Four Super Plays Flying Under the Radar

There are so many heroes from the Eagles’ first ever Super Bowl victory.

The undrafted rookie, Corey Clement, led the team in receiving. Zach Ertz came through in the clutch, time after time, before scoring the game winning touchdown. Alshon Jeffery made two of the greatest catches in his life on the biggest stage. I still can’t believe this one:

LeGarrette Blount made his old team regret letting him walk. Brandon Graham crippled the evil empire with one swat of his hand, and Nick fucking Foles somehow eclipsed his NFC Championship game performance while taking down the greatest quarterback of all time.

It wasn’t such a great night for the Eagles’ defense, though. The unit that carried this team throughout the season was taken to task by Tom Brady. New England didn’t punt once. Even Brady, the ultimate competitor (and douchebag), threw a back-handed jab at the defense after the game when he was asked about Graham strip sack:

“They made a good play. They made one good play at the right time.”

Last night, in the midst of the overwhelming feeling of victory, or the 25 beers I drank, I agreed with him. But after re-watching the game, that wasn’t the case.

All week leading up to the game, everyone talked about the Patriots’ “bend but don’t break” defense, but it was the Eagles’ defense that didn’t break on Sunday, particularly in the first half where they made four plays that, looking back, had a major impact on the outcome of the game.

Play One

It was the Patriots’ first drive, they faced a critical third and goal, and Brady tried to hit Rob Gronkowski on a short crossing route down by the goalline. The much maligned Jalen Mills, however, was having none of it.

Mills did a great job anticipating Gronkowski’s route and getting inside leverage prior to the tight end’s break across the middle. He then undercuts the route and breaks it up, forcing the Patriots to attempt a field goal:

Watch how Mills takes two steps inside before Gronk even shows his route, that’s preparation for the opponent shining through in the play. Yes, the pass was behind the receiver, but Gronk most certainly would have made the catch had Mills not been in the right position.


Play Two

On the Patriots’ second drive of the night, they faced a third and two inside the Eagles’ ten-yard line and handed the ball off to Brandin Cooks on a jet sweep to the sideline. Rodney McLeod reads it beautifully and shuts it down one yard short on a wonderful open field tackle:

Look at how quickly McLeod starts running towards the jet sweep and watch Mills selling his soul to make sure Cooks doesn’t stretch across the line. Game of inches. Cooks foolishly tried to hurdle the tackle and took a helmet to the nut sack. Any NFL player that leaves his feet is calling down the thunder. This time McLeod delivered it.


Play Three

It was fourth down with five yards to go. New England had the ball on the Eagles 35-yard line and elected to go for a first down, passing on a 52-yard field goal attempt.

They got Gronkowski isolated outside on Mills, a very favorable matchup, and took a shot with a deep fade down the sideline. Mills gets beaten initially, but plays the ball perfectly in the air, getting right into Gronk’s face with his hands up. He ties him up just enough to prevent the catch while not making contact.

Eagles’ ball:


Play Four

The last play I’ll highlight came on the fourth drive. The Patriots were again driving downfield and faced a second and ten from the Eagles 29-yard line. Brady threw a quick tunnel screen to Danny Amendola, but Malcolm Jenkins sniffs it out beautifully from his linebacker spot, works through the Patriot blockers and limits the play to a 2-yard gain:

The play forced a third and long, the Eagles got pressure on third down and Brady threw the ball away forcing another New England field goal attempt.

Yes, the Eagles’ defense did surrender a ton of yards to the greatest quarterback of all time. They did allow 33 points, but they also made five major plays (including the Graham sack fumble) that changed the course of the game. Imagine the difference in score if all of those plays weren’t made.

Super Bowl Sunday was no different than any other week this season. This Eagles did what they’ve done all year long– they found a way. It didn’t matter where or who it came from, it just needed to happen. And, in the biggest of moments and grandest of stages, it did.



5 Responses

  1. As much as the Patriots torched us, without those plays being made we don’t win the game. Unbelievable. Brady missing on a few throws (and one catch) helped too. I think Mills was “maligned” a bit–and rightly so–but that rookie made a lot of great plays this whole year. What a team/what a year.

  2. Rewatched the game yesterday and the one play that still screams out bullshit is the strip of Amendola on the left sideline…. i think it was third quarter? One of those plays where Amendola was wide open streaking down the sideline. He got held up at the end of the run on the sideline and CLEARLY stripped out. It wasn’t until after the ball was loose that the ref blew the play dead – did not step out of bounds, was not yet down – Collingworth and Michaels did not react.

    Any explanation that you guys can give? Could have been one of the biggest plays of the game.

    1. for what it’s worth, my quick guess at an answer is that play was going to boil down to one of those “when did the refs blow the whistle” plays. Usually they are messy and don’t get overturned and the announcers spend 5 minutes saying how hard it is to gauge when the whistle was blown. When watching the game live, I didn’t think the camera angles were the best on that play and before you know it they moved on to the next play.

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