In Super Bowl LII, the Philadelphia Eagles triumphantly capped off one of the most improbable runs in NFL history by knocking off the vaunted New England Patriots, and captured their first Super Bowl win in franchise history.Eagles Fly: The Underdog Philadelphia Eagles' Historic 2017 Championship Season takes fans through the exhilarating ride that was the 2017-2018 season, from Carson Wentz playing at an MVP level and leading the team to nine straight wins, to Wentz's devastating late-season injury, to Nick Foles stepping in and helping the franchise finally win that elusive first Super Bowl. Featuring thrilling stories and photos from This is Philly, this commemorative edition takes fans from the Week 1 win against Washington all the way through a night that Eagles fans will never forget in chilly Minneapolis for Super Bowl LII. This keepsake also features in-depth stories on fan favorites' Wentz, Foles, Malcolm Jenkins, Vinny Curry and more.
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Super Bowl LII vs. New England
February 4, 2018 Minneapolis, Minnesota
Eagles 41, Patriots 33
Super Heroes Eagles Win First Lombardi Trophy in a Game Philadelphia Will Never Forget
By Steve Politi
They will see it, from now until the end of time in Philadelphia, as the Hand of God. Here were the Eagles, up five points in the Super Bowl with two minutes left in the game, about to suffer the most painful loss in the city's tortured history with professional sports.
Because that seemed the only possible ending. The New England Patriots, the greatest dynasty in football history, had the ball. Tom Brady, the five-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback, had already put the entire offensive record book into the shredder.
Surely, the Patriots would score a touchdown to win the game. Surely, a million hearts would break across Pennsylvania and South Jersey.
Surely ... and then came that hand.
For the record: It did not belong to God, although it is safe to say that Brandon Graham will be treated as one whenever he crosses the Walt Whitman Bridge from now until he takes his last breath.
Graham, a defensive end, was charging around the left side of the Patriots offensive line. He reached out with that right hand, appropriately covered in a white glove, just as Brady was reaching back to throw. What happened next was the biggest fumble in Philadelphia history since Joe Pisarcik.
The ball bounced directly to Eagles defensive tackle Derek Barnett. The stunned pro-Eagles crowd couldn't even react at first, as if the sight of something good happening – something downright miraculous – was impossible to believe after a half century of waiting.
The Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl. The Philadelphia Eagles, a franchise with an empty trophy case that had become a running joke, hoisted the Lombardi Trophy in frozen Minneapolis, and all the Crisco in the world wasn't going to stop this pole-climbing celebration.
Eagles 41, Patriots 33.
What a game. What a night. For nine minutes, as the Eagles tried to counter the Patriots' go-ahead touchdown, every play felt like the biggest play in Philadelphia sports history. Every run. Every pass. Every kick or call.
And, they kind of were.
None was more important than the one that came with two and a half minutes left. Nick Foles, the back-up quarterback turned postseason hero, found tight end Zach Ertz over the middle for a diving touchdown. Ertz lunged for the end zone, the ball popped up and he caught it. But – oh, no – the replay officials would have to decide: Catch or no catch?
A long replay review must have drained every bottle of Pepto in Eagles land, but the play stood.
Even after Graham's remarkable strip sack, of course, the game would not end until one final heave from Brady fell incomplete in the end zone. The Eagles charged the field. Green confetti fell from the sky.
Already, Graham was talking about a repeat.
From the Hand of God to God's ears.
"We're going to stick around for a long time," he said. "And we're world champs, baby, and it feels so good. I'm just happy, because we are world champs. And we worked our butt off. Everybody that doubted us, we're world champs, baby!" Maybe, if you were the glass-half-full kind of fan, you saw a night like this unfolding from the beginning.
From the moment the doors to U.S. Bank Stadium opened and allowed the fans inside from the single-digit temperatures, Philadelphia's fans turned Super Bowl LII into their party.
They outnumbered their counterparts from New England by what looked like a 2-to-1 margin, but volume-wise, it wasn't that close. The NFL presents its Man of the Year trophy before the game, and when Eagles great Harold Carmichael was introduced, cheers filled the domed stadium.
And when Giants quarterback Eli Manning waved to the crowd less than a minute later? Take a wild guess.
The Eagles won nine of their 10 home games this season, and in every way, this one felt like No. 11. When the Eagles zipped down the field on the first possession for a field goal, it looked like they couldn't have been more comfortable if they traded their shoulder pads for pajamas.
The Patriots, meanwhile, sure didn't look like a team with a trophy case the rest of the league would die to have. They missed two extra points, gave up 323 yards before halftime alone and even their MVP failed in a moment that could have changed everything.
On a trick play that would foreshadow things to come, a pass from receiver Danny Amendola slid off the quarterback's fingertips and fell incomplete. He might have walked into the end zone for a touchdown. Instead, the Eagles had all of the momentum.
They led 15-3 but, if there is one thing America learned a year ago – at the expense of the poor, poor Atlanta Falcons – is that no lead in the Super Bowl is safe against the Patriots. Not with Brady, 40 going on immortal, embarrassing the Eagles defense.
