BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — The current dynasty in the NFL could be fleeting.
The Patriots have appeared in three of the last five Super Bowls, winning two titles. But if Sunday night told us anything, the Eagles have a fresh young core that might be next in line to repeat.
The Eagles’ 41-33 Super Bowl LII upset win over the Patriots at U.S. Bank Stadium was fueled by an aggressive play-caller, a run-pass option offense that causes defenses fits and a strong pass rush that’s difficult to contain.
Back-to-back Super Bowl titles are hard to accomplish. Only seven NFL teams have repeated, and the Patriots were the last to do so in the 2003 and 2004 seasons. The Steelers are the only champs to repeat two different times.
The Eagles just might have the cast to do it, but it was hard to think about it on Monday morning.
“It really hasn’t sunk in completely yet,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson. “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’ historic run to their first Super Bowl title so stunning was the loss of several key players to injuries along the way. A pair of 25-year old starters, quarterback Carson Wentz and outside linebacker Jordan Hicks, were missing during the playoff run.
The Eagles also 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 biggest replacement was Nick Foles, who earned Super Bowl MVP honors with a stunning performance. Foles 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 one more season appears to be the right move.
“We got a long offseason, really a short offseason now, and we’re just going to enjoy this moment,” Pederson said when asked about the 2018 starter. “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, the veteran running back who is excellent at catching passes out of the backfield, didn’t prevent the Eagles from handling things. They went with undrafted rookie Corey Clement as a replacement, and in Super Bowl LII he caught four passes for 100 yards. His 22-yard third-quarter touchdown catch occurred utilizing 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 kind of almost cut off, but I stuck with it.”
Tom Brady might have thrown for 505 yards and three touchdowns, but it was against a young and talented secondary led by starting corners Ronald Darby, 24, and Jalen Mills, 23. Mills had a team-leading nine tackles and two pass breakups; Darby also had two pass breakups in the win.
The line be the oldest part of the defense, but Vinny Curry (29), Fletcher Cox (27), Tim Jernigan (25) and Brandon Graham (20) are in their primes.
Graham had one of the biggest defensive plays of the game, a strip sack of Brady with 2:16 remaining, that 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 [GM] Howie [Roseman] and those guys making the right choices, bringing the guys in that jelled well with us.”
Repeating is not easy, especially in a talent-heavy NFC where the Vikings, Rams and Saints expect to contend.
For at least the next couple of days, though, the Eagles and their fans can enjoy this and worry about repeating next September.
“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.”
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