BY Art Thiel 10:41PM 02/04/2018

Thiel: Late turnover decides Super Bowl — again

You may recall a previous Super Bowl where a late turnover saved the game for the Patriots. This time, Pats were the victims, and Eagles are the champs. Go ahead — smile.

Ferndale native Doug Pederson is a Super Bowl champion in his first try. /

As Pete Carroll has been known to say, to small children, billionaires and stray dogs, defense wins.

That may be an odd observation after a Super Bowl that had more points and yards than a Chinese restaurant has rice. But good defense in the NFL isn’t always about the fewest seasonal points or yards. It is also about a well-timed play or two that can disrupt the most relentless of offenses.

When Eagles DT Brandon Graham reached QB Tom Brady for the offensive orgy’s first sack, only 2:16 left was left in Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.  Graham did for Philadelphia what obscure CB Malcolm Butler did for the Patriots three years earlier against the Seahawks — create a late turnover to protect a lead threatened by a hot quarterback.

For all that will be said about Most Valuable Player Nick Foles (before Sunday night, a phrase unwritten since Gutenberg was a child) and the game’s offensive numbers — including the outlandish fact that the 1,151 combined yards mark the most in any game, regular season or postseason, in NFL history — it was one good defensive play that decided the Eagles’ 41-33 victory over the Patriots.

The Eagles recovered the fumble and turned it into a field goal for the game’s final score. They still had to survive one last New England possession, which reached the end zone, where Brady’s Hail Mary heave fell harmlessly to the turf.

But the threat level on the last possession was far less than previous one, mostly because coach Bill Belichick made one of the dumber play calls of his career — a reverse on the kickoff return that died at the New England nine-yard line.

Graham’s pivotal play is another endorsement of the notion by Carroll and many of his contemporaries that even in a horse race of a game, an emphasis on premier pass rushers will pay more dividends than any position besides quarterback.

Graham is a former first-round draft choice, taken 13th overall out of Michigan in the 2010 draft, one spot ahead of Seattle’s choice of FS Earl Thomas from Texas. Graham was part of an Eagles defense Sunday that gave up an incredible 505 passing yards and never once forced the Pats to punt, yet won the game behind a backup quarterback.

Before the game, the consensus for an Eagles upset was predicated on replicating what the New York Giants had done in their Super Bowl wins in 2008 and 2012 over the Patriots — force Brady into haste primarily with a four-man rush. The Pats managed just 14 and 17 points in those losses.

Against Seattle, the Pats had only 14 points entering the fourth quarter, but took advantage of the concussion absence of DE Cliff Avril and injuries to SS Kam Chancellor and CB Richard Sherman to complete 13 of 15 fourth-quarter passes and two touchdowns.

While Sunday the Eagles were helpless at times against Brady, he was “only” 28 for 48 passing. Although he had no interceptions, he was more inaccurate than usual. How much was Brady being 40 and how much was Eagles’ harassment is a verdict awaiting the video forensics.

But it took just a single sack to turn a game that Eagles coach Doug Pederson, the pride of Ferndale High School and a childhood Seahawks fan, kept close by aggressive playcalling that Foles executed far above the back of his baseball card.

The boldest was a gadget play that probably injured Washington Huskies coach Chris Petersen, when he hit his head on the ceiling fan after a leap of delight.

Ahead 15-12 in the second quarter and facing fourth-and-goal at the one, Pederson skipped a field goal try and instead wrote himself into Super Bowl history.

In the shotgun, Foles stepped aside to allow RB Corey Clement to take a direct snap and run left, while Foles ran right toward the end zone. Clement pitched to TE Trey Burton sweeping right on an apparent end-around — until he lobbed softly to an undefended Foles for a touchdown.

In a game rich with delights, that was the thigh-slapper that will linger long as a Belichick-beater, something many fans outside New England value as if it were spun gold.

It may have been the Super Bowl’s best trick play, not only because it worked but in a small way elevated an NFL season that had boatloads of high-profile injuries as well as national controversies that annoyingly went all the way to the White House.

It became an easy argument to suggest the NFL was losing its grip on the American sporting consciousness. Ratings have been down, and reasons vary. But no rational sports fan can argue that in its biggest annual moment Sunday, the NFL failed to deliver.