That's when Pederson, a river-boat gambler who works as a head coach in his spare time, made one of the gutsiest calls in Super Bowl history. He passed up a chip-shot field goal on fourth-and-goal from the 1, then had his tight end Trey Burton lob a pass to a wide-open Foles for the touchdown.
The play – dubbed "Philly Special" by the Eagles – had been in the playbook only three weeks, stolen from Foles' high school playbook. And Foles, unlike Brady, did not drop it.
"Seemed like the perfect time to run it," Foles said. "We were waiting for the perfect time."
If you look closely at a photo of Foles catching the pass, you can see Bill Belichick in the background, painfully twisting his body like a Philly pretzel, hoping for the ball to slip off Foles' fingertips. But, of course, it didn't.
Pederson had to know that being conservative was accepting defeat given the other team's quarterback, and he was right. The numbers from this fireworks show made the halftime glitz seem ho-hum.
"It's rewarding to win the Super Bowl and lead these guys," Pederson said. "Our fans have been waiting a long time for this. I'm so excited to be a part of this, to be bringing a Lombardi Trophy back to Philadelphia. I can't wait to get back there and celebrate with our fans."
The 673 combined yards in the first half were more than the Pats and Giants had combined in the entire Super Bowl 10 years ago. The 962 yards through three quarters were a record for the big game, surpassing the 929 that the Redskins and Broncos amassed in Super Bowl XXII.
Record book, meet shredder. Brady – who threw for 505 yards and three TDs but in the end couldn't beat a backup quarterback on destiny's team – made it seem like it was a virtual certainty that the Patriots would score a touchdown every time they got the ball. When he found tight end Rob Gronkowski – who else? – in the end zone with 9:22 left, the Patriots had their first lead.
What happened next will go down in Philadelphia sports lore. The Eagles scored. The Hand of God – er, Graham – shocked the Patriots. And a celebration exploded that will last a lifetime.
From Backup to Big Time
Foles the Perfect MVP to Deliver Philly's First Super Bowl
By Steve Politi
Nick Foles, the man most responsible for the biggest party in Philadelphia sports history, had missed everything.
He missed the dance party at the center of the locker room. He missed the Gatorade showers, and the two now-empty bottles of Johnnie Walker Blue, and the emotional speeches from the head coach and captain that promised a legendary celebration.
"Dude, where have you been?" Carson Wentz, the man he replaced at quarterback of this team, asked when the Super Bowl LII MVP finally walked into the room. Foles sized up the wild scene, then took Wentz and backup quarterback Nate Sudfeld into a quiet room to talk.
He barely had time for a hug, much less to soak up the scene after this wild 41-33 victory over the Patriots. Maybe that was fitting. Foles, after all, had been an afterthought for most of this season – for most of his career – until a wild two months had turned him into the perfect Philadelphia sports hero.
It is only fitting that a city that embraces Rocky as its sports inspiration have a backup quarterback, one who seriously considered retiring just two seasons ago, lead its tortured NFL franchise to an unforgettable championship against the league's greatest dynasty.
Think about it: When has an athlete led a team to a championship in one season and not even be considered for a starting job the next? That's Philly to the core. That's Foles.
"Man, here you go. Shut you off, man! You know who is throwing the ball," receiver Alshon Jeffery said when asked who should be Eagles quarterback next season. "Carson, of course."
No one – not even Foles – would argue that. And that's what makes this story so perfect.
"I always thought he had the talent to be a star in this league, but he had to make up his own mind that that's what he wanted to do," his father in law, Dan Moore, said as the Foles entourage left U.S. Bank Stadium. "And he did that. I don't think there's any surprise that he was able to pull off what he did."
About an hour earlier, Foles was kissing his 7-month-old daughter – who wore oversized pink headphones to protect her young ears – on the forehead before the MVP trophy presentation. She kept grabbing at his microphone, and when he gazed into her eyes, he looked like he was on the verge of bursting into tears.
That was the only time that the moment seemed to overwhelm him. He completed 28 of 43 passes for 373 yards – his most yards in a game in 1,197 days – and three touchdowns. The most remarkable part about those remarkable stats is that his biggest play came as a wide receiver.
The Eagles were up 15-12 near the end of the first half when head coach Doug Peterson, facing a fourth and goal at the Patriots 1-yard-line, decided to roll the dice.
He called "Philly Special." It's a play in which backup tight end Trey Burton, who has never attempted a pass in his career, throws a pass to Foles – who has split wide and, when the ball is snapped, stands passively in an attempt to sell the defense that he's not involved.
"Bro, you're talking the Super Bowl. Super Bowl LII," Burton said. "Philly's never won a Super Bowl and we're on the 1-yard line, fourth down and he calls a trick play pass to the quarterback.
"Like, bro, come on. You can't be serious. He's got a lot of guts."
Pederson had the guts, but Foles had the hands. Earlier in the first half, New England attempted its own trick play with Tom Brady on the receiving end of a pass, and it slid off his fingertips. Could that really have been the difference in a Super Bowl?
One quarterback catch and one quarterback drop?
Brady was brilliant in defeat, throwing for a record 505 yards and three touchdowns. But that drop and his devastating fumble late in the fourth quarter were the razor-thin margin between victory and defeat in this game.
