the back of the end zone and even caught a touchdown pass on a fourth-down double-reverse wide receiver option with 34 seconds left in the first half to give Philadelphia a 22-12 lead.
But Carson Wentz's backup, who mulled over retirement until landing with the Kansas City Chiefs a couple seasons ago and rediscovering his love of the sport, saved his best for last.
After Tom Brady, the greatest quarterback in NFL history, led the Patriots back three times from double-digit deficits to forge a 33-32 lead with 9:22 to play, Foles marched the Eagles 75 yards in 10 plays, culminating with an 11-yard TD pass to tight end Zach Ertz flashing across the middle and diving across the plane of the goal line with 2:21 remaining in regulation.
That play, unlike a similar one when Pittsburgh's Jesse James' apparent TD against New England in a regular-season game was overruled via video replay, was upheld.
"If they would have overturned that, I don't know what would have happened to the city of Philadelphia," Ertz said during the postgame celebration.
The Eagles' defense, which had been picked apart by Brady for 505 yards, then came up with its biggest play in team history when Brandon Graham strip-sacked Brady and Derek Barnett recovered the fumble.
That led to a Josh Elliott field goal, and Brady was unable to pull a rabbit out of his hat again this year on the Patriots' last-minute drive.
Foles completed 28 of 43 passes for 373 yards and three touchdowns, showing his efficiency from the start. On the first series, Foles completed back-to-back passes on third down on a drive that was eventually derailed by a false start penalty inside the Patriots' 10.
Foles' accuracy was impeccable throughout, especially on his throw to Jeffery in the back corner of the end zone late in the first quarter and on a laser-strike over two defenders to Corey Clement for a 29-19 third-quarter lead.
Meanwhile, LeGarrette Blount displayed his bruising running style that had worked so well in a Patriots uniform. When the veteran running back wouldn't take a pay cut to stay in Foxborough, Mass., off he went to Philly. Even when the Eagles brought in another physical back in Jay Ajayi in a midseason trade, Blount didn't lose his passion. He used his 6-foot, 250-pound frame on a 21-yard TD run that put the Eagles up 15-6. Blount finished with 90 yards on 14 carries.
The combination of Foles, Blount and the faith the Eagles coaching staff placed in their offense means Philadelphia won't join that dreaded list of Super Bowl losers.