Best of all — at least in the view from outside of New England — the Clanton gang lost the shoot-out at the OK Corral. The Philadelphia Earps own Tombstone for a year.


Support SportspressNW

The idea is simple: Want to help? Please, and thank you. Don’t want to help? Please and thank you for continuing to read. Our content is free to all. No paywalls. No tricks. See the ways you can support SportspressNW.


  • Ron

    The football gods were good this day. Seahawks were the only team that dominated the Eagles this season. What could have been were it not for the injuries?

    • John M

      Nobody really wants to wear that target except the meglamonsters, like Jerry Jones . . .

      • art thiel

        The Seahawks would be thrilled to be targeted.

        • John M

          Yet they’ve always loved being underdogs too and played well wearing That target. Maybe Steve could find the stats . . .

    • art thiel

      You better get your cash down on these odds now before the Seahawks transform in free agency and the draft.

  • Theyfinallyfiredcable

    Somehow , Belichick’s satanic rituals didn’t work this time . Truly amazing Golden Boy didn’t pull it out his butt at the end like usual .

    Great game , fun one to watch and JT told me to get my sexy back at halftime . I think it worked ; I feel sexier already …

    What a great sports weekend ! Dawgs win vs. #9 Az , Patriots actually lose the Superbowl and the Evil Empire fails to secure another Lombardi . Winter Olympics open later this week , and there’s a women’s Jamaican bobsled team to root for ! Minus 2 degrees in South Korea they said . Cool Runnings indeed .

    • art thiel

      I was privileged to be at Hec Ed for a very well-played game, not to mention dramatic.

      I still have my Jamaica bobsled vest from ’88.

      • 1coolguy

        Wow – very cool! Now THAT is a collector’s item, already.

  • Effzee

    I watched it just for you, Art. Amazing game. Philly didn’t blink for a second. I even left it on at the end to risk the torture of watching Brady pull it out. I think that game is pretty good evidence of the importance of play calling and the offensive coordinator’s philosophy. The whole game came down to coaching decisions. Also, I officially have Tall Quarterback Envy. Oh how I want a guy who can see the entire field without help.

    • John M

      Agree on the accolades for play calling, the Eagles surprised by coming out tossing when we all knew they were capable of controlling scrimmage and had the backs to get it done. Foles also surprised by executing his card almost flawlessly, like that short guy with the Hawks can do when he gets the right menu . . .

      • art thiel

        The feat of Foles stepping in to become SB MVP is one of the great feats in recent NFL history.

        • Effzee

          Maybe the greatest feat since Brady himself did it.

        • 1coolguy

          Agreed 100% – he’s now gonna get his $20m – he’s much better than that stiff Flacco in Baltimore who cashed in after their win.

    • art thiel

      I thought you’d come around. Can’t call yourself a sports fan and miss the biggest annual event of the year.

      I would submit that it’s still the players who matter far more than the playcalling. You can’t make the calls Pederson made if he didn’t know his guys were more than capable. Everyone forgets that Bevell had great play calls too when he had better players.

      • 1coolguy

        Cough, cough – Still on that bandwagon Art? Bevell never called an imaginative game in his life. he was darned lucky he has RW scrambling and Lynch pounding up the middle. The rest was pretty blase’.

        • Ron

          My brother is in Minneapolis. Fear there that Bevell could be returning to the Vikings as OC.

      • rosetta_stoned

        Can’t call yourself a sports fan and miss the biggest annual event of the year.

        Wanna bet?

  • bugzapper

    “Against Seattle, the Pats had only 14 points entering the fourth quarter, but took advantage of the concussion absence of DE Cliff Avril and injuries to SS Kam Chancellor and CB Richard Sherman to complete 13 of 15 fourth-quarter passes and two touchdowns.”

    Something that has been forgotten in the agony of the interception. At full Seahawks strength, the game would never have been close enough for the INT to matter.

    • art thiel

      I think that’s been a sub-theme known to quite a few. Chancellor’s ankle sprained Friday before the game was a big deal.

    • Kirkland

      There was also the early loss of Jeremy Lane to a (gruesome) broken arm after an early interception.

