Superbowls of recent years have been dogged by performances from the New England Patriots, who refuse to bow down after so many years at the top of the game. Tom Brady, Danny Amendola, Rob Gronkowski; the Patriots were firing on all cylinders and ready to earn Brady an unprecedented sixth Superbowl ring. In their way however, stood the underdog challengers. Those who refused to back down in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds; the Philadelphia Eagles, who were bidding for their first Superbowl trophy. The build-up was immense, and on Sunday 4th February 2018 at the US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, the sporting world was treated to yet another Superbowl showdown.
The game had the usual buzz and build-up, with military parades and the Star-Spangled Banner ringing out over a silent and respectful US Bank Stadium. P!nk had the honour of singing the national anthem and delivered a rousing rendition, despite battling through a very public fight with the flu in the days preceding the game itself. Nailing the anthem, there was rapturous applause and cheering when she finished, which no doubt would have helped her feel much better.
“After the extra point kick was missed, the first quarter drew to a close at 9-3 to the Eagles with the Patriots having possession deep in their territory. Did Philadelphia dare to dream?”
Superbowl 52 began as a cagey affair, neither offence able to put a touchdown on the board in either opening drive. Philadelphia received the ball first, and Nick Foles made it clear that he had to come play his own game, instead of playing in the shadow of Wentz’s season heroics. Hitting target after target, Foles took charge of his team’s offense, sending them down the field but stopped at the last yard by New England. Philadelphia returned the favour, and the two teams both started by putting up a field goal each, leaving the teams at 3-3 early on the in the first quarter. Towards the end of the first quarter however, Foles threw a 34-yard touchdown to Alshon Jeffrey for the first touchdown of the night, pulling it out of the air and landing dangerously close to the back of the end zone under pressure from the defence. After the extra point kick was missed, the first quarter drew to a close at 9-3 to the Eagles with the Patriots having possession deep in their territory. Did Philadelphia dare to dream?
The second quarter began with a missed field goal attempt by the Patriots after a miscommunication in the backfield. The Eagles defence were flying high, and the Patriots seemed rattled. For those viewers who watched last year, there couldn’t help but be some lingering memories of the incredible comeback from 28-3 down last year, so no-one was writing off the Patriots just yet. Halfway through the second quarter LeGarrette Blount, who was traded to the Eagles by the Patriots last offseason, ran in for a touchdown to make the game 15-3 after another missed attempt to convert extra points. Another strong defensive hold from the Eagles meant the Patriots were limited to another field goal attempt, and this time Stephen Gostkowski laced up his shooting boots to make the score 15-6, before James White ran in for a Patriots touchdown with two minutes left on the clock. Then the Eagles showed that they had come with guts to make the big plays in the big game.
With thirty seconds left on the clock, and fourth down with one yard left to go, the Eagles ran a trick play. Instead of tossing the ball to quarterback Nick Foles, he instead moves left, appearing to call out instructions to his teammates while the ball is instead snapped to another player. After being thrown around in the backfield and confusing the Patriots beyond belief, the ball falls to Trey Burton, who eventually throws it to Nick Foles in the endzone for a touchdown. What’s most remarkable about this play, is that the Patriots tried something similar about 6 minutes prior and Tom Brady dropped the ball. Halftime couldn’t come at a worse time for the Eagles, with all the momentum and a 22-12 lead.
The halftime show came and went, with Justin Timberlake delivering some of his greatest hits and a moving tribute to Prince, as well as stopping for a heart-warming selfie moment with a young fan in the crowd. His performance was not without controversy however, as the media were quick to pounce on his reference to the infamous wardrobe incident with Janet Jackson back in 2004. Once the festivities were over though, it was time to conclude the real business.
Second half got underway, and within the opening three minutes, Brady found Gronkowski four times to score a quick touchdown. 22-19 and a much closer affair than anyone had predicted. Offense equalled offense, as defences began to lose their strength. Philadelphia scored another touchdown through Nick Foles and Corey Clement combining, but it was quickly cancelled out by Brady once again. 29-26, and no closer to seeing who could win this one.
Final quarter, and this was where it all mattered. The Patriots woke up, and dangerously. Stopping the Eagles, they only managed to limit their scoring to a field goal, but they were still trailing 32-26. Not enough to feel comfortable if you’re an Eagles fan, especially given Brady’s talent. He proved them right. With 9 minutes left of regulation time, Brady found Gronkowski yet again to score another touchdown, and the Patriots first lead of the game, albeit only by one.
Philadelphia knew that they either had to run the clock down massively or score a very quick touchdown. After 7 minutes of play, Philadelphia finally got their just reward; a Zach Ertz touchdown, though not without a lengthy review from the match officials. As Ertz hit the ground, the ball popped out, and the debate raged across every sports studio covering the game as to whether or not it should be ruled an incomplete pass. Eventually given as a touchdown, Philadelphia celebrated like they’d already won the Superbowl. After a missed two-point conversion, the gap was five points. Less than a touchdown, but more than a field goal. Tensions were high, and the noise was even higher. No-one wanted this game to end, except the Eagles.
“Brady hurled the ball skywards, and it hung there for what felt like an eternity. As it plummeted towards the earth, all hands reached towards the heavens for that taste of glory.”
With two and a half minutes left on the clock, Brady needed something big. Unfortunately for him, he got it. The only sack of the game came on Brady with 2.11 left on the clock, where he fumbled the ball and it was swiftly recovered by the Eagles. There was still no time to celebrate though, as the Patriots had timeouts, and the Eagles needed to secure their lead. After a short drive, plagued by Patriots timeouts, the Eagles got close enough for a field goal attempt to extend their lead to eight. It was straight down the middle, but Brady knew he’d have one more shot, with just one more minute left. He’d done more with less, and no-one was resting on their laurels.
After some vintage passing plays by Brady, the Patriots arrived at the middle of the pitch with 9 seconds left. This was it, now or never. Brady lined up the Hail Mary and sent his big man, Rob Gronkowski, down the field all the way to the end zone. Brady hurled the ball skywards, and it hung there for what felt like an eternity. As it plummeted towards the earth, all hands reached towards the heavens for that taste of glory. No-one grasped it, but to the Eagles, that didn’t matter. The clock had officially hit zero, and the ball was unclaimed. They had done it.
The Philadelphia Eagles won their first Superbowl in outstanding fashion. Dogged, determined and thoroughly deserved, it was a Superbowl that will live long in the memory of sports fans everywhere. Truly, this year’s Superbowl earned the title of “the greatest show on earth”.