— By Brian Hall, The Sports Xchange —
MINNEAPOLIS — Alshon Jeffery asked the surrounded media, somewhat incredulously, how many times the Philadelphia Eagles punted in Sunday’s Super Bowl LII.
“Once,” a reporter offered, showing the No. 1 with index finger.
One time, indeed, Donnie Jones stepped on the Super Bowl field to punt for Philadelphia.
Aside from Jones’ brief appearance, the Eagles were putting up 538 net yards of offense in their 41-33 victory over the New England Patriots.
“Ain’t nobody stopping us, man,” said Jeffery, who caught a 34-yard touchdown in the win. “We’re stopping ourself. How many times we punt? Ain’t nobody stopping us.”
For Jeffery and Philadelphia, it’s a good thing New England couldn’t stop them. The Eagles needed every bit of their offensive show with the Patriots setting records on the other side.
The breakneck pace and lack of defensive exploits – at least until Brandon Graham’s strip-sack with 2:09 left – equated to the 1,151 offensive yards, a record for any game in NFL history. Not just Super Bowl history, the history of the league itself.
The teams combined for Super Bowl records of first downs (42) and most passing yards (874). Proving Jeffery’s point, it was the fewest combined punts in a Super Bowl. New England didn’t punt once, another Super Bowl record.
“It kind of felt like whoever had the ball last could win this game,” Philadelphia head coach Doug Pederson said. “We were just fortunate enough to put ourselves in position to end the game with that drive for the touchdown.
“Our defense stepped up and did a nice job to finish it for us. I’m so happy for them.”
Nick Foles’ 11-yard touchdown pass to tight end Zach Ertz with 2:21 remaining in the game sealed his MVP performance, a turn of fate that would have held even the most ardent Philadelphia supporter in doubt two months ago when Carson Wentz was lost for the season.
Foles completed 28-of-43 passes for 373 yards and three touchdowns.
“He’s amazing,” Ertz said. “The past three weeks, he’s been playing out of his mind. People panicked when Carson went down. Nick, we had all the confidence in the world in him. He’s a fantastic human, fantastic player.”
Foles also caught a touchdown on a play Pederson called the “Philadelphia Special.”
Rookie running back Corey Clement took a handoff and then lateraled to tight end Trey Burton, who passed to a wide-open Foles in the end zone.
Pederson, in his second year as Eagles head coach, made his way to the Super Bowl with an aggressive mindset. On the game’s biggest stage – and with New England not letting up – Pederson kept his foot on the pedal.
“I trust my players,” Pederson said after the game. “I trust the coaches and I trust my instincts. I trust everything that I’m doing, and I want to maintain that aggressiveness with the guys. In games like this against a great opponent, you have to make those tough decisions that way and keep yourself aggressive.”
The Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady were surgical in the way they attacked Philadelphia’s defense, which allowed the fourth-fewest yards in the NFL during the regular season.
New England set Super Bowl records for total yards (613) and passing yards (500) for a team. Brady topped his own Super Bowl record set last year with 505 passing yards. He was 20 of 48 with three touchdowns, two to tight end Rob Gronkowski.
“We moved the ball quite a bit, too,” Brady said. “We did a good job in the second half. First half, we had a lot of yards but just didn’t have a lot of points. That came back to bite us in the end.”
The Patriots also had one other record, one they will forever wish wasn’t attached to their name. Their 33 points are the most by a losing team in the Super Bowl.
“You always hope you come out on the winning end of the shootout,” Brady said. “We didn’t win it today.”