SportsPulse: Nick Foles, among the unlikeliest of Super Bowl heroes, gave his thoughts on how failure has helped him succeed, and then on his future in Philadelphia.
USA TODAY Sports
MINNEAPOLIS – As the kids would say, it was Super Bowl LIT.
Last-minute drama. A signature trick play. More yards than ever. Catches that counted this time. And some serious second-guessing of the greatest coach of our time.
Super Bowl LII had something for everyone, and a whole lot more for the faithful in Philadelphia experiencing the Eagles’ first NFL title since 1960.
Was it the best Super Bowl ever?
If you took a poll at the intersection of Broad Street and Pattison Avenue in the City of Brotherly Love, you’d probably get no argument in ranking LII – uh, LIT – as the best in the Super series.
Yet let’s pump the brakes on that.
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It was surely the “best ever” for offenses moving the football. The Eagles and Patriots combined for 1,151 yards, which is not only a Super Bowl record but the most yards two teams have ever produced in any NFL game, regular-season or postseason, in the league’s 98 seasons – topping the 1,133 yards that the Los Angeles Rams and New York Yanks combined for on Nov. 19, 1950.
But so often when considering the “best ever,” momentum is fueled by freshness. A year ago, many considered New England’s thrilling comeback against Atlanta as the best Super Bowl ever. In other years, the Broncos-Packers thriller (XXXII) with the John Elway “helicopter spin” ranked as the best. Or maybe it was the Giants’ XLII win, with the David Tyree helmet catch foiling a perfect New England season.
Hey, defense matters, too, when it comes to greatness. Although Eagles coach Doug Pederson’s gutsy decision to go for it on fourth-and-1 in the fourth quarter (it worked again!) was one reason there was just one punt between the teams, there were too many busted coverages and too few big defensive plays for that entertaining product to rank as the best ever.
Another measure of note: Super LIT – with that sorry halftime performance by Justin Timberlake that disgraced the wishes and memory of Prince – was hardly the best when considering the early TV ratings. Overnight numbers metered the game as the lowest-ranked Super Bowl (47.4) since the Saints topped the Colts in XLIV, though the game still drew in 103.4 million viewers, according to NBC.
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– The Butler didn’t do it. Belichick contended that his decision to bench cornerback Malcolm Butler – with Eric Rowe told shortly before kickoff that he would fill in – was a football move. Well, that move backfired. Rowe was burned by Alshon Jeffery for an early touchdown, and the Patriots ultimately adjusted to use Stephon Gilmore to cover the Eagles’ top threat.
That Butler wasn’t on the field for a single defensive snap – not even in sub packages – didn’t add up. No Patriots defender logged more playing time all season than Butler, who before Sunday had been on the field for nearly 99% of the snaps for a team that advanced to the Super Bowl. And now he’s benched?
Belichick usually is better than that with his chess-game moves. Maybe there’s something else that has yet to surface, which would add context to the strange decision. As it stands now, in a game when Tom Brady passed for a Super Bowl-record 505 yards, the gamble by the coach seemingly cost the Patriots a chance to win a sixth crown.
As he left U.S. Bank Stadium, Butler told ESPN, “They gave up on me.”
How odd is that? You’d think that if anyone this side of TB12 deserves the benefit of the doubt that he’d come through on the big stage it might be Butler, whose NFL breakout moment came when he intercepted Russell Wilson on the goal line to win Super Bowl XLIX, another that ranks among the “best ever.” Now he can’t even get on the field in nickel and dime packages.
And how about this, Detroit Lions fans: Your new coach, former Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, had his fingerprints on a unit that allowed the Eagles to convert on 12 of 18 attempts on third and fourth downs.
– Upon further review: On Saturday night during the NFL Honors show, Rams rookie coach Sean McVay was presented with the coach of the year award. It was deserved, with the youngest coach in modern league history turning around a franchise in his firs season. On Sunday night, several Eagles players contended that Pederson deserved the award. In that moment, there was no argument.
Pederson kept his team focused amid some serious adversity after the season-ending knee injury suffered by quarterback Carson Wentz in Week 14, just one of the severe hits that tested the Eagles’ resilience. It was all the more impressive coming from a second-year coach that some speculated before the season was already on the hot seat.
Talk about a supposed underdog team reflecting the persona of its coach.
Beyond the direct messaging from Pederson – after the NFC title game he declared how the Eagles couldn’t fall prey to the Patriots’ mystique – was the impressive manner in which he managed games.
That creative “Philly Special,” as it’s called in the Eagles playbook – with Super Bowl MVP quarterback Nick Foles catching a 1-yard touchdown from tight end Trey Burton, who took the pitch from Corey Clement on a direct snap as Foles lined up barely covering the tackle – has a place in Super Bowl lore as one the “best ever” decisions at the right time.
And just think: Pederson is still growing into his role as an NFL play caller, given that Andy Reid handled that responsibility as head coach when the two worked together on the Chiefs.
As for the coach of the year award, the ballots are submitted by a media panel to the Associated Press before the playoffs begin.
Yes, I voted for McVay. And yes, if I had to vote today, I’d obviously switch it to Pederson, who won the biggest games when it mattered most and outfoxed Belichick on the big stage.
Pederson may not have won the hardware for coach of the year, but he’s clearly the people’ champ now, and undoubtedly preferring the hardware of a Lombardi Trophy.
Follow Jarrett Bell on Twitter @JarrettBell.
PHOTOS: Super Bowl LII