The Eagles’ 41-33 win over the Patriots was filled with one great play after the other — especially on the offensive side of the ball. The “Philly Special” — Doug Pederson’s fourth-down, trick-play gamble — will go down as one of the boldest calls in all of sport, and it will be the moment most fans remember from Super Bowl LII. But there were tens of other plays that were indelible and instrumental in the victory.
Here are 10 of the most memorable, aside from the big one:
1. LeGarrette Blount’s burst
With the score tied, 3-3, with 3 minutes and 31 seconds left in the first quarter, Blount (No. 29) ran inside on a zone play. The Eagles’ blocking up front was textbook as center Jason Kelce and the left side of the line — guard Stefen Wisniewski (No. 61) and tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai (No. 72) — cleared a lane vs. an aggressive front.
It was a running theme all night — the o-line winning numerous battles up front — and on the first big rush, the Eagles set the tone on the ground.
Wisniewski: That’s what we do, we got a really good o-line, good tight ends that can block. We had some great schemes. We thought we had an advantage in that matchup — our o-line vs. their front seven.
But to get into the open field, Blount would first slip defensive tackle Malcolm Brown (No. 90) and get a downfield block from receiver Nelson Agholor (No. 13).
Blount: There’s one defender to beat and you’re thinking touchdown. … I tried to give him a little move. … Then I tried to stiff arm and he made the tackle.
After a 36-yard gain the Eagles were on the New England 34.
2. Alshon Jeffery’s leaping touchdown
A play after Blount’s run, Pederson called for play-action. Pre-snap motion confirmed man coverage for quarterback Nick Foles (No. 9). Jeffery (No. 17) was split against cornerback Eric Rowe (No. 25).
The free safety held with Torrey Smith (No. 82) running a deep post route, which meant that Jeffery would be one-on-one vs. Rowe.
Foles’ pass was perfect — over Rowe and to Jeffery’s outside, where only he could get it. But the receiver still had to make a spectacular grab. Jeffery twisted his body, high-pointed the ball and reeled it in for a 34-yard touchdown as the Eagles took a 9-3 lead.
Jeffery: It is something I practice all the time. It was a great throw. The o-line did a hell of a job protecting.
Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich: It was a big play to get us going, to get the offense going.
3. Rodney McLeod is no hurdle
On the ensuing drive, the Patriots drove deep into Eagles territory, but they faced a third and 2 on the 9-yard line. Quarterback Tom Brady (No. 12) handed off to receiver Brandin Cooks (No. 14) on a jet sweep.
McLeod: It’s something we practice all the time in the red zone — their jet motions.
McLeod (No. 23) — the free safety — followed Cooks’ motion and started moving to the projected spot before he even got the handoff.
McLeod: Last second, I kind of [saw Cooks peripherally] going fast, shot it, and then the hole opened up and it was just a one-on-one tackle.
Cooks tried to hurdle McLeod.
McLeod: I thought he was going to try and give me a little move or something, knowing that all they had to get was two yards. But he tried to hurdle me and the rest was history.
Eagles defensive end Chris Long: Rodney did a great job. Most people would try to chop legs, but Rodney was ready to make a face-up tackle.
McLeod: It was just reaction, honestly. … I was trying my best to make an open-field tackle, and next I know he’s up in the air and I’m slamming him on the ground. Game-changing play, honestly, and I didn’t realize how important that play was. We stopped them and they missed a field goal right after that so that created a lot of momentum for us.
4. Jalen Mills breaks up pass to Gronk
Bill Belichick elected to kick a field goal after McLeod’s stop, but a bad snap led to a missed try and the Patriots coach’s conservatism would come back to haunt him. A drive later, though, with the score still 9-3 in the Eagles’ favor, he went for it on fourth and 5 at the Eagles’ 35.
Coming into the game, many thought that safety Malcolm Jenkins (No. 27) would cover tight end Rob Gronkowski (No. 87) in man situations. But defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz had Jenkins shadow running back James White (No. 28) instead.
