Nick Foles was atrocious when he was with the Rams. He was so bad that he thought about retiring. It took a camping trip to realize that he still wanted to play, and the Eagles are extremely lucky that he came to that conclusion. Because, if it wasn't for Foles, Matt McGloin likely would've gotten the nod after Carson Wentz went down, and the Eagles certainly wouldn't have gotten anywhere close to the Super Bowl.
Foles, however, was absolutely terrific. Cris Collinsworth described him as "unreal," and that doesn't even do his performance justice. Foles ripped New England's defense to shreds - so much so that the Lions may have reservations about hiring coordinator Matt Patricia in the wake of this result. The Patriots couldn't stop the Eagles at all, with Philadelphia racking up 538 net yards of offense, holding the ball for 34 minutes.
Foles was at his best on third down. At one point, he was 9-of-12 for 158 yards and a touchdown on third down. He also converted a crucial fourth down late in the game. Whenever the Eagles needed a play, he came up absolutely huge. If you wouldn't have known any better, you would've thought that Foles was the Eagles' franchise quarterback.
Foles' final passing numbers were 28-of-43 for 373 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. The pick wasn't even his fault; it was a nice pass that was tipped into the air twice by Alshon Jeffery amid great coverage, and the safety snatched the ball out of thin air. Foles, otherwise, threw dime after dime, and he only had one poor pass where he missed an open Jeffery (and he made up for it by lobbing in a beautiful pass to Jeffery on the next play.) Otherwise, the Patriots absolutely had no answer for him, and a big part of that is Bill Belichick's fault.
There's going to be a ton of talk about what Belichick did. It's unclear what happened at this moment, but Belichick opted not to start Pro Bowl cornerback Malcolm Butler for violating some sort of team rules. Butler played special teams, but he didn't take the field on defense. The Patriots really needed him, and at first, it seemed like Butler might sit out a drive or two, or maybe a whole quarter. Yet, Belichick never played Butler on defense, which seems highly absurd. Butler is so important to New England's stop unit - Tom Brady would have four rings right now if it wasn't for him - so Belichick deserves to be criticized for sitting him.
Foles wasn't just a quarterback in this game. He also caught a touchdown pass on a trick play when Trey Burton found him in the end zone. This was part of a sequence that determined the outcome of the game. While Foles reeled in the pass, Brady dropped a ball on a trick play earlier. The pass was a bit out in front of him, but he still should've had it. The Patriots would've been in scoring position if Brady came up with the catch, and the Eagles would've been scoreless on that possession had Foles dropped the ball because that play occurred on fourth down. No one thought that the catching prowess of the two signal-callers would impact this game, but it totally did.
Part of the reason Foles was so successful was because the Eagles ran the ball so well. LeGarrette Blount gashed New England for 90 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries, while Jay Ajayi gained 57 yards on nine attempts. The Patriots once again didn't have Alan Branch, which was huge. I don't know what happened to Branch, but he was considered probable prior to the injury reports being released. His absence made New England's defense much worse.
While Blount and Ajayi were awesome, Corey Clement did all the damage as a receiver. He caught four of his five targets for 100 yards and a touchdown. There was some question about his score, as it seemed like he got only one foot inbounds, but the officials ruled that he was in the end zone.
Clement led the Eagles in receiving, but Nelson Agholor (9-84) was close. Agholor dropped a pass, but made up for it on the next play by moving the chains with a reception. Jeffery (3-73) came up big in some moments as well, scoring a touchdown in the process. His score was a leaping grab in the opening quarter.
Zach Ertz (7-67) had Foles' other touchdown. There was some controversy with his score as well. He caught the ball, took two steps, and dived into the end zone. The ball appeared to hit the ground, and the play was reviewed. It was ruled that the score stood, and this play gave the Eagles the lead for good. That call was the right one, but the Clement ruling could - and probably should - have been overturned.
While Philadelphia's offense dominated, the defense was lackluster. However, the Eagles' stop unit came up huge when it counted the most. Brady still had plenty of time to drive for the game-winning touchdown, but Brandon Graham knocked the ball out of Brady's hands. Derek Barnett scooped up the loose ball to set up another field goal to ensure victory for the Eagles.
While Brady lost, he became the quarterback with the most passing yards ever in a Super Bowl. Brady went 28-of-48 for 505 yards and three touchdowns. He was insane in the second half, going 16-of-25 for 229 yards and three touchdowns. Despite this, Brady threw some ugly ducks in the opening half, and he was nearly picked a couple of times. He was terrific after intermission, however, and it seemed like he would score for sure when he got the ball back, down 38-33. Instead, the Eagles' defense came up huge.
A big loss for the Patriots was when Brandin Cooks (1-23) was knocked out with a concussion. Cooks caught the ball and ran backward, and he was clocked by Malcolm Jenkins. He looked like he was unconscious for a bit. It seemed like he'd never reenter the game, and that turned out to be the case. This allowed the Eagles to play more man, which wouldn't have been a great strategy with Cooks being such a potent downfield threat.
Danny Amendola led the Patriots in receiving, which was not a surprise. Amendola caught eight of his 11 targets for 152 yards. Chris Hogan (6-128) also had a big game, scoring a touchdown in the process.
Rob Gronkowski, meanwhile, was a monster. Brady relied heavily on Gronkowski in the second half, as he knew he had to target his prolific tight end in desperation mode. Gronkowski reeled in nine of his 15 targets for 116 yards and two touchdowns.
It's no surprise that James White was New England's leading rusher because, well, it's the playoffs. White gained 45 yards and a touchdown on seven attempts, while Dion Lewis gained 39 yards on nine carries. I expected both to be huge factors in the passing game, but they combined for just two receptions.