MINNEAPOLIS — After a review, the ruling on the field stands. In history.
The announcement boomed out and a big portion of this indoor football oasis exploded, those Eagles fans who had inundated U.S. Bank Stadium. Corey Clement, already a huge part of Super Bowl LII before the play, is part of its lore.
An undrafted rookie running back from South Jersey had a third-quarter TD catch on a 22-yard pass that stood up to review and gave Philadelphia some desperately-needed if short-lived breathing room.
That review had not been a given. No confirmation came from the review booth. Clement had caught the ball and gotten two feet down, it was ruled a touchdown … but was that then a bobble? Or had the play already been a score? The ruling on the field stood. Let’s guess if the official had called it the other way maybe that would have stood, too.
Watching all those replays, “I said, ‘Please don’t take this from me,’ because you never know when those moments are going to come back,’’ Clement said.
This isn’t up for review: The kid from Glassboro had made a real football play, leaving the first line of the New England Patriots defense behind before that perfect Nick Foles pass arrived. At that point, the only opposition was an interpretation of the NFL rule book. Ruling stands.
By the time it was over, after the Eagles had held off the Tom Brady Industrial Complex, after Lucy had taken the snap but this time Charlie Brown put the ball through the uprights, final score 41-33, you shouldn’t forget Clement or any of the Eagles running backs.
Clement joins Torry Holt as the rookies in Super Bowl history to have 100 receiving yards and a TD reception. So Clement is the only undrafted rookie. He finished with 100 on the nose, on four catches.
It wasn’t just Clement. Even on that series that pushed the Eagles ahead 29-19 after the review, LaGarrette Blount, former Patriot, had gotten the Eagles moving. The Eagles missed on first down and second-and-10, which meant some sort of pass? No, Jay Ajayi got the ball, former Dolphin, and went for 9 yards, six Patriots on the ground all around him at the end of the play.
In the first half, Blount had his 36-yard run against his old team, plus a 21-yard yard TD. Ajayi had his 26-yard turn. End of the game, the Eagles put the ball in Blount’s hands. He fniished with 90 yards on 14 carries. Ajayi had 57 on nine carries. Total rushing yards: Eagles 164, 6.1 per play, to the Patriots’ 113, 5.1 per play.
Don’t forget Clement was on the field for the play you’ll never forget. Maybe you should have suspected something was up on that fourth down Eagles play at the end of the first half. (Sure, call it the greatest play in modern Eagles history if you like). Clement was in instead of powerhouse backs Blount or Ajayi with the Eagles about 40 inches from New England’s goal line?
Clement took the direct snap on that play and took a couple of hard steps left and got it to Trey Burton, who launched it to Nick Foles for the score.
“We were all kind of calm,” Clement said. “We knew what we were going up against, and we practiced it for the last two weeks. We were actually just ready to do a live play and see how it works.”
Setting up the play, Clement had been getting the job done. He had just gone through the middle of the line for 7 yards down to the 2-yard line and gotten another almost to the 1.
That was after the play that set up the score. The score sheet says simply, “N. Foles pass short right to C. Clement to NE 8 for 55 yards.” Clement blew past a New England safety on the third-down wheel route. A stiff-arm was good for more than 20 yards more, pushing that play beyond effective straight to memorable. The memories just never stopped coming.
“You can’t guess that,’’ Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich said of Clement’s contributions. “Corey exceeded expectations early on and he kept on exceeding expectations. He really proved to be a multi-purpose back. Who ever thought he’d be our third-down back? This running back from Wisconsin. Wisconsin doesn’t breed third-down running backs. They breed running backs who run power.”
A running back who takes off on go routes out of the backfield? Nope, not that, Reich said, at the biggest moment possible.
“Not who takes direct snaps on gadget plays,’’ Reich said of the kid from just across the bridge.