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Zulgad: Eagles’ willingness to get offensive leads to first Super Bowl title

By Judd Zulgad

MINNEAPOLIS — Who knew that the Minneapolis Miracle would be just the start of the craziness inside U.S. Bank Stadium?

When Case Keenum completed the pass to Stefon Diggs that went for an improbable 61-yard last-second touchdown to beat the New Orleans Saints in an NFC Divisional playoff game three weeks ago, it seemed as if this stadium had seen its most electric moment and game of the season.

And then the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots arrived for Super Bowl LII and the bizarre turned into the expected Sunday in one of the most entertaining Super Bowls ever played.

Nick Foles’ 11-yard touchdown pass to tight end Zach Ertz with 2 minutes, 21 seconds left helped the Eagles rally for a 41-33 victory that stopped Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Tom Brady from adding a sixth Super Bowl title and, in the process, provided loads of offense and some shockingly inept defense.

That defensive ineptitude took a brief break late in the fourth quarter, after the Eagles had come back to take the lead, when Brady was stripped of the ball by defensive end Brandon Graham and rookie defensive end Derek Barnett recovered at the Patriots 31. Jake Elliott’s 46-yard field goal provided the final points in the Eagles’ victory.

The defense-is-optional game featured a combined 673 yards between the teams in the first half. The teams combined for the most yards in a Super Bowl by the third quarter and ended with the most combined yards in any NFL postseason game. The final tally: The Patriots had 613 yards, including 500 passing as Brady finished 28 of 48 for 505 yards with three touchdowns. The Eagles had 538 yards, including 374 passing as Foles went 28 of 43 for 373 yards with three touchdowns and one interception.

And that was just the beginning for a game that featured countless memorable moments.

A pass thrown to Brady went off the hands of the New England quarterback in the second quarter. A pass thrown to Foles was caught by the Philadelphia quarterback for a 1-yard touchdown late in the second quarter. That made Foles the first player in NFL history to throw and catch a touchdown in the Super Bowl.

The kicking games, something Vikings fans have seen meltdown in the postseason, also proved to be problematic for both sides. Elliott and the Patriots’ Stephen Gostkowski both missed extra points, and Gostkowski hit the left upright on a 26-yard field-goal attempt after a poor snap interfered with the timing of the attempt.

This thrilled the thousands of Eagles fans who filled U.S. Bank Stadium singing “Fly, Eagles Fly,” and cheering wildly as a backup quarterback led the franchise to its first Super Bowl title. In a three-week period Eagles fans had done their best to make the lives of Vikings’ fans miserable both in Philadelphia and then in Minneapolis.

It appeared the Eagles fans might not see their dream come true, despite leading for much of Sunday’s game. Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski had only one receptions for 9 yards in the first half but he caught two touchdown passes in the second half, including a 4-yarder from Brady with 9:22 left in the fourth quarter to give New England a one-point lead.

The Eagles, though, went right back down the field against the Patriots’ leaky defense.

Watching Foles and the Eagles operate with such efficiency against the Patriots actually should have made Vikings fans feel a bit better about what happened to their vaunted defense in the NFC title game at Lincoln Financial Field.

These Eagles were no fluke, at least offensively, and the loss of Carson Wentz late in the season to a knee injury wasn’t nearly as detrimental as many initially believed. The Patriots defense struggled to make tackles and blew far too many assignments, but that was a story line with which the Vikings could certainly identify.

The Vikings came within one game of being the first team to play in a Super Bowl in its home stadium and there always will be the curiosity of what that would have been like.

A few weeks back, I declared that even if the Vikings had made the Super Bowl it wouldn’t have been like a home game because tickets would have been too expensive and the league wants to give the Super Bowl a neutral-site atmosphere.

That was wrong on both counts.

There were enough Eagles fans in the stadium, especially in the 300 level, and Vikings fans almost certainly would have gotten their hands on even more tickets. The NFL also does a good job of mixing in elements that both teams use in their home games. Thus, “Fly, Eagles Fly,” played after the Philadelphia scored and the open to the Rocky theme was used when the Patriots were facing third down.

Not everything was business as usual. The most expensive alcoholic drink available was a $30 double cocktail that came in a souvenir jar. The jar wasn’t all that large. Parking around U.S. Bank Stadium was ridiculous and beverage and food prices were no bargain.

But this was the type of game where it was difficult to complain, unless you were a Patriots fan. The entertainment level was off the charts.

Was it enough to make Vikings fans forget about their disappointment over not making the Super Bowl? Probably not. But seeing the Eagles beat the Patriots should have softened the blow a little.

The post Zulgad: Eagles’ willingness to get offensive leads to first Super Bowl title appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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