The Eagles defeated the Patriots, 41-33, to secure the first title in franchise history. It did not come without some by-now-familiar scrutiny over what, in fact, constitutes a catch in today’s NFL.
On the game-winning drive, Foles marched his team 75 yards before an 11-yard touchdown catch by Zach Ertz in which Ertz took multiple steps with the ball after securing the pass, dove over the goal line and lost control of the ball while going to the ground. He secured it again, before it made contact with the ground, in the end zone. After review, the play was ruled a touchdown and the Eagles took a 38-33 lead with 2:21 remaining in the game.
The play presents the NFL’s biggest nightmare: a Super Bowl decided by the question of what constitutes a catch. No one could decide during the regular season and this play was no different. Was Ertz a receiver or a runner as he went to the ground and broke the plane of the goal line? The touchdown stood after officials declared he was a runner after establishing possession by taking multiple steps with the ball. The ensuing two-point conversion failed.
The NFL has promised to clear up just what constitutes a catch over the offseason.
Brady, for all of his greatness and 505 passing yards, could not bail out the NFL. On the ensuing Patriots’ drive, Brady fumbled as Brandon Graham wrapped him up, and the Eagles recovered with just over two minutes remaining. Although Brady tried gamely to pretend he was passing the ball, the play was a fumble and Derek Barnett recovered for the Eagles. The Eagles then turned it into three more points on a 46-yard field goal by Jake Elliott, pushing the lead to 41-33, and requiring Brady to score a touchdown and a two-point conversion to force overtime.
Before the controversial touchdown, the second such scoring play of the night, and Brady’s late fumble on the game’s first and only sack, it was Brady demonstrating his consistent excellence. He connected with tight end Rob Gronkowski on a four-yard touchdown pass with 9:22 remaining in the fourth quarter to knot the score before a Stephen Gostkowski extra point gave the Patriots their first lead of the game. The play capped a 10-play, 75-yard drive and put New England up 33-32. It was Brady’s third touchdown pass of the second half.
The Patriots’ quarterback started the half by driving his team 75 yards on eight plays, connecting with Gronkowski for a five-yard touchdown pass to pull the Patriots back to just a three-point deficit, 22-19. The drive lasted just 2 minutes and 45 seconds and included four receptions by Gronkowski.
But the Eagles answered just under five minutes later on a 22-yard touchdown reception by running back Corey Clement that survived the scrutiny of instant replay and the NFL’s nebulous catch rule. On the final play of an 11-yard, 85-yard drive, Clement hauled in a basket catch from Eagles quarterback Nick Foles in the back of the end zone. The officials ruled he had control and got two feet down before his left foot made contact with the end line. The play was immediately hotly debated on social media and by NBC broadcasters Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth, with Collinsworth saying he would have ruled the play incomplete.
“We’ve seen that called incomplete the majority of the time,” Michaels added on the broadcast. But the catch stood, and the Eagles regained their 10-point lead, 29-19. It didn’t last long.
The Patriots covered 75 yards in just under four minutes, finishing the drive with a perfectly delivered 26-yard touchdown catch from Brady to Chris Hogan, narrowing the gap back to 29-26. With 3:23 left in the third quarter, Brady had passed for 404 yards.
A Jake Elliott field goal from 42-yards out kept the scoring going in the fourth quarter, putting the Eagles ahead 32-26. It also continued what has been a frenetic scoring pace in a game that had over 900 yards of total offense with another quarter still to play.
The underdog Eagles entered the halftime break with a 22-12 lead after scoring the game’s first two touchdowns and added a third on a fourth-and-goal trick play from the one-yard line with 34 seconds left in the first half.
The trick play, a nervy play called by Eagles Coach Doug Pederson, featured Foles shifting to the right before the snap while in the shotgun, snapping the ball directly to Clement. Clement tossed it to receiver Trey Burton, who threw a pass to Foles in the end zone for the touchdown and a highly unusual 22-12 lead. It was Foles’s first career reception in the regular season or playoffs.
It was the final strike in a spectacular first half for the Eagles. Foles followed a game-opening 67-yard scoring drive, capped by a 25-yard Elliott field goal, with a deep strike to wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and gave his team an early 9-3 lead.
