Column: Move over, Rocky, there’s a new underdog champion in Philadelphia

Philadelphia quarterback Nick Foles lifts the Lombardi Trophy aloft after leading the Eagles to a 41-33 victory over New England in Super Bowl LII.
(Timothy A. Clary / AFP/ Getty Images)

Yo, Adrian! Meet your new Rocky.

He is from the heart of Philadelphia, he is the soul of Philadelphia, and he came off the deepest part of the canvas Sunday night to knock out the greatest heavyweight in NFL history.

He did it with a backup quarterback. He did it as such an underdog, his fans wore canine masks. And when the fight came to its exhausting, exhilarating conclusion, he did it with one final desperate comeback jab.

Battling the odds and more than a half-century of frustration, the Philadelphia Eagles landed a knockout punch for the ages in downing the mighty New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII, 41-33.


“Our team embodies our city,’’ said safety Malcom Jenkins, his green jersey sprinkled with green confetti. “Lot of adversity. Lot of hardship. But when we stepped on the field, it was our time.’’

In a U.S. Bank Stadium that sounded like a South Philly bar, the Eagles rewarded the deafening hometown cheers with the franchise’s first Super Bowl win, and they did it while imitating their city’s famous fictional boxer.

Their quarterback, Nick Foles, caught a touchdown pass from backup tight end Trey Burton on a play called “The Philly Special.’’ Jenkins knocked out valuable Patriot Brandin Cooks with a big hit. And their coach, Doug Pederson, pulled a daring fourth-down play out of his pocket on the game-winning drive.

“The guys keep coming, play after play,’’ barked center Jason Kelce, exhorting from a postgame podium like a preacher. “Nobody counted us in … but it was about everybody going out and giving everything they’ve got on every single play.’’

They trailed by a point in the final quarter. They battled their way downfield to take a 38-33 lead when Zach Ertz leaped into the end zone with an 11-yard touchdown pass from Foles with barely two minutes left. Then they essentially clinched the game in perfect fashion.

Rocky slugged and stripped the great Tom Brady.

With 2:09 left, Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham knocked the ball out of Brady’s hands as he was being crunched in the backfield, the Eagles’ Derek Barnett recovered, and chaos ensued.


“I snatched it right off,’’ said Graham. “How much sweeter it is that we beat the best.’’

The Eagles jumped around in disbelief, their tens of thousands of fans danced and screamed, and Brady sat stunned on the turf. And that was only barely the worst moment of Brady’s game, as earlier he dropped a pass on a trick play that eventually killed a drive.

Brady, the oldest position player to appear in a Super Bowl at age 40, threw for a Super Bowl record 505 yards, none of which meant anything to him after he trudged away as the victim of a comeback one year after stealing the greatest Super Bowl comeback ever.

“It does suck,’’ said Brady. “It sucks.’’

In the final minutes, the Eagles added a field goal and then thwarted a desperation Patriots drive. The game ended with a failed Hail Mary pass that was, for once, a Patriots miracle unanswered. As green confetti fell and teammates wildly jumped around the field, Eagles safety Rodney McLeod dropped to his knees in apparent prayer, then crumpled on the ground in tearful exhaustion.

“We were not going to be denied,’’ said receiver Nelson Agholor. “We love this. We really love this. No one wants to respect you, you don’t worry about that. Respect isn’t given, so you take it.’’

The Eagles earned every ounce of that respect by beating the defending champions, a team trying to win its third title in four years, and a quarterback and a coach, Bill Belichick, who both have a record five Super Bowl rings.


“It’s been an incredible journey,’’ said Ertz. “We’ve been longing for this moment for a long time.’’

It is the Eagles’ first Super Bowl win in the game’s 52 years, and ended a 56-season pro football championship drought for Philadelphia. During that time, each of the city’s three other major pro teams — basketball’s 76ers, hockey’s Flyers, baseball’s Phillies — has won titles, and even the local university, Villanova, has won two national titles.

During an in-game interview broadcast from the field, former Eagles great Brian Westbrook told the roaring crowd that a Philadelphia win would be the biggest sports championship in the city’s history, and he’s probably right. The city’s postgame celebration after they won their conference championship two weeks ago included fans climbing greased light poles and punching police horses and driving a dune buggy up the famed Rocky steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Who knows what happens now?

“To Eagles fans everywhere, this is for them,’’ said owner Jeffrey Lurie, who then praised his team. “I’ve never seen a more incredible group of men in all the years of my life.”

They certainly played that way, outdueling the great Brady in a shootout that featured a Super Bowl record for most total yards for both teams combined with 1,151. The Patriots’ offense was so good, they also set a Super Bowl record with zero punts. But behind Super Bowl MVP Foles — the backup was a superstar, with 373 yards passing, three touchdowns and one interception — the Eagles kept coming.

It was a perfect ending to an imperfect NFL season, proof that for all its problems with protest and violence, our national pastime is still capable of producing an improbable champion with unmatched drama.


Pink sang a brilliant national anthem that began when she pulled a lozenge out of her mouth. Justin Timberlake performed a powerful halftime show whose highlight was a duet with a music video of Prince. Yet on a climate-controlled evening in a domed stadium that shut out the below-zero temperatures outside, the main attraction was the scrappier team that created its own heat and made history.

“No matter what happened, we just kept sticking together, kept leaning on each other,’’ said Foles.

The Eagles led by 15 points early, and by 10 points at halftime, but Brady, kept charging until the Patriots took a one-point lead with 9:22 left. It was then that the Eagles went on a 75-yard touchdown drive highlighted by an Ertz catch on fourth down and ending with Ertz’s touchdown, which featured him grabbing the ball at the five-yard line and diving into the end zone. As soon as the score was confirmed, Eagles fans broke into their fight song, one they sang all night, a song whose title wound up being a description of how their team felled a giant.

“Fly, Eagles, Fly”

Did they ever.

Get more of Bill Plaschke’s work and follow him on Twitter @BillPlaschke