$.01—What a game it was! Congrats to the Philadelphia Eagles for winning the first Super Bowl title in franchise history in a thrilling contest that came down to the very last play. When Tom Brady’s desperation Hail Mary went unanswered – barely – Eagles fans everywhere erupted with the frustrations of 58 years of futility and heartbreak and celebrated.
51 first downs. 1151 combined yards. Every offensive snap averaged 8 yards.
How prolific was the offensive display? There were twice as many missed extra points (2) as punts (1). That included the spectacular Rob Gronkowski TD in the left corner on a perfect throw from Brady, their second scoring connection of the night. It included Zach Ertz’s controversially correct touchdown plunge after the catch on one of Nick Foles’ many outstanding throws. No playoff game ever produced more combined yards from the two teams.
The chess match of the offenses was beautiful football. The offensive attacks were almost artwork for true pigskin aficionados. The skillful motioning, positioning and isolating the right weapon against the most favorable matchup. Both Brady and Foles expertly painted the strokes, making excellent throws on the right decisions time and again.
In the end, Doug Pederson won the duel with the master, Bill Belichick. The option pass to Foles for the TD just before halftime trumped the Patriots’ own pass to Brady which slipped through his outstretched hands. The game’s first sack came when Brandon Graham tacked inside and crossed the guard’s inside shoulder to get the strip on Brady as he prepared to throw, a savvy change-up from Pederson and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, a former Belichick staffer himself.
It was an outstanding, action-packed end to one of the more bizarre and tumultuous NFL seasons ever. That makes it fitting that the championship goes to a new winner led by a backup quarterback they previously dumped. Relish it, Eagles fans…and Patriots haters.
$.02—Foles won the Super Bowl MVP, and deservedly so. He completed 28 of his 43 passes for 373 yards, 3 TDs and one INT that his receiver quite literally handed to a Patriots defender. He also caught a touchdown pass and executed the run-pass option so effectively that if you drank every time Cris Collinsworth and Al Michael said “RPO” your liver is now somewhere begging for mercy.
Foles is now in an interesting spot, and his value and price tag are going to be a point of great debate. He was truly masterful in the playoffs:
Nick Foles playoff line:— Jeff Risdon (@JeffRisdon) February 5, 2018
77-of-106, 971 yards, 6 TDs, 1 INT
Performances like that demand steep paychecks. Look what it did for Joe Flacco, who wasn’t as sharp as Foles prior to his epic run. The Eagles, of course, cannot pay Foles market value because they’re locked into heavy investment with Carson Wentz. Then again, Wentz is coming off ACL surgery in early December, his second major injury in three seasons.
Watching what happens with Foles, and the rest of the veteran QB crop, this offseason is going to be fascinating. Heck, the Alex Smith trade (unofficial until March) from Kansas City to Washington during the past week already kicked it off in spectacular fashion.
Here’s my quick early, somewhat educated guess as to who winds up where in the veteran QB musical chairs:
Drew Brees – New Orleans
Kirk Cousins – Denver
Nick Foles – New York Jets, but Arizona if Cousins goes to the Jets
Case Keenum – Minnesota
Sam Bradford – Minnesota
Tyrod Taylor – Arizona
A.J. McCarron – Cleveland
Teddy Bridgewater – Cincinnati
Josh McCown – New York Jets, if he doesn’t retire
Chase Daniel – Kansas City
$.03— Before the game kicked off, the league announced the winners of its annual awards at the NFL Honors ceremony. The league televised the festivities from Minneapolis on Saturday night.
As is the case with every awards show, I did not watch. But a few of the awards handed out do deserve some mention.
Injured Eagles QB Carson Wentz won the FedEx Air Player of the Year despite missing the final three games. He didn’t finish in the top 10 in passing yards and finished fourth in passer rating, but Wentz showed enough in his second season to win the honor. I’m not necessarily opposed to Wentz winning, but Brady did more with less. I guess the “one award per customer” rule stands…
J.J. Watt won the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award for his incredible efforts to help Houston and the surrounding area recover from the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey. How Watt, Deshaun Watson (who won Courtyard’s Greatness on the Road Award) and the Texans rallied around the community and galvanized the support is one of the favorite stories I’ve ever covered. Race, religion, politics, fandoms all got put aside for the greater good. Watt was the proud symbol of that movement and eminently deserving of the great honor.
