See, America? THAT was why I couldn't go out on that limb with you two weeks ago, and root for the Jacksonville Jaguars against the New England Patriots merely because "Hey, we are all SO TIRED of the Pats in the Super Bowl!" I said it after New England beat the Jags, and I stand by it after last night — you want the Patriots in the Super
And hell, sometimes they even lose these things! Like last night, where Eagles backup-turned-starting QB Nick Foles stood in and went toe to toe with Tom Brady in an aerial circus to lead the Eagles to their
It was fantastic theater, flush with winners and losers, some on the field, and some leaping off of awnings in the streets of Philadelphia following the upset win. We will do our best to capture them all here in the next several paragraphs. Let's go...
One of the major storylines coming out of the game last night was the future of the Patriots' All-Pro tight end. Gronkowski was noncommittal about returning in 2018 following the game, saying he would take the next few weeks to mull things over with his family and teammates. If this was Gronk's last game, he went out on about as high an individual note as he could, catching nine balls for 116 yards, nearly all of that in the second half. Gronk started the second half with one of the great individual drives in Super Bowl history, as Brady found him for 68 of the 75 yards on the team's opening drive of the second half, including a five-yard touchdown. (Sidebar — Ronald Darby, Eagles CB who Gronk destroyed on the two touchdowns — how did that taste?) As far as Gronk's future goes, given the number of injuries he's sustained from literally the time he was drafted in 2010, walking away while he can still rave and party-rock is understandable. Quite honestly, for content purposes, I think a retired Gronk could bring more to the table than a football-active Gronk for us media types.
3. Eagles' bold strategy, big picture
Now that the Eagles' strategy of emptying their draft pick chamber to move up and get Carson Wentz in 2016 has paid off (albeit with Foles starting in the Super Bowl, but still), can we all go back and give an engraved apology to Howie Roseman, Eagles GM, for laughing at what appeared to be a rather haphazard plan to nail down their QB depth chart that offseason? If you recall, they first extended Sam Bradford for two years, $36 million. Then, they gave Chase Daniel a gigantic contract for a backup QB, big enough to where it appeared there would be a competition for the starting role between him and Bradford. THEN, Roseman traded a slew of picks to move up and get Wentz, and we were all like "HUH?!?!" However, the Eagles realized that when you get a chance to move up and get someone special like Wentz, the prior moves, even if they were made just weeks ago, do not matter. The Eagles got a little fortunate in that the Vikings became an ideal trade partner where they could unload Bradford, after the Teddy Bridgewater injury, but there is no denying that the Eagles move to get Wentz was unconventional and bold, and they were rewarded on Sunday night. I love that.
2. Eagles' bold strategy, in-game
I also love head coaches who are bold in-game, and Eagles head coach Doug Pederson was every bit of that on Sunday night. He was bold, but not reckless. Two particular plays come to mind:
* 34 seconds to go in the first half, Eagles leading 15-12 with the ball, 4th and goal at the Pats one-yard line — Pederson not only goes for it but dials up a tight end pass to his quarterback, Nick Foles. (That this play came just minutes after the Patriots botched a similar pass to Brady made it even better.)
* 5:39 to go in the game, Eagles trailing 33-32 with the ball, 4th and one at their own 46-yard line — Pederson decides to go for it, knowing you can't give the ball back to Tom Brady with five minutes to go, trailing by one.
I hope Bill O'Brien was watching Pederson.
1. Nick Foles
We've seen backup quarterbacks win Super Bowls before, but Foles completely shook up the grid for what's possible in the postseason with your second string signal caller. After throwing for 352 yards against the Vikings in the NFC title game, Foles outdid himself in the Super Bowl, passing for 373 yards against Matt Patricia's beleaguered defensive unit. The more impressive thing about yesterday's game for Foles was, unlike the Minnesota game where the result was salted away for the entire second half, he needed to make plays to help his team win that game late, and he did. So now we add yet another veteran quarterback to the list of guys potentially available this offseason for a team in need. Foles is under contract for one more season, and Philly is missing their second and third round picks. Just sayin'.
4. Malcolm Butler
Wow, what a change from three years ago for the Patriots' soon-to-be-free-agent cornerback. In their Super Bowl XLIX win over Seattle, Butler cemented his name in New England folklore with a last-second interception at the goal line to secure the win. That was his rookie season. Since then, it's been an up and down ride for Butler, as he's battled with the team over a long-term contract, which never came. On Sunday, Butler didn't play a single snap, benched for CB Eric Rowe, who repeatedly gave up big plays in the passing game. After the game, Butler was forlorn:
"It was a coach's decision. ... I don't know what it was," an emotional Butler said as he walked toward the team buses with his family. "I guess I wasn't playing good. They didn't feel comfortable. I could have changed that game, though.
"I was just doing my job supporting my teammates. I had nothing but great things to say about the organization. Great organization. They gave me the opportunity."
I guess the one bit of good news here for Texan fans is that Butler should be a target for them in free agency this offseason, and I'm guessing a Super Bowl benching will diminish his contractual opportunities in some way.
3. Bill Belichick
There's no getting around the fact that the Patriots' defense was abjectly terrible last night. So at what point does Belichick get criticized for his "bold moves that only Belichick can make" like benching Butler, and trading Jamie Collins and Chandler Jones?
2. People playing the squares game
It doesn't matter to what magnitude you're an NFL fan, the one thing that brings us all together on Super Bowl Sunday are those stupid squares where we randomly try to land on the second digits of the score for each team after each quarter. (I call them "stupid" because I never win.) There are certain numbers that are very desirable in the squares game because they're the second digit of conventional football scores — 0, 3, 4, 6 and 7 probably top the list. The other numbers are so-so, except for 2, which is generally death. So naturally, thanks to multiple botched kicks by the two place-kickers, the halftime squares were 2 and 2 (Eagles 22, Pats 12). Freaking kickers.
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1. Eagles' Lunatic Fringe
Fly Eagles Fly!
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.