Jenkins: We didn’t want them to try and get any mismatches on the outside, so we figured we go to our sub-packages and have me match him. That way if they do try to run it, I can be down in the box without getting out of our sub-packages.
White, who set a Super Bowl record with 14 catches last year, finished with only two against the Eagles. Safety Corey Graham (No. 24), meanwhile, was mostly tasked with covering Gronk when he lined up inside. When the burly tight end split wide, the Eagles let their outside cornerbacks cover him. They kept him in check in the first half, as evidenced here by this Jalen Mills (No. 31) pass breakup.
The Eagles’ pass rush didn’t generate much pressure on Brady throughout the game, but defensive end Brandon Graham (No. 55) did affect the quarterback’s throw here with an inside rush. It would be a harbinger of a rush to come.
5. Corey Clement wheels for 55 yards
The Eagles took a 15-3 lead midway through the second quarter when Blount motored for a 21-yard touchdown. The Patriots scored the next nine points, though, and trimmed the lead to 15-12 with a little more than two minutes to go before the break.
On third and 3 on the Eagles’ next possession, Clement (No. 30) ran a wheel route out of the backfield. Safety Jordan Richards (No. 37) was late to react and the running back got behind him. Foles made sure the ball got there, and Clement was off to the races.
Clement: It’s something we kind of specialized the last two weeks, just running the wheel route out of the backfield. We knew what type of game Corey Grant of the Jaguars had against the Patriots. So just trying to emulate that and get me out of the backfield as fast possible. A free release out of the backfield was big for us.
Foles was 11 for 13 for 169 yards and two touchdowns on third down.
A stiff arm led to an extra 20-plus yards to the play.
6. Nick Foles tosses a dime to Clement
The Eagles went into halftime up, 22-12, thanks in part to “Philly Special.” New England rebounded with a touchdown on the opening drive of the third quarter, and the margin was back to three. But Foles and the offense struck back.
With the Eagles facing another third down, pre-snap motion revealed man defense. Tight end Zach Ertz (No. 86), often Foles’ third-down target, drew a double team, which left Clement alone vs. linebacker Marquis Flowers (No. 59).
Clement: It was something we practiced for the last two weeks and I just believed in the play. It was kind of almost cut off, but I stuck with it. Nick Foles did a great job of keeping the play alive downfield. I gave him the hand, I said, “I’m still open.” Even if I had two guys on me, you still had to believe in yourself.
Safety Devin McCourty (No. 32) tried to recover, but Foles’ threaded the eye with remarkable accuracy.
The catch, as with all touchdowns, went under review, but the officials looked at the replay for a long time.
Clement: I really wasn’t too nervous, but at the same time, when they slow everything down, you kind of get the bubble guts and you’re like, ‘Damn, did I really catch it?’ I knew I secured it. It was all about the feet.
Referee Gene Steratore (via “Inside the NFL”): Is there a little ball movement? But that does not deem loss of control.
7. Fourth and Foles
The Patriots bounced back. They scored touchdowns on their next two drives while the Eagles could net only a field goal on their lone series. With New England ahead for the first time all game, Foles and the offense went to work down, 33-32, with 9:22 remaining.
Foles to Pederson (via “Inside the NFL”): What’s your thought process?
Pederson to Foles (via “Inside the NFL): We’re going to run it. We’re going to score a touchdown.
The Eagles ran only once on their first six plays, though, and faced another fourth and 1 on their own 45 with 5:39 left. Pederson gambled again. This time, he went with a more traditional play — a “mesh” concept they used several times throughout the game — to beat the Patriots’ man-heavy defense.
Ertz ran a crossing route, while fellow tight end Brent Celek (No. 87) ran across him from the other direction. Celek’s rub route took out McCourty, and Ertz was free just beyond the marker.
