BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — The Patriots’ dynasty could be on its way out. New England appeared in three of the last four Super Bowls, winning two. But if Sunday night told us anything, it’s that the Eagles have a fresh young core that might be next in line to repeat.
It’s hard to win back-to-back Super Bowl titles. Only seven teams have repeated, with the Patriots the last, in the 2003 and 2004 seasons. Only the Steelers have repeated twice, in 1974 and 1975 and again in 1978 and 1979.
But the Eagles’ 41-33 Super Bowl LII win over the Patriots at U.S. Bank Stadium was fueled by an aggressive play-caller and a run-pass option offense that causes defenses fits. They might have the cast to win next year, even if it was hard for them to think about it Monday morning.
“It really hasn’t sunk in completely yet,” coach Doug Pederson said. “I can remember back even as a player winning this game what it felt like, what it meant. It was a little more special waking up today knowing you accomplished something you set out for in April.”
What made the Eagles’ run to their first Super Bowl title so stunning was that they had to overcome the loss of several key players to injuries. A pair of starters, quarterback Carson Wentz and linebacker Jordan Hicks, were missing during the playoff run. Earlier in the season, the Eagles lost Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters, running back Darren Sproles and kicker Caleb Sturgis. The replacements filled in so well, it gives Pederson some tasty options for 2018.
Of course, the most important replacement was Nick Foles, who earned Super Bowl MVP honors with a stunning performance. He threw three touchdown passes and became the first quarterback in Super Bowl history to catch a touchdown pass. Wentz’s knee injury gives the Eagles pause regarding 2018, so keeping Foles for another season appears to be the right move.
“We’ve got a long offseason, really a short offseason now, and we’re just going to enjoy this moment,” Pederson said when asked about his quarterback situation. “I’m happy for Nick, I’m happy for the team. It’s not about one guy, it’s about the team.”
The loss of Sproles, who excels at catching passes out of the backfield, didn’t slow the Eagles. They went with undrafted rookie Corey Clement as a replacement and he caught four passes for 100 yards in the Super Bowl. His 22-yard touchdown reception occurred on Sproles’ signature play: the wheel route.
“It was something we practiced for the last two weeks and I just believed in the play,” Clement said. “It was almost cut off, but I stuck with it.”
Tom Brady may have thrown for 505 yards and three touchdowns, but the Eagles still have a young and talented secondary led by corners Ronald Darby, 24, and Jalen Mills, 23. The line is the oldest part of the defense, but Vinny Curry (29), Fletcher Cox (27), Tim Jernigan (25) and Brandon Graham (20) are in their prime or approaching it.
Graham had the game’s biggest defensive play, a strip sack of Brady, and the Eagles’ Derek Barnett recovered the fumble with 2:16 to go. The turnover at the Patriots’ 31 allowed the Eagles to work the clock and add a 46-yard field goal by Sturgis’ replacement, rookie Jake Elliott.
“We just had a bunch of guys that couldn’t wait to get that opportunity, and when they did get that opportunity, there wasn’t no drop-off,” Graham said. “I think with us, it started with Howie [Roseman, the general manager] and those guys making the right choices, bringing the guys in that jelled well with us.”
Repeating will not be easy, especially in a talent-heavy NFC with the Vikings, Rams and Saints. For at least the next few days, though, the Eagles and their fans can enjoy this before it’s time to begin worrying about doing it again.
“Part of the messaging this season is the players own it and they own their jobs and their responsibilities,” Pederson said. “And not having selfish coaches and selfish players gives you a chance to win this game.”