By Chris Kenning
MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) – After allowing the New England Patriots to march up and down the field for much of the game, the Philadelphia Eagles stopped the five-times champions when it mattered most in Sunday’s Super Bowl, forcing a Tom Brady fumble to help seal their 41-33 win.
The Eagles were five points ahead as the Patriots started a drive deep in their territory late in the fourth quarter, when Brandon Graham knocked the ball loose from Brady’s arm as he surveyed his passing options, and Derek Barnett recovered.
“We said we needed a play, we got one more opportunity, we’re going to give everything we got,” Barnett said in an on-field interview after the Eagles captured the NFL title for a first time.
“I’m just thankful we got there because we got a team that’s resilient. It worked out baby and it feels so good. We worked our butts off.”
The Eagles defense, which had not forced a turnover or punt all night before the play, kicked a field goal to extend their advantage to eight points before holding firm once more as they prevented the Patriots from sending the game into overtime.
Prior to the critical sack, Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, who started the season as a backup and ended it as a Super Bowl MVP, had thrown a touchdown to give the team a 38-33 lead.
The Patriots got the ball with a little more than two minutes on the clock, plenty of time for five-time Super Bowl winner Brady and New England to stage yet another of the team’s trademark late-game comebacks.
In last year’s Super Bowl, with New England trailing Atlanta 28-3, Brady led the team to a miraculous 34-28 overtime victory. This year, the Eagles and Patriots traded scores all night, with Brady throwing for more than 500 yards in a losing effort.
“It kind of felt like whoever had the ball last could win this game,” Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said after the game. “Our defense stepped up and did a nice job to finish it for us.”
As Brady looked to throw, Graham, a defensive end, scored the game’s first sack and knocked the ball into the hands of Barnett, who the Eagles had drafted in 2017.
“I knew I had a one-one-one with the guard. I knew he liked to be aggressive, so I tried to act like I was pulling. I snatched it right off and Brady’s arm was right there and I went for the ball,” Graham said.
“I will say that our offense carried us today but when we needed to make a stop, defense came through.”
Brady lamented his late misfortune.
“I wasn’t very happy about it then,” the 40-year-old future Hall of Famer said of the strip-sack. “When I went to the sideline, I figured we’d get the ball back. Just came up short.”
(Reporting by Chris Kenning in Minneapolis; Additional reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by John O’Brien)