The underdogs are now the NFL’s top dogs.
Refusing to bow to adversity, be it during the season or during the Super Bowl, the Philadelphia Eagles dismantled the mighty New England Patriots 41-33 on Sunday night to win the first Super Bowl title in franchise history. As Tom Brady’s last, desperation heave fell incomplete and the green confetti began to fall, Eagles safety Rodney McLeod dropped to his knees, sobbing, while the Philadelphia fans who had packed U.S. Bank Stadium erupted in a roar generations in the making.
The Philadelphia Eagles are finally Super Bowl champs.
“We were a team of – I hate to use the word, but, destiny,” linebacker Chris Long said. “Too much went wrong, and we couldn’t be stopped.”
The Eagles were not exactly the popular pick for, well, anything, when the season began. Then they lost their topping running back, Darren Sproles. And their perennial Pro Bowl left tackle, Jason Peters. And then their franchise quarterback, Carson Wentz.
Sure, the Eagles still had their defense, as nasty and stingy as it got in the NFL this year. Nick Foles, who until this year defined the term journeyman, had enough talent around him that he wasn’t being asked to carry the offense.
That’s fine – in the regular season. But this was the Super Bowl and the opponent was the Patriots, a dynasty the likes of which the NFL will probably never see again. The Patriots were seeking their second consecutive title and sixth in the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady era, and no one does comebacks better than Brady.
Not on this night, however. On this night, the future Hall of Famer got upstaged by a guy who couldn’t even get a starting job nine months ago. In fact Foles turned out even to be the better receiver, catching a touchdown pass on a fourth down while Brady dropped a catchable pass on a Patriots’ trick play.
“We just needed time,” Pederson added. “We needed time together to work out some things, and this whole postseason Nick has shown exactly who he is and what he can do and what he is capable of doing.”
Every bit of his – and the Eagles – mettle was on display late in the fourth quarter.
With Rob Gronkowski finally a factor, the Patriots had rallied from 10 down in the third quarter to take a 33-32 lead with 9:22 left. Anyone who has watched the Patriots win any of their five Super Bowls knew how this was going to end. When the Eagles found themselves in a fourth-and-1 from their own 45, the folks in charge of the Patriots team plane started hunting for paint to add another Lombardi Trophy to the tail.
But Foles escaped the pressure, stepped up in the pocket and found Nick Ertz for a 2-yard gain that kept the drive alive. Seven plays later, Foles found Ertz again for what would be the decisive score.
The Eagles missed the two-point conversion and gave the Patriots the ball back with 2:21 left to play. Now, that’s prime Brady time, history just waiting to be made. On the second play of the drive, however, Philadelphia’s defense made one of its patented big plays.
Defensive end Brandon Graham sacked Brady and knocked the ball loose. Derek Barnett recovered it, putting all light poles in Philadelphia in danger.
“Everybody doubted us,” defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said. “We just stepped up to compete every week and it showed today. We’re world champions.”
The Eagles were not chippy about the slights or even all that arrogant. They had embraced the underdog status, treating it almost as if it were an inside joke. They knew what they had in their locker room and, rather than trying to make people believe, they would simply go out and show them.
No one personified that more than Foles. In his seven years in the NFL, he’s been traded. Cut. Cut again, essentially.
When he signed with the Eagles last spring, it was with the understanding that he would see very little playing time unless something very bad happened to wunderkid Carson Wentz. And he was happy to hold the clipboard as the Eagles rolled through through the first 13 games of the year, clinching the NFC East and looking like the class of the entire NFL.
And then something very bad happened to Wentz.
“Foles has been here before. I don’t know if people forgot about it or didn’t see it, but he’s done it before,” tight end Brent Celek said, referring to Foles’ previous seasons as a starter. “And he did it again.”
Indeed, Foles has made himself a lot of money these last few weeks. Even before he was named Super Bowl MVP.
“We just went out there and played football,” Foles said. “We’ve played this game since we were little kids, we dreamed about this moment.”
That moment when the underdogs became the NFL’s top dogs.
By Nancy Armour
This article was republished with permission from the original author and 2015 Ronald Reagan Media Award recipient, Nancy Armour, and the original publisher, USA Today. Follow columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.