MINNEAPOLIS >> Cast aside once in Philadelphia, Nick Foles delivered the city its first Super Bowl title.
He outdueled the great Tom Brady to do it.
“Being a part of this and being drafted to Philadelphia, and being fortunate enough to come back and be a part of this team, to be a piece of this puzzle, I mean, it’s been a long time coming and I know there’s going to be a lot of celebrating tonight,” Foles said.
Foles, who took over when Carson Wentz injured his right knee in mid-December, matched Brady, the five-time champion and three-time MVP, big play for big play today in leading the Eagles past the New England Patriots 41-33 .
After an unusually slow start, Brady led the favored Patriots to scores on five of six possessions, and Foles kept right on coming, executing coach Doug Pederson’s aggressive calls.
“I wasn’t worrying about the scoreboard, I wasn’t worrying about the time, I was just playing ball,” Foles said. “I think sometimes you start worrying about that too much, it starts creeping in your brain. I was just playing, whatever play Doug called, I was just going to go out there and rip it.”
After watching Brady put the Patriots ahead 33-32 with 9:22 left, Foles drove the Eagles 75 yards in 14 plays, hitting tight end Zach Ertz from 11 yards on third-and-7 for the go-ahead TD with 2:21 left.
That drive lasted a tick more than seven minutes and kept Brady cooling his cleats on the sideline while allowing the Eagles’ exhausted defenders to catch their collective breath in a game that featured 1,151 total yards, the most in any NFL game in the Super Bowl era.
That meant the world when Brady got the ball back and Brandon Graham swept in and jarred the ball loose for the game’s lone sack. Derek Barnett smothered it at the 31 with just over two minutes remaining, and Jake Elliott’s 46-yard field goal, the longest in a Super Bowl by a rookie, made it an eight-point cushion.
It also gave Brady just a minute to work his magic.
He started at his 9 with 58 seconds remaining and drove the Patriots to midfield before time ran out on New England as a desperation pass fell in the end zone.
Foles searched out Brady, but never did find him in all the chaos and confetti.
“I didn’t get to see Tom. I was looking for Tom. It got pretty crazy really fast,” Foles said. “I mean, he’s one of the greatest of all time. He’s been unbelievable. He was unbelievable tonight. I can’t say enough about him.”
Brady threw for more yards — a playoff career-high 505 to Foles’ 373 — but Foles matched Brady’s three touchdown tosses and even caught another.
He hauled in tight end Trey Burton’s toss from the 1 that gave Philadelphia a 22-12 halftime edge and made him the first player in Super Bowl history to be on both ends of a touchdown pass in the same game.
Brady nearly beat him to it.
Although wide open, the ambling Brady couldn’t quite haul in receiver Danny Amendola’s high pass for what would have been a nifty over-the-shoulder reception which might have gone all 35 yards for the score.
That brought to mind Gisele Bundchen’s famous dig after one of Brady’s two losses to Eli Manning and the Giants in the Super Bowl, when his supermodel wife responded to hecklers by complaining about the Patriots’ many dropped passes that day.
“You’ve to catch the ball when you’re supposed to catch the ball,” she fumed. “My husband cannot … throw the ball and catch the ball at the same time.”
Nor could he haul in Amendola’s throw early in the second quarter with New England trailing 9-3.
Foles had never caught a pass in the NFL before his TD grab.
His only interception was a fluke, but it did help Brady and the Patriots staunch an early stumble to stay in it until the very end.
Foles was 28 of 43 and wasn’t sacked. Brady was 28 of 48, and while he didn’t throw any interceptions, his only sack was a doozy.
A third-round pick by former Eagles coach Andy Reid in 2012, Foles had tremendous success as a starter under Chip Kelly his sophomore season. He threw 29 TDs and two picks in 11 starts, including playoffs in 2013. Foles posted a passer rating of 119.2, third-highest in league history. He tied an NFL record with seven TD passes in a game at Oakland in November 2013 and won an offensive MVP award at a Pro Bowl.
But Foles was traded to St. Louis for Sam Bradford in March 2015. He lost his starting job to Case Keenum and asked for his release after Jared Goff was drafted No. 1 overall when the Rams relocated to Los Angeles. Foles even considered hanging up his cleats before Reid persuaded him to go to Kansas City to be Alex Smith’s backup.
“As people we deal with struggles and that was a moment in my life where I thought about it, I prayed about it,” Foles said of quitting. “And I’m grateful that I made a decision to come back and play.”
So is Philadelphia, where Foles returned after one season with the Chiefs, signing a two-year, $12 million deal to provide insurance behind Wentz.
Now he’s a folk hero for a franchise that had gone 0-for-2 in Super Bowls, and for a legion of fans who were rooting for anybody other than the Patriots.
“Just to be in this moment,” Foles said, shaking his head. “Unbelievable.”