Grading the Eagles' 41-33 win IN THE SUPER BOWL.
The Eagles are Super Bowl champions. Probably gonna be awhile before seeing that gets old.
As far as the report card from the game? It's not fridge-worthy. No, no, no, no. Frame it. Etch it in stone. Commission a statue of it.
There's no telling when you'll see marks this good again.
Nick Foles: 28/43, 373 YDS, 3 TD, 1 INT
And one touchdown catch that will go down as the most famous in franchise history.
Remember when Foles' confidence was a huge question mark? We're only talking about from 2014 up until two weeks ago. Well, how 'bout now? Have you ever seen a more poised, a more cool, calm and collected performance in a big game from a quarterback in an Eagles uniform?
Foles was as close to flawless as anybody could ask. The pick wasn't his fault - the result of a pass deflected by its intended target. Other than that, the Patriots were credited with seven pass breakups and failed to register a sack. The decision-making was impeccable but didn't come at the expense of throwing downfield, as Foles averaged 8.7 yards per attempt. The touchdowns to Alshon Jeffery and especially Corey Clement were things of beauty.
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Incredible performance, especially coming from a player precious few people believed in when the playoffs began.
LeGarrette Blount: 14 rushes, 90 yards, TD
Corey Clement: 4 receptions, 100 yards, TD
Cris Collinsworth couldn't seem to figure out why Jay Ajayi didn't touch the football for large portions of the game. Well, Collinsworth couldn't figure a lot of things, but that's another story. As for Ajayi's disappearing act, Blount had the hot hand.
Anybody who's followed the Eagles all season knows the running back rotation is confounding at times, often defying explanation. Ajayi's diminished role in the Super Bowl was not one of those occasions. Blount's vision was better than 20/20, he was running angry against his former team, and he good luck tackling 250 pounds when it's on a mission. Ajayi played well (9 rushes, 57 yards), but sticking with Blount was the right call.
As for Clement, he saved his best for last. Who would've thought an undrafted rookie with 29 career catches in college would've emerged as the Eagles' best receiver out of the backfield? Even prior to the playoffs, he recorded 10 receptions during the regular season. In the Super Bowl, of all games, Clement came up with a 55-yard touchdown in traffic.
By the way, great ball security all around.
Nelson Agholor: 9 receptions, 84 yards
Alshon Jeffery: 3 receptions, 73 yards, TD
Of the four touchdown catches in the game, Jeffery was the only receiver to come up with one. It also happened to be his best grab of the season - a 34-yard jump ball at the back of the end zone, both feet clearly inbounds, not so much as the appearance of a bobble as he went to the ground. Jeffery converted only three of nine targets, including a two-point try, and his attempt at a one-handed catch wound up aiding an interception. Of course, the refs sure kept those penalty flags in their pockets, didn't they?
Agholor led all Eagles players in receptions and was involved in a lot of the offensive gadgetry. Only two targets went as incompletions. Torrey Smith wasn't quite as sharp, hauling in five of nine throws that came his way while adding 49 yards in production.
When it was all said and done, all three wideouts were responsible for a missed opportunity or two, but each was solid when it mattered most.
Zach Ertz: 7 receptions, 67 yards, TD
There were some blocking issues early on. The running game had some trouble getting going, and blocks by Ertz and Brent Celek weren't getting it done. Hard to say whether that was quality intel by the Patriots or not, but obviously, the Eagles ran it much better as the game went on, and the tight ends were not an issue.
Regardless, pretty sure we can let them off the hook. As usual, Ertz had a bunch of big catches, none bigger than what proved to be the game-winning 11-yard score. And right up front, get out of here with any conspiracy theories. He took three steps before diving to the ground, establishing himself as a runner in the process, thus removing all of the strife over the NFL's catch rule. Honestly, it's not that complicated. I swear.
This unit's performance can be distilled in two simple statistics.
No. 1: The Eagles averaged a healthy 6.1 yards per rushing attempt.
No. 2: The Patriots failed to register a sack and recorded just five quarterback hits on 43 dropbacks by Foles.
The Eagles weren't necessarily consistent running the football but racked up a bunch of huge gains over the course of the contest. And despite all of the passing, and Foles' occasional need to buy himself some time, he largely went untouched, taking a limited number of shots. In all, the Patriots' defense managed just four tackles for loss on 71 offensive plays. This was a flat-out dominant performance. Franky, "A+" probably isn't good enough. Maybe next season, we'll look into expanding our report cards for situations such as this.