The Eagles offensive line was honored as OL of the Year. The interesting thing here is they did so without standout left tackle Jason Peters. Remember, the Eagles won the Super Bowl with not just a backup QB but a backup left tackle in Hal Vaitai, a 2016 fifth-round pick from TCU who was far more known for his lengthy name (it’s Halapoulivaati) than his game. Counter to most conventional football wisdom, the Eagles strength is on the right side of the line with tackle Lane Johnson and guard Brandon Brooks. Something to think about when looking to find that “franchise” left tackle in this draft…which might be the worst OT draft class in some time.
Chargers WR Keenan Allen won the AP Comeback Player of the Year, while Rams coach Sean McVay earned the Coach of the Year and Rams RB Todd Gurley won FedEx Ground Performer and Offensive Player of the Year. Rams DT Aaron Donald was the Defensive Player of the Year. Not a bad haul for the city of Los Angeles even though neither team won a playoff game.
The big winner for me was Tide for its recurring spot featuring other Procter & Gamble products. The initial setup was great and the payoff kept coming throughout the game. It wasn’t overdone, it wasn’t forced. Made me proud that I bought some Tide on my last shopping trip. The bit with the Old Spice pitchman on the horse was the funniest thing I saw all night.
Others I liked:
Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. recreating Dirty Dancing. It would probably be even better if I could recall what product was being advertised without looking it up…
Dodge Ram’s Viking bit. My wife found it stupid, however.
Rocket Mortgage translator with Keegan Michael Key.
Hyundai’s powerful ad on its pediatric cancer charity. Bravo.
Mass Mutual’s “I’ll Stand By You” was wonderfully tasteful and powerful.
Pringles stacking flavors, but only because my cousin Charles Blake and I were doing that 35 years ago and fought about the ethics of mixing flavors way back then. You were right, Charles…
Dodge Ram for using Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to sell trucks. I understand it was done respectfully, but the King family selling that out is nearly as shameful as Dodge asking them to do so.
Doritos Blaze/Mt. Dew combo featuring Peter Dinklage and Morgan Freeman. It’s not bad but seemed forced to me.
Diet Coke dancing. I preferred the local dead air spot.
But there is a special circle in viewer hell for the washed phenomenon that is Bud Light’s Dilly Dilly. The supposed payoff with the Bud Light knight was beyond anticlimactic. Go. Away. Forever.
$.05—Halftime is always a dicey proposition for those of us who loathe pop music. I fully understand the need to cater to the biggest masses and the non-traditional football audience with recognizable, safe pop stars. It’s the way to go, even if the bag winds up being mixed.
Justin Timberlake’s performance was not one for the ages. While I’m largely unfamiliar with most of Timberlake’s musical catalogue, I do like him. He’s affable, he’s fantastic on Saturday Night Live and talk shows, and he’s a hell of a dancer.
The problem here wasn’t really Timberlake or his performance. It was high-energy and interactive with the crowd, which is great for the 60,000 people in the stands. For the 150 million of us watching at home, it comes out as flat. The sound mix was awful; the first two songs sounded as if they were being mixed underwater.
The only guest appearance was the high point. Prince appeared on a projection and thankfully not a hologram, as was rumored. In his city, the nod to Prince was requisite. That he happened to give the greatest Super Bowl halftime performance ever only added to the moment. Timberlake was at his best sitting at the piano and singing, too.
To rank it with recent performances, it’s behind Bruno Mars and Katy Perry. Coldplay’s weird performance was more stimulating. I found it on par with Madonna and The Black Eyed Peas with Usher and Slash. A special mention to Pink for a wonderful rendition of the National Anthem.
Part of the Super Bowl weekend is the announcement of the Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2018. This class is sure to grab some attention.
The big names are the recently retired ones. Dawkins, Moss, Lewis, Owens and Urlacher all fulfill the “fame” component of induction, if not the requisite on-field credentials. There is no valid argument to be made about any of them between those two criteria.
The interesting point is the induction of two players from the same position, and the Hall electing to do that with two different positions. One of the popular water cooler (or message board) topics is ranking the players. Who was better, Ray Lewis or Brian Urlacher? Terrell Owens or Randy Moss? Because they’re going in together, the Hall of Fame voters passed on making their own decision on those arguments. Consciously or not, it comes off as a bit of a cop-out.
Good. I hate those pointless exercises. Why does one great have to be better than another? There is no inner sanctum in Canton or any other Hall of Fame. No special room where only a select few are honored, no segregation of talents. If you’re in the Hall of Fame, you’re worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as every other inductee. This endemic need to rank everything and everyone takes away from the greatness of the accomplishment. Appreciate the outstanding play for what it was and how you remember it.