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SportsColumnistsNeil Best

Super Bowl LII: NBC announcers rise to occasion of historic thriller

Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth provide on-point commentary in a wildly eventful upset by the Eagles.

Nick Foles #9 of the Philadelphia Eagles makes

Nick Foles #9 of the Philadelphia Eagles makes a 1-yard touchdown reception during the second quarter against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium on Feb. 4, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Christian Petersen

It was the craziest moment of a crazy Super Bowl, and Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth lived up to it Sunday night.

Sure, there were any number of monumental plays in a game that produced an NFL-record 1,151 yards, but it was one in the final minute of the first half that defined the Eagles’ 41-33 victory over the Patriots in Super Bowl LII.

As the Eagles lined up on fourth-and-goal from the New England 1-yard line, Collinsworth said, “This is an unbelievable call . . . This could decide the game.”

Sure enough, it likely did, as Eagles coach Doug Pederson stuck to his season-long propensity to believe what the analytics tell him and take big risks on fourth down.

But who could have figured the play call itself would be a direct snap to running back Corey Clement, who tossed the ball to tight end Trey Burton, who rolled right and found quarterback Nick Foles alone in the end zone.

“How do you figure?” Michaels said. “They go to the very, very, very back of the playbook for the touchdown.”

Said Collinsworth: “What a play call by Doug Pederson. This play call has a chance to be remembered as one of the all-time greats, just going for it, and to complete the pass that the Patriots could not. Wow. Wow.”

Collinsworth was referring to a similar play the Patriots tried earlier that resulted in a drop by their quarterback, Tom Brady.

It would be easy for announcers to have peaked too early in a game that was exciting from start to finish. But this is not the first go-round for these guys, and it showed as they were measured most of the time and excited only when necessary.

Not that it was perfect.

Collinsworth got off to a strange start when he spent far too much of the Eagles’ first drive talking about something called “RPO” — run-pass option — without fully explaining it, and while incorrectly identifying it on a couple of occasions.

He also was out of sync with the officials when discussing a couple of catch/no-catch controversies on touchdown receptions, both of which went the Eagles’ way, but both of which befuddled the analyst — and many of the rest of us — after a season of watching similar plays get erased on replay review.

“I give up. I give up,” he said after a catch in the back of the end zone by Clement was ruled complete. “If that ball’s not loose in his arms when that last foot came down, I give up. I don’t know the rules.”

He also was late to recognize that Zach Ertz’s late-game score would be upheld because after a reception, he had become a runner before diving into the end zone and then losing the ball.

Michaels, as usual, got off effective one-liners, such as when sideline reporter Michele Tafoya failed to pry much out of Patriots coach Bill Belichick at halftime regarding why cornerback Malcolm Butler was in only on special teams.

Said Michaels: “Of course, it was easier to get information out of East Germany before the wall went down than to get injury information from New England.”

At halftime, studio analyst Rodney Harrison offered an eye-opening statement about Brady, a former teammate with whom he still is so close that they shared a pregame hug.

Said Harrison: “One thing I know about Tom, as great as he is: Once he gets hit, he turns into an average quarterback.”

There was a strange moment in the second quarter, when NBC’s screen went black after the Patriots kicked a field goal to cut their deficit to 15-6.

An NBC spokesman said, “We had a brief equipment failure that we quickly resolved. No game action or commercial time were missed.”

With the Patriots leading 33-32 and the Eagles facing a fourth-and-1 at their own 45-yard line with 5:39 left, Michaels said, “Do you dare [go for it]?”

Said Collinsworth: “Have to.” The Eagles did, and made it, extending the go-ahead drive.

For many Giants fans, the highlight of the game was an NFL commercial that spoofed the movie “Dirty Dancing” and starred Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr.

By early in the fourth quarter, “Eli Manning” was trending nationally on Twitter. That never, ever is a good sign for the Patriots on Super Bowl Sunday.

New York Sports