McFeely: It's Foles' world and Brady, Wentz are just living in it
MINNEAPOLIS—Tom who? For that matter, Carson who? At least for now.
In a Super Bowl in which it was expected the greatest quarterback in NFL history was going to outshine the career journeyman, it was the journeyman who outshined the GOAT. And pretty much everybody else, including Pink and Justin Timberlake.
Nick Foles, welcome to immortality. Not only was he every bit the passer of Tom Brady on this day, Foles also showed he's the better receiver.
"Just another game," Foles deadpanned afterward.
When you have a Super Bowl that resembles a 9-man high school shootout, strange things happen.
The quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles played his second consecutive career game in the second straight biggest game of his life, leading one of the sport's longest suffering franchises to a 41-33 victory over Brady and the New England Patriots on Sunday, Feb. 4, at U.S. Bank Stadium.
In the end, it was Foles throwing the game-winning touchdown in the final minutes. An 11-yard pass to tight end Zach Ertz with 2:25 left—after a review to see if it was actually a catch, of course—was the history maker.
In the end, it was Brady making the crucial turnover when he was stripped of the ball by Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham a few moments after the big touchdown.
Foles finished 28 of 43 for 373 yards and three touchdowns, good enough to be named the game's MVP. It was a near-repeat of his performance against Minnesota in the NFC Championship.
"I felt calm," Foles said. "We have such a great group of guys, such a great coaching staff. We felt confident coming in and we just went out there and played football. We've played this game since we were little kids. We dreamed about this moment."
This was stuff of dreams, all right. The Eagles signed Foles before the start of this season almost as an afterthought, a well-traveled veteran to back up their franchise player Carson Wentz. After Wentz, the North Dakota State product, went down with a knee injury late in the season, expectations in Philadelphia plummeted like Minnesota's winter temperatures.
Foles was unremarkable until catching fire in the NFC Championship game against Minnesota, peppering the Vikings for 357 yards and three touchdowns in a 38-7 victory.
The idea going into the Super Bowl was that Foles had peaked, that he'd played his best career game when the Eagles needed him most and he'd surely be outplayed by five-time champion Brady in the big game.
"He's amazing," tight end Zach 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 was spot-on from the beginning, completing six of his first seven passes on the Eagles' opening drive. His 34-yard touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffery on Philadelphia's next drive was a work of art, dropped in the back of the end zone on a dime.
And that wasn't even his best TD throw. That came in the third quarter when he threaded a 22-yard pass between New England defenders Marquis Flowers and Devin McCourty into the arms of running back Corey Clement for a 29-19 lead.
And that wasn't even the TD that will be replayed over and over for history. That would be Foles' touchdown catch with 38 seconds left in the first half, coming off a Wildcat reverse pass from backup tight end Trey Burton. Eagles coach Doug Pederson, who called the play on fourth and goal from the New England 1, called it "Philly special" after the game. Foles had no trouble catching the pass, which is more than Brady can say. The New England QB dropped a ball on a trick play in the first quarter.
"We wanted to stay aggressive. My mentality coming into the game was I was going to stay aggressive with Nick and let him make plays," Pederson said.
The Foles story is likely to get weird fairly quick. Wentz is the undisputed franchise quarterback for the Eagles. He is young, he is uber-talented and he showed this year before getting injured that he can carry the Philadelphia offense almost single-handedly.
Pederson said earlier in the week that in quiet moments, he daydreamed about himself and Wentz being together for many years—like Brady and Patriots coach Bill Belichick. The Eagles belong to Carson Wentz.
In the winning locker room, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie hugged Wentz and told him, "The best is yet to come."
That is the future. This night, the most important night of all, belonged to Nick Foles.