The Eagles came out doing exactly what they did against the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC championship game, carving up the Patriots defense with deft passes and smart screen plays. Foles came out throwing, hitting Nelson Agholor for completions on his first two plays and, scrambling on third and four, Jeffery for the first down. On the second drive, Foles took his shot and connected with Jeffery in the back of the end zone for a leaping catch on a 34-yard pass. It was the longest Super Bowl touchdown pass in Eagles’ history. Astonishingly, though, Elliott’s extra point attempt was no good.
The Patriots scored on their first drive, as Brady, wearing no tape on the passing hand he cut Jan. 17, stepped onto the field midway through the first quarter and quickly produced points. Brady drove New England 67 yards in nine plays, but could not punch the ball into the end zone. A Gostkowski field goal temporarily knotted the score at 3. It also marked the first time the Patriots had scored in the first quarter of their eight Super Bowl appearances.
New England’s second drive ended with a missed 26-yard field goal attempt after a bobbled snap, one of several mistakes by both teams in the kicking game.
The Eagles expanded their lead to 15-3 with a six-play, 65-yard drive that ate up 3 minutes, 5 seconds and ended with LeGarrette Blount’s 21-yard touchdown run. Philly’s two-point conversion attempt failed. The Patriots chipped away with 7:29 remaining in the first half with a 45-yard field goal by Gostkowski, then struck for six more points just before the two-minute warning on a 26-yard touchdown run by James White. That capped a 90-yard drive kept alive by an Eagles’ holding penalty on third-and-6 deep in Patriots territory. The Patriots missed the extra-point however, following another muffed snap, leaving the Eagles with a 15-12 lead. That set the stage for Philadelphia’s dramatic touchdown drive to cap the first half scoring.
The NFL got exactly what it did not need midway through the second quarter when the Eagles’ Malcolm Jenkins hit Brandin Cooks with a vicious, helmet-to-helmet hit. Cooks, who had tried to vault over a defender on an earlier drive, was knocked out on the play but was able to walk off and headed to the locker room to be evaluated for a concussion. He was ruled out for the remainder of the game.
The Patriots tried to salvage that drive with a trick play, with Brady taking the snap and the ball finally being dished to Danny Amendola, who aimed a pass downfield to Brady. The Patriots’ quarterback had daylight to the end zone in front of him, but he could not haul in the ball. The play also called to mind the time Brady’s wife, Gisele Bundchen, once griped that her husband could not throw the ball and catch the ball, too.
The loss of Cooks was a significant blow to New England’s chances, though Brady and the Patriots did defeat the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC championship game after Gronkowski was forced from the game with a concussion.
New England also played without one of its top defensive players with former Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler benched due to a coach’s decision. Butler, whose interception of Russell Wilson sealed the Patriots’ Super Bowl 49 victory, was emotional when shown during the playing of the national anthem.
Brady has proven throughout his decorated career that he can compensate for the absence of key players. Brady became the NFL’s oldest player ever to win the MVP award Saturday night but could not become the first Super Bowl winner over the age of 40. At least not this season. Brady said prior to the game that he will return for his 19th season next fall, despite turning 41 in August.
Before the scoring explosion got underway on the field, recording star Pink delivered a powerful anthem performance despite a bout with the flu and delivered a flawless national anthem, one that came in under two minutes (at 1 minute, 54 seconds). There were no protests or demonstrations during the anthem even though the Eagles’ Malcolm Jenkins in particular had demonstrated during the season to raise awareness of police brutality and social injustice.
Members of the Patriots, a favorite team of President Trump, stood with one hand on a teammate’s shoulders and the other over their heart.
With the victory, don’t expect to see photos of Eagles fans shinnying up light poles in Philadelphia. Continuing with a tradition that continued with the NFC championship game, the city greased them up. This time, though, Philly used water-resistant hydraulic fluid, after finding that Crisco was ineffective. The fluid the city is using, Bio-Boittle Jack Hydraulic Fluid, is economical and has low toxicity and is biodegradable.
The first controversy of Super Bowl Sunday belonged not to the two teams, but instead the halftime show. The show included a massive projection of Prince, the Minnesota-born super star who died two years ago. Prior to the game there was some concern over a rumored use of a hologram version of Prince. Longtime Prince bandmate Sheila E dispelled the rumor on Twitter, noting that Prince was very much against the idea of using holograms of deceased artists.