  • coug73

    Execution, one QB catches the ball, one drops the ball. It’s a simple game. :)

    • art thiel

      Brady will never see the ball again unless it is snapped to him.

  • Kevin Lynch

    Gee, if the Hawks get in from the one yard line in their SB vs. the Pats and the Falcons kick that field goal late in their game against the Pats…just musing here…that means Brady would be 3-5 in Super Bowls…and that would mean Peyton (2-2) finished with a better Super Bowl record!! Just sayin’…sometimes it’s a slimmer distance between two stars than astronomers state. There were people who thought Manning would never win a playoff game after losing his first three.

    • Ron
      • jafabian

        U mad bro???

      • art thiel

        He was trying to find Belichick to explain the KOR reverse that started the final drive at the 9.

        • Ron

          That, or why Malcomb Butler was benched.

          • Kirkland

            There’s a report that Butler violated a minor team rule, which is why he was benched. Principles, or self-righteousness? We’ll never know until Belichick opens up (which means we’ll never know).

            Butler’s a free agent now. Schneider should at least make a courtesy call.

          • Ron

            I read that weed and women was the infraction.

    • art thiel

      I heard once that football outcomes often involve more than a match-up between quarterbacks. While I look that up, I also heard that a backup QB outplayed Brady, but I’m not ready to accept that.

      • Kevin Lynch

        Foles saw dollar signs and his eyes got wide as pie plates. He’ll soon be sitting down to enjoy that pie. As far as QB’s go….in spite of being a huge Peyton fan, I’m putting him third, in back of Brady and Montana. But it’s anybody’s guess who #4 is. He is a long way back.

      • 1coolguy

        What is: 27-2, 119?
        Foles 2013 stats! 27 TD’s, 2 (TWO) interceptions, 119 QBR. This guy has it, he’s no chump. Yes, he had a few lesser years, but who knows what happened. I suggest he will be a fine QB for the right team with the right coach.

    • Kirkland

      Not only that, but all of the Belichick/Brady Super Bowls have been within a converted touchdown. Depending on bounces, these Pats could be anywhere between UCLA/Wooden invincibility or Buffalo Bills haplessness.

  • ll9956

    The one difference I noticed between this game and previous ones, particularly the Falcons, is that the Eagles’ defense didn’t wear down late in the game. They were in great shape fitness-wise and got their critical sack late in the fourth quarter. Persevering and never giving up paid off handsomely.

    • art thiel

      At least some of it has to do with the 34-26 edge in TOP. The Eagles also were a lot like the 2013 Seahawks — deep along the D-line.

      I doubt fitness at the NFL level varies much from team to team.

      • 1coolguy

        I agree – the key was TOP, which is how the Hawks USED to play, controlling the game and keeping the D fresh. Speaking of, was Bradley offered the DC job before Norton?

  • jafabian

    The Eagles could potentially have 2 MVP QB’s on their roster going into the fall: playoff and regular season. Hope the Seahawks took note of the importance of a solid backup QB because they’ve been playing with house money for that position for awhile now. For awhile I thought Brady was hurt and would leave the game which would have been interesting to see how Robert Kraft would react to. If the Patriots cheated harder they would have won the game.

    • art thiel

      Minnesota also has a surplus at the position. Could be unprecedented player movement this offseason.

  • 1coolguy

    Pederson’s play calling, in a Super Bowl, was as gutsy as I have seen, including the 4th and 5 in their own territory. I would put his play calling now at the top of the SB list, which was previously occupied by Sean Payton’s on-side kick to begin their second half. Any thoughts?
    BTW, the play calling and play designs on both sides made the Hawks’ playbook look like grade school.

    • art thiel

      Pederson and Reich are winning universal acclaim for the guts they showed. I was also impressed that the Iggles had 164 yards rushing, especially when the Pats knew Pederson wanted to take some pressure of Foles.

      • 1coolguy

        Last of-season, I was VERY surprised Pete and John didn’t pick up Blount, truly in the mold of Lynch. The Eagles, Saints, Pitt and LA have the tough backs we wish the Hawks had.

  • Husky73

    Seahawks beat the Eagles this year 24-10. I don’t know what that means. Anyone?