MINNEAPOLIS – Cast aside once in Philadelphia, Nick Foles delivered the city its first Super Bowl title, and he outdueled the great Tom Brady to do it.
Foles, who took over when Carson Wentz injured his right knee in mid-December, matched the five-time champion and three-time MVP big play for big play Sunday in leading the Eagles past the New England Patriots 41-33.
He threw the go-ahead touchdown to tight end Zach Ertz from 11 yards on third-and-7 with 2:21 remaining, capping a seven-minute, 14-play drive that covered 75 yards, kept Brady cooling his cleats on the sideline and allowed the Eagles’ exhausted defenders to catch their collective breath in a game that featured 1,151 total yards, the most in any NFL game in the Super Bowl era.
Brady threw for more yards – a playoff career-high 505 to Foles’ 373 – but Foles matched Brady’s three touchdown tosses and even caught another.
He hauled in tight end Trey Burton’s toss from the 1 that gave Philadelphia a 22-12 halftime edge and made him the first player in Super Bowl history to be on both ends of a touchdown pass in the same game.
Brady nearly beat him to it.
But the ambling Brady, although wide open, couldn’t quite haul in receiver Danny Amendola’s high pass for what would have been a nifty over-the-shoulder reception which might have gone all 35 yards for the score.
That brought to mind Gisele Bundchen’s famous dig after one of Brady’s two losses to Eli Manning and the Giants in the Super Bowl when his supermodel wife responded to hecklers by complaining about the Patriots’ many dropped passes that day.
“You’ve to catch the ball when you’re supposed to catch the ball,” she fumed. “My husband cannot ... throw the ball and catch the ball at the same time.”
Nor could he haul in Amendola’s throw early in the second quarter with New England trailing 9-3.
Foles’ only interception was a fluke, but it did help Brady and the Patriots staunch an early stumble to stay in it until the very end when Brady’s desperation pass into the end zone on the final play failed to find its big target, Rob Gronkowski.
Foles was 28 of 43 and wasn’t sacked at all. Brady was 28 of 48, and while he didn’t throw any interceptions, his only sack was a doozy.
Brady, who threw TD passes on all three of New England’s second-half drives, dropped back on second-and-2 at his 33 when Brandon Graham swept in and jarred the ball loose. Derek Barnett smothered it at the 31 with just over two minutes remaining.
Jake Elliott’s 46-yard field goal, the longest in a Super Bowl by a rookie, made it an eight-point cushion and gave Brady just a minute to work his magic.
He started at his 9 with 58 seconds remaining and drove the Patriots to midfield before Foles and the Eagles could exhale.
A third-round pick by former Eagles coach Andy Reid in 2012, Foles had tremendous success as a starter under Chip Kelly his sophomore season. He threw 29 TDs and only two picks in 11 starts, including playoffs in 2013. Foles posted a passer rating of 119.2, third-highest in league history. He tied an NFL record with seven TD passes in a game at Oakland in November 2013 and won an offensive MVP award at a Pro Bowl.
But Foles was traded to St. Louis for Sam Bradford in March 2015. He lost his starting job to Case Keenum and asked for his release after Jared Goff was drafted No. 1 overall. Foles considered hanging up his cleats before Reid persuaded him to go to Kansas City to be Alex Smith’s backup.
After one season with the Chiefs, Foles returned to Philly for $12 million over two years to provide insurance behind Wentz.
Now he’s a folk hero for a franchise that had gone 0-for-2 in Super Bowls and for a legion of fans who were rooting for anybody other than Brady and the Patriots, who were seeking their third title in four years.