But Foles had pressure in his face. He slid to his left and delivered a pass high for his 6-foot-5 tight end to grab.
Ertz: Nick did an unbelievable job of kind of escaping the pocket, and I knew where the sticks were. I caught the ball right at the first-down line.
8. Zach Ertz for the game-winner
Foles then went to Agholor on three successive plays, hitting his slot receiver for 10-, 18-, and 10-yard completions. A 3-yard Jay Ajayi run and a throwaway had the Eagles at third and 7 at the 11-yard line. The Patriots had doubled Ertz several times on third down, but to free him up one-on-one vs. McCourty, Clement ran a flat route to pull the centerfield safety.
Ertz: It was definitely a wrinkle. Any time I was on the backside kind of early in the game, they were doubling me. That is kind of how I make a lot of plays for this team — being on the backside. But when we had the back kind of slip to the flat on the other side, the man playing him had to get out of there.
Ertz ran another sweet route — a slant — and all Foles had to do was pull the trigger.
Ertz: That was the one-on-one situation with McCourty, and that guy is a phenomenal football player. He definitely played a great game, but playing with Nick in that situation, he was making all the throws, and all I had to do was make the plays.
The ball popped out just after Ertz crossed the plane, but a review confirmed the ruling on the field — touchdown.
Jeffery: I knew it was a touchdown. He took three steps, caught it and broke the plane.
Patriots receiver Danny Amendola: They called it a catch — three feet down and a football move. I call it a catch.
9. Brandon Graham’s strip-sack
The Eagles were back up, 38-33, but Brady had 2:21 left to do his thing. Schwartz’s defense had yet to force a punt and hadn’t stopped the Patriots the entire second half — three drives, three touchdowns. It needed one stop.
Foles (via “Inside the NFL”): We’re about to get a turnover. Let’s go.
On second and two, Brady took the snap in the shotgun and dropped a few more steps.
Jenkins: We knew in the two-minute situation that most likely they aren’t going to run the ball, so our d-line could finally cut it loose.
The Eagles rushed four and dropped seven into a Cover 4 zone. Graham rushed from inside again vs. guard Shaq Mason (No. 69).
Graham: We knew it was going to be about matchups, and I knew the way the center was pointing, I had the one-on-one all game. I’ve been bulling him, and I switched it up. I acted like I was going to bull him and snatched him.
Graham reached out his left hand and stripped Brady just before he tried to dump to White. He got to the quarterback in 2.8 seconds.
Graham: Tom Brady’s arm just happened to be there, and I swiped. And I didn’t even realize I got it until I saw Derek Barnett [No. 96] pick it up.
Barnett: It was a good bounce right into my hands. I was just trying to score.
Brady: I wasn’t very happy about it then. When I went to the sideline, I figured we’d get the ball back.
10. Fail Mary, Eagles win
The Eagles tacked on a field goal to take a 41-33 lead, but Brady and the Patriots did get the ball back. They had to go 91 yards in 58 seconds with no timeouts. They got to midfield with nine ticks left on the clock. Brady shook Graham and threw the ball up for grabs toward Gronkowski.
Long: It was like a heart attack. It was bad for our collective health.
Eagles cornerback Patrick Robinson (No. 21): About three of our guys jumped up, and I kind of just stood there to make sure the ball didn’t just come floating down. And when they hit it, it kind of hit me on my arm. And I’m trying to get it off me.
Amendola: The ball rattled around a couple times. I lost it. I don’t even know if it hit the ground. I saw it and didn’t come up with it.
Robinson: And then it went quiet for a minute. And then I looked up at the clock and it was ‘:00.’ I was like, ‘[Shoot], we won the Super Bowl.’ It didn’t hit me right away.
As his teammates celebrated, Robinson helped Patriots receiver and former Colts teammate Phillip Dorsett (No. 13) off the turf.
Robinson: And then that’s when it kind of hit me. And that’s when the tears starting coming out and all the snot bubbles.
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