Brandon Graham: 2 tackles, 2 QB hits, sack, forced fumble
Derek Barnett: Fumble recovery
Not sure statistics truly justify how this front played. Sure, there were stretches there when the Patriots had terrific protection and Tom Brady went untouched. The first three possessions in the second half were a disaster, as New England marched right into the end zone on all three. By the end of the game, the secondary was on the hook for 500 yards passing.
But Brady gets rid of the ball quickly, and the Eagles' D as a whole looked gassed during that late stretch. Once they came back on the field reenergized from a seven-minute scoring drive by the offense, the fire returned. Graham's strip-sack and Barnett's recovery pretty much sealed the deal on the franchise's first world championship. It was the unit's only sack but one of nine quarterback hits on Brady's 50 dropbacks. The pressure was there, if not exactly constant.
More disappointing, perhaps, is the fact that the NFL's No. 1 run defense allowed the Patriots to average 5.1 yards per carry.
Nigel Bradham: 7 tackles, 1 QB hit
In what was perhaps the most memorable play of the Super Bowl by a linebacker, Bradham hit Brady so hard in the midsection he was reportedly doubled over on the field during the ensuing commercial break. There were a handful of other stops made by Bradham for minimal or no gain that flew under the radar but turned out to be pivotal in ending Patriots drives.
Sort of a shame. Every position group seemed to have its moment to shine. Didn't happen here. Bradham finished third on the team in tackles, while Mychal Kendricks added four more. No big shining moment, unless I'm forgetting something, which is entirely possible - there were so many special plays. A fine game by both players, nonetheless.
Jalen Mills: 9 tackles, 2 passes defensed
Rodney McLeod: 6 tackles, 1 pass defensed
Legit thought McLeod was going to powerbomb Patriots wideout Brandin Cooks on that reverse attempt. Instead, the Eagles' free safety merely saved a touchdown. It was one of several critical plays by McLeod, who seemed to be in the right place at the right time on a number of stops. Underrated game.
Meanwhile, Cooks probably would've settled for that powerbomb if it meant he wouldn't get knocked out of the game by Malcolm Jenkins. It was an incredibly vicious but legal shot, and even though the Patriots sort of had their way with the secondary from there on, that hit certainly sent a message.
The corners were far from shutdown, though Mills and Ronald Darby each managed two pass breakups. In fact, Darby probably should've come up with an interception to seal the deal on the Patriots' final drive. Again, 500 yards of passing came through here. Ah, what the hell. Who won the game again?
Jake Elliott: 3/3 FG, 2/3 XP
Ya know, this whole thing might've gone a bit more smoothly had Elliott not missed yet another extra point. Not only did it cost the Eagles one on the scoreboard, it also cost them again when they tried to go for two to make up the difference and failed to convert.
Talk about nitpicking. All Elliott did was make his next four kicks, including a 46-yard field goal with 65 seconds left to make this an eight-point game. If he missed, the Patriots get great field position, and a touchdown wins. Nailed it, effectively putting the game away.
Eagles' coverage units were solid, limiting Patriots kick returners to fewer than 15 yards per return - including a late lateral attempt - and Najee Goode was in on two tackles. Hmm, how should we mark this?
Eagles' record: 16-3
Imagine a world where Bill Belichick isn't the best coach in the NFL. It's Doug Pederson.
Hey, you're living in it. Not to take anything away from Belichick, who's guided the Patriots to five world championships and eight trips to the Super Bowl in 17 years, but Pederson thoroughly outcoached the G.O.A.T. in this one. He thoroughly outcoached everybody all season long, Coach of the Year voting be damned. We all had our doubts about this man, but given the hand he was dealt, to even reach this point, let alone win the game, Pederson proved everyone wrong. He's going to be around for a long, long time.
Conversely, not Jim Schwartz's best game as defensive coordinator, although his unit got the job done when it mattered most. Is anybody complaining? Didn't think so.
Every member of this staff from to bottom, from Pederson to the coordinators, to the position coaches and the quality control guys and interns we don't know and never see deserves the utmost respect and credit for the way this game and season turned out. Nobody saw this coming, and sure, the team was better than we thought, but the biggest overachievers of all were probably on this staff. Absolutely incredible job all around.