MINNEAPOLIS — Going into the biggest game of his professional career, a career he thought he would call time on just a few years prior, Eagles quarterback Nick Foles made sure to remember that he did not need to perform like a super hero to bring the city of Philadelphia its first Lombardi Trophy.
Instead, he fooled everyone inside of U.S. Bank Stadium and millions around the world, leading his offense down the field time and again as if a cape was draped on his back, and his X-ray vision continued to unlock the New England Patriots defense to the tune of 373 passing yards and three touchdown passes. At the end of the evening, the Philadelphia Eagles were Super Bowl champions.
And Nick Foles, indeed, was a super hero.
With their 41-33 triumph over the New England Patriots in a thrill-a-minute contest known officially as Super Bowl LII, the Eagles, who were underdogs in each of their three playoff games, defied the oddsmakers as well as the many other doubters who had a hard time envisioning the team making it to football’s Promised Land after the season-ending injury to regular starting quarterback Carson Wentz just two months prior.
Foles became the first backup quarterback to win a Super Bowl since his counterpart under center on Sunday, Tom Brady, pulled it off with the Patriots in 2002, and, even including Doug Williams’ four-touchdown masterpiece for the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl XXII in 1988, Foles’ performance might go down as the best-ever game a backup signal-caller has ever had in the Super Bowl.
And to think, less than two years ago, Foles was on the verge of being out of football; After being cut by the Rams in July of 2016, Foles gave retirement serious thought.
“There was a time I was thinking about hanging up the cleats,” said Foles, the Super Bowl LII Most Valuable Player, in the postgame press conference. “I think, as people, we deal with struggles. That was a moment in my life where I thought about it and prayed about it. I’m grateful I made the decision to come back here and play.”
After going on a fly-fishing and camping trip that summer with his brother-in-law and talking with his wife, Tori, and the rest of his family, Foles decided to give pro football another try. Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, who was the head coach of the Eagles when Foles was drafted by Philadelphia in the third round in 2012, signed the quarterback to back up Alex Smith. One season later, he was reunited with the Eagles and Pederson, who was Foles’ quarterback coach in Philadelphia in 2012.
Pederson, like Foles, was a backup quarterback for the majority of his career, and the two share a bond that goes beyond the typical coach-player relationship. That was most evident in what sure will go down as one of the most memorable plays in Super Bowl history, when the Eagles, with 38 seconds left in the second quarter and holding on to a 15-12, decided to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line instead of kicking a field goal.
On the play, called “Philly Special,” Foles, who started in the shotgun before the snap, slyly walked toward the line of scrimmage to line up as an eligible receiver and, eventually, caught a touchdown from tight end Trey Burton, who came around from the left side of the formation on an end around. Foles became the first player in Super Bowl history to have touchdowns both passing and receiving.
“That was something we’ve been working on, and Doug [Pederson] and I were talking and I said let’s just run it,” Foles said. “It was a good time. The [defensive] end was a little wider than I thought, so I was like I really need to sell like I’m not doing anything. It worked.”
Everything worked for Foles on Sunday, especially on the penultimate Eagles’ drive of the game after New England had taken a 33-32 lead. Foles completed a key fourth-down pass in his own territory to tight end Zach Ertz, and, with 2:28 left in the game, found Ertz for an 11-yard touchdown to give Philadelphia 38-33 lead.
After the Eagles’ defense forced and recovered a Tom Brady fumble, Jake Elliott added a 46-yard field goal for the final score of the game.
In a game where Brady threw for 505 yards and New England did not punt even one time, Foles’ performance stole the show.
“I’ve never been here before, so there are normal nerves and there are butterflies,” Foles said. “It’s a big game, it doesn’t get any bigger than this. I felt good, I felt calm. The big thing that helped me was knowing that I didn’t have to be Superman. I have amazing teammates and amazing coaches around me.”
Even the greatness of Brady and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick could not serve as Foles’ kryptonite. A Super Bowl legend was made on Sunday.
Not bad for someone who had recently thought the game had passed him by.