It’s old news now, but think back to the sensational comeback of Super Bowl 51. Recall the infamous 28-3 lead that the Atlanta Falcons held against the New England Patriots, and try to remember the emotion fans felt when quarterback Tom Brady started the comeback.
At a certain point, it felt like a near certainty that the Patriots would come back and tie or win. The team obviously achieved the latter, and Brady won Super Bowl MVP. Anyone who was fooled by the Falcons’ first half success enough to be comfortable was quickly pushed back to reality.
That feeling of inevitable success for New England has been building ever since Bill Belichick became head coach. It’s been growing as Brady grows his legacy.
This instinct was supposed to be solidified once the Patriots repeated their comeback habits in Super Bowl 52. The score was 22-12 at halftime, and Justin Timberlake was performing. The Patriots finally completed their goal; fans were on the edge of their mental seats with the following mindset.
“Never count Brady and the Patriots out. It’s not over. They’re probably going to win.”
So what happens when everything goes wrong? What happens to the legacy when Brady and the Patriots come up short? What will the fans think? Aren’t they used to success? What’s the reaction when New England doesn’t succeed, as once was thought nearly inevitable?
In the short term, the fans will most likely panic. Bill Belichick could suddenly be in a hot seat from the social media commenters for a few days. Brady, who finished the game with three touchdowns and 505 yards, might suddenly be seen as “too old with a damaged legacy.”
In the long term, it’s probable that those fans will start to appreciate what the Philadelphia Eagles achieved by beating the Patriots 41-33 in Minnesota. Perhaps they’ll remember that Nick Foles was phenomenal on the way to his Super Bowl MVP award, finishing with 373 yards and three touchdowns. Running Backs Jay Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount were both excellent as well, as was Wide Receiver Alshon Jeffery.
It’s fascinating to note that Foles is the first backup quarterback to win the Super Bowl since Brady, because the Eagles were remarkably similar to what audiences have seen from Belichick’s Patriots in the recent past. To finish off the first half, Eagles Head Coach Doug Pederson and Foles successfully completed a trick play that saw the ball snapped to running back Corey Clement, who tossed it to tight end Trey Burton. Burton then passed to his right to Foles, and the quarterback stepped into the end zone. It’s just the type of play that Belichick would try.
In early 2015, Belichick and Brady dreamt up a trick play against the Baltimore Ravens in an AFC Divisional Game. The ball was snapped to the quarterback as usual. Brady tossed the ball to wide receiver Julian Edelman. Edelman threw a deep pass to fellow receiver Danny Amendola, who caught it and completed the touchdown.
It was a bold call in a risky moment. Not unlike the play that Pederson called in Super Bowl 52. That was the moment, in retrospect, when it should have been realized by thousands of fans, that the Eagles were playing more like the classic Belichick New England squads than the Patriots were that day.
The team that rightfully earned the feelings of inevitable success that many felt for New England was actually Philadelphia. It was a phenomenal performance by the Eagles, and it likely will be remembered by many fans as future installments of the Super Bowl pass by.
Doug Pederson and Nick Foles taught a crowd that had been so used to Patriots dominance something new on Sunday night. Never count the Eagles out. They’re probably going to win.