by Patrick Gustavson
For the first time in the history of the franchise, the Philadelphia Eagles are Super Bowl champions, following a 41-33 victory over the defending-champion, the New England Patriots.
However, their road to triumph was certainly no cakewalk.
Through the first 13 weeks of the season, things were looking great for the Eagles. They had a 10-2 record, thanks to the play of second-year quarterback Carson Wentz, who appeared to be the odds-on favorite to take home the Most Valuable Player award (MVP).
However, things took a disastrous turn in their week 14 showdown against the Los Angeles Rams when Wentz tore his ACL. Though they went off to defeat the fellow NFC juggernaut, it appeared their chances at hoisting the Lombardi Trophy were over.
The starting quarterback job was turned over to backup Nick Foles, who had his own success in Philly in 2013, when he was even named a pro-bowler. However, he struggled mightily as the starter with the Rams, before acting as a backup in Kansas City.
Foles’ performance worried Eagles fans when threw for just 163 yards, along with one touchdown and one interception, in an ugly win against the Raiders. Things looked even bleaker following an embarrassing 6-0 loss against the Cowboys that saw both Foles and backup Nate Sudfeld struggle.
Despite this, their early season success was good enough to earn the number one overall seed in the NFC with a first-round bye and home-field advantage. Though their defense had been consistently fantastic, it did not appear they could get it done with Foles at the helm.
Many around the game believed the Eagles had no shot at the Super Bowl; they were underdogs against the six seed Atlanta Falcons in the divisional round, despite being at home, where they lost just once all season. Though Foles did not play spectacularly, failing to throw for a touchdown, the Eagles managed to squeak out a 15-10 victory, advancing to the NFC Championship Game.
The last thing holding the team back from the Super Bowl was the Minnesota Vikings, who also had their own vendetta: playing the Super Bowl on their home turf. The Eagles were once again the underdogs but proved the naysayers wrong by dominating the Vikings 38-7.
Foles was phenomenal, throwing for 352 yards, three touchdowns, two of them going to star wide receiver Alshon Jeffery. Despite the impressive run, the Eagles were still the not favored in the Super Bowl.
The Patriots had no answer for the Eagles’ offense, both in the air and on the ground. Running back LeGarrette Blount had 90 yards and one touchdown on 14 carries, and Jay Ajayi also contributed 57 yards. The game saw excellent trick plays, with Foles catching a fourth-down touchdown pass from tight end Trey Burton late in the second quarter.
Despite the back-and-forth nature, the game-sealing play was a controversial touchdown catch by tight end Zach Ertz. Ertz made the catch at four-yard line, lunged for the end zone and broke the plane. However, the ball hit the ground and came out. Due to the uncertainty of the NFL’s catch rules, no one knew how the officials would rule. In the end, the call on the field stood, and the Eagles would go on to win.
One crucial question lies ahead entering the off-season; Wentz will be back next year and is undoubtedly the starting quarterback. However, Foles certainly did not look like a backup and should draw the interest of many quarterback-needy teams. Though the team knows the importance of having a strong backup, it would be hard to turn down a strong offer for Foles.
However, most of the team’s core is signed in the long-term, making them destined to contend for a repeat next season.