MINNEAPOLIS — There was no incredible Patriots comeback this time. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick had the Pats in position to shock the world once again, but on this night there was no crucial call to be overturned by video review, no Tuck Rule, no goofy decision from the rival sideline, no fanboy judge or league official to flip the script in favor of the Patriots in the final seconds.
Hard as it is to believe, the Patriots lost the Super Bowl Sunday night at U.S. Bank Stadium and they lost to the better team. Philadelphia’s backup quarterback Nick Foles had the right stuff and second year coach Doug Peterson outfoxed the Hoodie as the championship-starved Eagles won their first Super Bowl, a 41-33 pinball special against the mighty Pats.
It was a thoroughly entertaining 60 minutes with a flurry of touchdown passes and unstoppable offenses. Brady — the greatest of all time — was still slinging at the finish and the game was not officially over until his final 60-yard heave bounced off a bunch of hands and onto the Patriots logo in the end zone. For the first time in a long time, New England’s Hail Mary prayer went unanswered.
Brady threw for three touchdowns and a Super Bowl-record 505 yards, and brought his team back from a 10-point second-half deficit once again, just as he did in the last two Super Bowls and January’s AFC championship game. We all assumed there was one more game-winning surge coming from TB12, but New England’s last real chance (trailing 38-33) was smothered when Brady was stripped of the football by a couple of Philly fatties deep in Patriot territory with just over two minutes left in the game.
It was not Tom vs. Time. It was Tom vs. Philadelphia. And the Eagles pulled off the upset.
After weeks of mocking Patriot opponents we have seen the Tomato Cans and they are . . . the members of the Patriots defense.
The Patriots trailed for almost the entire game. The contest featured only only one punt (Philadelphia), and the two teams amassed more than 1,100 yards of total offense.
In the end, New England’s spoiled fans should not take this one too hard. Most football observers would agree that the Pats this year were somewhat artificially enlarged by a weak conference and a playoff run which steered clear of teams that might have given them trouble. The Pats’ path to the Super Bowl featured home playoff games against quarterbacks Marcus Mariota (Tennessee) and Blake Bortles (Jacksonville), and it looked like this good fortune would continue when Philly showed up without its star quarterback Carson Wentz. Wentz blew out his knee in December which, thrust twice-released, once-traded journeyman Foles in the spotlight.
Foles delivered, completing 28 of 43 passes and throwing for three touchdowns. Pederson, meanwhile, was every bit as bold as Belichick. Maybe more. With his team trailing, 33-32, with 5:20 left, he eschewed the punt and went for a first down on a fourth-and-1 from his own 45-yard line. Foles completed a short pass to tight end Zach Ertz for the first down. It is a play that will go down in Philadelphia history.
The Patriots lost because their defense — disguised as a bend-but-don’t-break unit all season — was terrible. In the Super Bowl we saw the same Swiss cheese unit that coughed up 42 points to the Chiefs on opening night in September.
Malcolm Butler, the hero of Super Bowl XLIX, was benched, a controversial Belichick decision bound to life in infamy. We saw a lot of Eric Rowe, Jordan Richards and Johnson Bademosi arm tackling and getting scalded by Foles.
Defensive coordinator, Matt Patricia, set to be announced as Lions coach this week, delivered one last party line line regarding Butler:
“We just played all the guys we could to try to help us win . . . ”
Ever-gracious Belichick said the decision was strictly a football move. Nothing to do with discipline.
“I made the decisions that gave us the best chance to win,” he told NBC.
Also absent for most of the game was Patriots deep threat. Aaron Cooks left the game with a concussion after taking a vicious high hit early in the second quarter.
Everything seemed to be going New England’s way leading up to game-time The Pats were 4 1/2-point favorites and most of the country had little faith in Foles and Pederson vs. Brady and Belichick. Even the venue seemed to favor the Patriots.
Situated in the middle of a migratory bird pathway, U.S. Bank Stadium’s unique architecture and reflective glass makes it a death trap for birds who mistake the edifice for open sky. It’s a serious problem being studied by local environmentalists. Not to get all metaphoric on you, but could there have been a more fitting stadium site for the extinction of the 2017-2018 Eagles?
It did not come to pass as Philly scored early and often on the Patriots porous defense.
Still, the Patriots had faced double-digit deficits in four playoff games since 2015 and won every time. Twice the Pats trailed the Ravens by 14 points in a divisional round off game at Gillette in January, 2015. New England won, 35-31. They fell behind Seattle, 24-14, in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLIX, rallied for two late touchdowns, then stuffed the Seahawks at the goal line when Pete Carroll lost his mind at the finish. The Pats famously trailed 28-3 in last year’s Super Bowl before winning in overtime. Two weeks ago, New England trailed the Jaguars 20-10 in the fourth quarter of the AFC Championship Game, but rallied for a pair of late touchdowns and a trip to Super Bowl LII.
We have come to expect nothing less. There is no need to worry because the Pats have Belichick and Brady and the good karma. They can merely stay the course and wait for the enemy to make mistakes.
It did not happen on this night.
Late in the first half, Pederson made a gutsy call that paid off. The Philly coach went for it on a fourth and goal from the 1 and was rewarded when third string tight end Trey Burton took a direct snap and feathered a touchdown pass to an uncovered Foles. Foles in that moment became the only player in Super Bowl history to throw and catch a touchdown pass in the game. It no doubt would have made Gisele proud.
“Philly special,” Pederson called it.
That’s the kind of play the Patriots have used to trick their opponents through the years.
Not Sunday. Not in cold, bold Minnesota. Not against the Eagles.
So the Patriots are going to have to wait another year if they want to tie Pittsburgh with a sixth Lombardi trophy. We expect Brady and Belichick and Bob Kraft all back to make it happen.
But there will be no duck boats parade this week.
Truck Day is Monday if it makes anybody feel better.