Since Carson Wentz went down with a season ending ACL injury, the Eagles heard the nonstop narrative. Their season was over, they aren’t the same without Wentz, and they won’t go far in the playoffs. As a result, head coach Doug Pederson and his team, led by backup QB Nick Foles, heavily embraced the underdog role.
Pederson did an incredible job coaching his team to wins over Atlanta and Minnesota to win the NFC in two home games as underdogs, but nothing will top his coaching performance in the Super Bowl last night, where they were underdogs once again.
After seeing countless teams play conservative and costing themselves wins against the Patriots, most recently done by Jacksonville, Pederson knew his team would have to play aggressively for all 60 minutes last night. If they didn’t go for broke all game, there’s no way the Eagles are champs.
After kicker Jake Elliott missed an extra point early in the game, you wondered how they would chase that point later. In the second quarter, LeGarrette Blount rushed for a 22 yard TD. Pederson left his guys on the field for a 2 point attempt which failed. The criticism started coming in on social media, as most thought it was too early to chase the point. Pederson knew however, that any chance for points cannot be left off the board against Brady.
Up 15-12 late in the second half, the Eagles found themselves with a 4th and 1 from the New England 1 yard line. Pederson once again left his offense on the field and showed the world the “Philly Special”, where an end around to Trey Burton left Foles all alone in the end zone as Burton floated it to the QB for the touchdown to extend the lead to 22-12. As Cris Collinsworth mentioned, Pederson knew the Patriots were getting the ball to start the second half, and the last thing he wanted to have happen was for Brady to march downfield and take the lead immediately.
Later in the 4th with 5:40 left trailing by 1, the Eagles had a 4th and 1 from their own 49. Pederson knew this was the game. There was no way they could punt as the Eagles defense couldn’t stop Brady all night. Not converting, however, would set up the Patriots comfortably to put the game away. Foles, as he did so calm and collectively all night, was able to get away from the pass rush and find tight end Zach Ertz for a 2 yard completion to move the chains. Foles eventually hit Ertz for a 22 yard touchdown to give the Eagles the lead again.
Pederson’s last smart move was under the 2 minute warning. With a 38-33 lead facing a 3rd and 6 and the Patriots out of timeouts, the Eagles could have ran a pass play to try and get a first down to end the game. Instead, Pederson decided to run the ball, keeping the clock moving and eventually kicking the field goal to extend the lead to 41-33. 1:40 vs 1:00 against Brady is a world of a difference.
With a minute left and no timeouts, Brady was able to get the ball to midfield for one last hail mary to Gronkowski that was knocked away, sealing the Eagles first ever Super Bowl victory.
It’s not often that Bill Belichick is the coach being criticized after a game the Patriots are in, but after benching number 1 corner Malcolm Butler for the entire game for a reason that has yet to be determined, the Patriot coach has gotten his fair share of heat. In a game that went toe to toe the entire way, Pederson was always one step ahead, as his flawless game plan was executed perfectly by Super Bowl MVP QB Nick Foles, cementing their legend status in the city of Philadelphia forever, whatever may be left of it.