The Philadelphia Eagles defense gave up a Super Bowl-record 505 passing yards, but the unit came up big at the most important moment Sunday in the Eagles’ 41-33 victory over the New England Patriots at U.S. Bank Stadium.
The Eagles led 38-33 late in the fourth quarter when the Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady got the ball with 2 minutes 21 seconds left.
On second down, the defensive line made a push and the secondary forced Brady away from his first read.
That enabled linebacker Brandon Graham to pressure Brady and knock the ball loose. End Derek Barnett recovered the ball, and the Eagles converted the turnover into a field goal that gave them an eight-point lead.
“Basically I had a one on one,” Graham said, adding, “I was able to just swipe at the ball and it came out.
“I didn’t even realize I got [the ball] until I saw Derek Barnett pick it up, and the next thing you know we’re off the field. I’m just thankful I made the play when it came to me.”
Graham said the Eagles were “one step away” the entire game.
“We knew something was going to open up. One of them days one of those plays, he was going to have to hold the ball, and we wanted to make sure we were there to let him know, ‘Don’t hold on for too long because we coming.’ And I think it just shows how much we kept coming.”
Said Brady: “I was just holding the ball trying to get it downfield. Those guys had a good rush, and got in there and made a good play. They’ve been doing it all year.”
The Eagles’ only sack helped them win their first Super Bowl title.
Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski returned from the concussion he suffered in the AFC championship game against Jacksonville and caught a team-best nine passes for 116 yards and two touchdowns.
Gronkowski, who was sidelined for last season’s Super Bowl victory because of a back injury, caught touchdown passes of five and four yards against the Eagles, but he could not come down with a Hail Mary as time expired.
“It stinks to be on this side, for sure,” Gronkowski said of losing. “This stinks. You put all the hard work in the whole year. I’m proud of the boys. I’m proud to be on this team.”
Patriots receiver Brandin Cooks left the game after sustaining a hit to the head from safety Malcolm Jenkins while running with the ball in the second quarter. He did not return.
“Obviously, it made an impact somewhat,” Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said, adding, “I’m more upset for [Cooks]. Has an opportunity to play in his first Super Bowl, and then to get short there, that was disappointing for him.”
The game was expected to be the last with the Patriots for McDaniels and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. The Indianapolis Colts are expected to announce McDaniels will be their head coach. The Detroit Lions are expected to announce Patricia as their head coach.
Butler didn’t do it
On a night when Nick Foles used crisp passing to lead the Eagles on a game-winning drive, Patriots fans were surely looking for their defensive back who stole a Super Bowl win against the Seattle Seahawks three seasons ago.
Except Malcolm Butler couldn’t make a play, because he didn’t play on defense.
The guy whose goal-line interception gave the Patriots a victory over the Seahawks was inexplicably benched Sunday.
In true Patriots fashion, nobody seems to know why.
It could have been disciplinary, it could have been football related, coach Bill Belichick wasn’t saying, but Butler has an idea. “They gave up on me,” said Butler to ESPN.
His replacement Eric Rowe was surprised.
“That wasn’t the plan,’’ he said. “He is an amazing player.’’
Rowe was beaten for a touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffrey and picked on the entire night.
“After a while I was like, ‘OK, keep throwing at me,’ ’’ he said.
Patricia tried to explain it with some coaching mumblings, saying, “It was just the packages that we had in and the guys that we had out there for the matchup that we saw.’’
Whatever it was, the Eagles exploited it and the Patriots felt it.
“Everybody works hard to play this game and I’m pretty sure that he was a little upset he didn’t play,’’ said safety Duron Harmon.
During the Patriots’ last-gasp drive, the Eagles’ Chris Long belted Brady after he threw a pass, then paused a second as if preparing to help him up.
Old habits die hard. Long and teammate LeGarrette Blount both won rings for the Patriots last year, and the Eagles this year. Long had one assisted tackle while Blount rushed for 90 yards and a touchdown.
“You can’t believe it, I don’t think it’s sunk in for me, we just made good decisions me and LG,’’ Long said. “We knew that when we left somewhere like that you might have to live with watching them win and that would be very painful because you left and you know you could be there.’’
He added, “When you play your old team like that, you know, hey if we lose this game it’s going to be tough but you never doubt your teammates.’’
Blount was a little more blunt, saying, “This is about us. This isn’t about the Patriots. Everybody keeps asking me, ‘What was it like to play against the Patriots?’…I’m not answering any more questions about the Patriots.’
Eagles receiver Nelson Agholor, who struggled during much of first two seasons, caught nine passes for 84 yards.
“I think I’m a great example for everybody else who might be going through something similar to what I went through last year,” said Agholor, a No. 1 draft pick out of USC in 2015. “You just have to believe in yourself.
“You have to work very hard and just make no excuses. That is my recipe. I can’t point the finger at anybody else for last year.”
With former winners in a semicircle around him, Houston Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt was presented with the Walter Payton Man of the Year award. Watt helped raise millions of dollars to help with relief efforts in the aftermath of floods in Houston…. Former Rams receiver Kenny Britt, picked up by the Patriots after he was cut by the Cleveland Browns with three games left in the regular season, was inactive for the Super Bowl. He also was inactive for Patriots’ other two playoff games.