Instead, Timberlake sang Prince song “I Would Die 4 You,” while the stadium and city were bathed in purple, in addition to his own hits like “Cry Me a River” and “SexyBack.”
Though Timberlake delivered several surprises during his halftime performance, an ‘N Sync reunion or Janet Jackson cameo were not among them. Timberlake and Jackson teamed up for the infamous wardrobe malfunction in the 2007 halftime show and many were hoping she might make a triumphant return.
No controversy this season was bigger than that surrounding the NFL’s national anthem protests, which drew sharp and repeated criticism from President Trump. Though Trump departed from a recent tradition of a presidential interview prior to the Super Bowl, he did issue a statement lauding the men and women of America’s military that included a reminder to stand for the national anthem.
The first big commercial landed just after the Eagles’ first drive, a trailer for the upcoming movie “Solo,” a Star Wars film depicting a young Han Solo and his Wookie sidekick Chewbacca.
The commercials were underwhelming through the first quarter, but Peter Dinklage brought the heat for Doritos, lip-syncing Busta Rhymes’s “Look at Me Now” and Morgan Freeman doing the lip-sync honors on Missy Elliott’s “Get Ur Freak On” for Mountain Dew.
A reenactment of the famous dance scene from “Dirty Dancing” by New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning and wide receiver Odell Beckham also earned high marks in advertising the NFL’s upcoming 2018 season.
Top story lines
Conflict exposed social fault lines that always have been there, and now the NFL can’t figure out how to make it all go away. (Read More)
Brady is more than a quarterback playing for his sixth championship for one family. He is a seemingly ubiquitous reason to share memories of Dick Rehbein, the former Patriots assistant coach who in 2000 helped convince Coach Bill Belichick to draft the unheralded Brady and passed away before the skinny QB from Michigan became a star. (Read More)
The night before he was to play in his eighth Super Bowl since 2001, the Patriots’ 40-year-old QB won the league’s top honor. (Read More)
There is nothing to suggest that should they win a sixth Super Bowl title on Sunday, it will soothe them into not needing a seventh. (Read more)
With New England on the brink of a sixth Super Bowl title, it’s fair to compare how they stack up to other great franchise runs in the sports pantheon. (Read More)
The Eagles are quick to remind outsiders not to make the mistake of discounting Pederson again. (Read More)
Looking back at New England’s incredible run of success. (Read More)
The Patriots’ tight end was officially cleared of the NFL’s concussion protocol on Thursday, and he’ll play against the Eagles on Sunday. (Read More)
When the Patriots faced the St. Louis Rams and their “Greatest Show on Turf” offense on Feb. 3, 2002 in Super Bowl XXXVI, there was no hint of the glorious years that would follow. (Read More)
He’ll pass on the traditional pregame interview, but his presidential thumbs can still tweet, though, right? (Read More)
Whatever the cause, New England has enjoyed a significant advantage in the penalty department this season. (Read More)
Prediction and betting tips
The Post’s projections show New England should easily cover the spread. (Read More)
Sure, you could pass around a giant sheet of poster board at your Super Bowl party and ask people to scribble their initials inside their squares, but that involves more effort than should be expended at such an event. (Read More)
Yes, there is a clear best square to own. (Read More)
Prop bets seldom work out in the bettor’s favor, but here are a few that might be smarter-than-usual plays. (Read More)
Halftime and commercials
Check out all the top ads from this year’s game. (Watch)
Before Super Bowl halftimes were taken over by production companies and pop stars, they were headlined by a marching band that “brought soul to the mix.” (Read More)
Refresh your memory about the wardrobe malfunction heard ’round the world. (Read More)
What does every halftime show ever look like in 8-bit animation? Glad you asked. (Read More)
There’s a reasonable chance Kirk Cousins’s final appearance in a Washington Redskins jersey will be alongside a Donald Trump impersonator in a commercial for gas fireplaces. (Read More)
Crawford, who turns 52 next month, will star in a spot that recalls her classic 1992 ad for Pepsi, and she’ll be joined by her 18-year-old son. (Read More)