— By Howard Balzer, The Sports Xchange —
MINNEAPOLIS — Defense had been the name of the game for the Philadelphia Eagles all season, but after allowing a total of 17 points in playoff wins over Atlanta and Minnesota, the Patriots rang up 613 yards Sunday.
Significantly, though, it was a defensive play that helped secure the victory.
After the Eagles took a 38-33 lead with 2:21 to play in the game, the Patriots started the next possession from their own 25-yard line. After an 8-yard completion to tight end Rob Gronkowski, Brady was pressured and hit by defensive end Brandon Graham. The ball came loose before his hand could go forward, and defensive end Derek Barnett recovered for the Eagles at the 31-yard line.
That was the only sack in the game for either team.
After three plays gained four yards, rookie kicker Jake Elliott nailed a 46-yard field goal to provide the final points of the game.
Said Graham, “I knew I had a one-on-one with the guard (Joe Thuney). I knew he liked to be aggressive, so I tried to act like I was pulling. I snatched it right off and Tom Brady’s arm was right there and I went for the ball.”
Added defensive end Chris Long, who had two hits of Brady, “I know people were probably watching at home thinking, ‘Where’s that Philly rush, where’s the Philly rush?’ That’s where it was and we came through.”
Blount Climbs List
In a game that featured 878 passing yards from quarterbacks Tom Brady (505) and Nick Foles (373), running back LeGarrette Blount’s 21-yard touchdown run in the second quarter seemed like a distant memory.
However, it gave the Eagles a 15-3 lead and enabled Blount to tie Marcus Allen for the sixth-most rushing touchdowns in NFL postseason history with 11.
Every player on the star-studded list is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Emmitt Smith of the Cowboys leads with 19, followed by the Steelers’ Franco Harris and the Bills’ Thurman Thomas with 16; and Denver’s Terrell Davis and Washington’s John Riggins with 12.
Blount played for New England last season, so is in rare company of being on two Super Bowl winners in two straight years with different teams. Eagles defensive end Chris Long was also with the Patriots last season.
Said Blount, “It’s not about the other team on the other side, it’s about this team and this resilient group of guys. We’ve done everything the coaches have told us to do all season. We dug deep.”
As for Brady and Foles
After the red-hot passing explosion in bitterly cold (at least outside) Minneapolis, those quarterbacks now stand first and fifth in Super Bowl history.
Brady’s 505 yards broke the record he set in last year’s overtime win over Atlanta with 466 yards. The next two were both Kurt Warner, who passed for 414 yards in the Rams’ Super Bowl XXXIV win over Tennessee and then 377 in the Rams’ loss to the Patriots two Super Bowls later.
Brady also extended his postseason passing yards record to 10,226. Peyton Manning is second with 7,339.
Eagles tight end Zach Ertz had seven receptions for 67 yards, and five were good for first downs with four on third down and one on fourth down. They led to three touchdowns, with three coming on the possession that put the Eagles ahead 38-33 with 2:21 to play in the game.
In that drive, he had a 7-yard reception on third-and-6, a 2-yard catch on fourth-and-1, and then an 11-yard touchdown on third-and-7.
Often aggressive head coach Doug Pederson opted to go for the first down on fourth down with the Eagles on their 45-yard line and 5:39 remaining in the game.
Ertz said he hopes to get the ball in important situations. He said, “I want to get the ball whenever the situation calls for it. We have a lot of talented guys on this football team. They’ve done an amazing job building this roster. When the situation calls for it, they trusted me. That’s all I can ask.”
Third tight end Brent Celek said, “Ertz is the man. I think he is one of the best tight ends in the league. I know they (Patriots) have Gronk (Rob Gronkowski), but I love our tight-end-room.”
The Patriots offense suffered a blow when wide receiver Brandin Cooks left the game with 12:49 remaining in the second quarter after receiving a vicious hit from Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins.
Cooks caught a pass from Brady and reversed field after eluding a tackle, but never saw Jenkins.
He left the field to enter concussion protocol and was quickly declared out of the game.
Said tight end Rob Gronkowski, who cleared concussion protocol Thursday after being knocked out of the AFC Championship Game against Jacksonville, “Cooks is a great player that definitely makes great plays and he would’ve been great to have, but we just had to keep spreading the ball around to the running backs, wide receivers, tight ends. I felt like we did a good job of that, moving the ball, but we just didn’t capitalize on every opportunity.”
Wide receivers Danny Amendola (9-116) and Chris Hogan (8-152) combined for 17 catches (on 26 targets) for 280 yards and one touchdown by Hogan.
Teams that score first are now 35-17 in Super Bowls. … For the second consecutive game, the Patriots were penalized just once. Tight end Rob Gronkowski was called for a false start in the first quarter. … In the last two Super Bowls, the Patriots totaled 1,159 yards. They had 546 with 62 in overtime of last year’s win over the Falcons. … In that game last year, the Patriots trailed by eight points when they took over on their own 9-yard line with 3:30 remaining in the game. They, of course, tied the game and then won in overtime. On Sunday, they also had the ball at the 9-yard line down eight points, but there were only 58 seconds remaining.