Foles, meanwhile, made a difference with plays big and small. The drive that won the Super Bowl for the Eagles came after Brady gave the Patriots their first lead, a 14-play, 75-yard, seven-minute masterpiece that ended with a perfect strike to tight end Zach Ertz for the touchdown.
Foles said he was "just playing ball," not concerned about the time on the clock or the enormous stakes. The quarterback who nearly walked away from the sport looked like the best in the world.
"We talked a lot this last week about a couple years ago, there was a time where I was thinking about hanging up the cleats, and I think as people, we deal with struggles," Foles said. "And that was a moment in my life where I thought about it, and I prayed about it. I'm grateful that I made the decision to come back and play."
Now all of Philly will wonder: Where will Foles play next? The Eagles have their quarterback in Wentz. But no matter what happens, this city will forever have its perfect sports hero in Nick Foles.
Move over, Rocky.
Quarterback | #11
The Total Package Teammates, Coaches and Opponents on What Makes Carson Wentz Special
By Matt Lombardo
Before he was injured in December, quarterback Carson Wentz was the favorite to win the NFL MVP award while emerging as one of the most dominant players in the league in his second season after being chosen No. 2 overall.
His season ended with an 11-2 record as a starter, 3,296 yards passing, 33 touchdown passes and seven interceptions. Already established as one of the game's best scramblers, he had six games of three or more TD passes.
But stats aside, what makes Wentz special? We asked teammates, coaches and opponents:
Wentz Exudes Confidence: Eagles RT Lane Johnson
The circumstances surrounding Wentz's arrival in Philadelphia certainly were unique.
The Eagles moved from the No. 13 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft to No. 8 in a trade with the Miami Dolphins, then leap-frogged to No. 2 in a blockbuster deal with the Cleveland Browns to get Wentz.
But Wentz spent the 2016 spring and training camp as the third quarterback behind Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel.
When Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater shredded his knee in practice, the Eagles traded Bradford to Minnesota in exchange for a 2017 first-round draft pick and Wentz was named the team's starting quarterback eight days before the season opener against the Browns.
Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson says he is amazed at the confidence Wentz showed from Day 1, and how that belief in himself has translated to performance.
"Right when Sam [Bradford] got traded, he was the starting quarterback last year," Johnson said. "I was struck by how confident he was in that moment and how he really approached that in a great way, rather than being intimidated by the whole situation. How early he gets here is insane. Sometimes he gets here by 5:30 or 6 a.m. to watch film. What he does behind the scenes, even things that we sometimes don't see, really makes him special.
"He disappeared into the film room, and that was it. When we announced that he was the starter at a team meeting, we were all in. We trusted him. This year, you can see that he put it all together. He was good as rookie but he wasn't as comfortable with it as he is now."
He's a Natural Leader: Eagles TE Zach Ertz
Wentz has all of the skills of a franchise quarterback – arm-strength, mobility, football acumen and command of the locker room and huddle.
But not every quarterback becomes a franchise's unquestioned leader, let alone in his second season.
Eagles tight end Zach Ertz says that it was natural for Wentz to be in that role from the moment he stepped off the plane a day after he was drafted by the Eagles.
"When he first got here, not being the leader of this football team was unnatural to him," Ertz said. "He didn't feel comfortable in that role. As the leader of a football team, you can see looking back how uncomfortable it must have been for him.
"When he got named the starter, it was like a light switch got switched. He never wanted to step on anyone's toes, especially Sam and Chase. He was the third-string guy. Looking back at him now, he's so vocal and he wants things exactly how he wants them. Back then, he didn't really have that opportunity to tell people how he wanted things to be or how to go."
Passion: Eagles Offensive Coordinator Frank Reich
The Eagles have reaped the results of Wentz's relentless work ethic – early morning film study and extra time on the practice field.
Because of that intense preparation, Wentz has intimate knowledge of the game and game plan – and that sometimes has led to heated debates in the meeting room with coaches, dating all the way back to his time at North Dakota State.
"I remember one of the things going there and him saying that his coaches used to say that he had a lot of arguments with his offensive coordinator," Reich said. "For me, I took that as a good thing, because he knew what he wanted, he knew what was good, and we welcomed that and that's a good dynamic. We're stubborn. Coaches, players, you're very confident in what you know, what you believe and what you want.
Excerpted from "Eagles Fly"
Copyright © 2018 NJ Advance Media.
Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books LLC.
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Table of Contents
Super Bowl LII vs. New England,
From Backup to Big Time,
Eagles at Redskins,
Beer for Everyone?!,
Eagles at Chiefs,
Eagles vs. Giants,
Eagles at Chargers,
Eagles vs. Cardinals,
Brothers in Arms,
Eagles at Panthers,
Eagles vs. Redskins,
Eagles vs. 49ers,
Eagles vs. Broncos,
Eagles at Cowboys,
Eagles vs. Bears,
Eagles at Seahawks,
Eagles at Rams,
Eagles at Giants,
Eagles vs. Raiders,
Eagles vs. Cowboys,
NFC Divisional Playoff vs. Atlanta,
NFC Championship vs. Minnesota,