Coming off their fifth Super Bowl title, the New England Patriots had another highly successful regular season. Led by league MVP Tom Brady, the team went 13-3 and secured another AFC East title as well as the conference’s top playoff seed. Along the way, however, the team suffered multiple losses due to injury: from Julian Edelman to Marcus Cannon to Dont’a Hightower to Shea McClellin to Nate Ebner.
Despite the injury bug biting hard, New England first defeated the Tennessee Titans in the divisional playoff round before winning a thriller against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC title game — one that would not be the last close game the Patriots would find themselves in during the postseason. The result, however, was a different one in the championship round than it was two weeks later.
Super Bowl LII: New England Patriots vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Date: February 4, 2018
Stadium: U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis MN
Final Score: New England Patriots 33, Philadelphia Eagles 41
Even before Super Bowl LII was kicked off, the Patriots had to suffer their first loss even though it was one internally created: starting cornerback Malcolm Butler was effectively benched and played only one special teams snap all game long. Without the former Pro Bowler, who had an inconsistent season up to that point but was still capable of making big plays, New England’s defense struggled mightily against the Eagles.
The game itself started with the two teams trading field goals before the Eagles scored the game’s first touchdown, one that was followed by a missed extra point. On ensuing drive, it was the Patriots’ turn to miss a kick: Stephen Gostkowski’s 26-yard kick hit the upright after a bad snap by Joe Cardona, adding fuel to those who wanted to see New England go for 4th and 1 at the Philadelphia 8-yard line instead of attempting a field goal.
The Eagles failed to take advantage of the missed kick, however, and went three-and-out — the first and only time in the game that one of the teams had to punt. New England’s next possession again ended without points, though. This time, the Patriots went for it on fourth down (after an unsuccessful pass attempt from Danny Amendola intended for Tom Brady) but failed to pick up the necessary five yards to keep the drive alive. Just six plays and an unsuccessful two-point attempt later, Philadelphia was up 15-3.
This time, the Patriots were able to answer and cut their deficit to nine points thanks to a Gostkowski 45-yard field goal. Momentum went on to shift even further towards the Patriots on the very next drive: Duron Harmon intercepted a deep pass attempt from Nick Foles to set up New England’s first touchdown of the day, a 26-yard run by James White. However, the mistakes continued piling up as Gostkowski missed the extra point wide left.
Following the Patriots touchdown, only two minutes were left on the clock in the first half — but the NFC champions made them count by driving 70 yards in just 1:30. The series was capped by arguably the game’s signature play, one now referred to as the “Philly Special”: on 4th and goal from the 1-yard line, Philadelphia ran a trick play that saw tight end Trey Burton successfully connect with quarterback Nick Foles for the touchdown.
The third quarter was also dominated by offense. New England started the period with an 8-play, 75-yard scoring drive that ended with a 5-yard touchdown from Tom Brady to Rob Gronkowski. The Eagles answered with another score, albeit a more controversial one: a 22-yard pass from Foles to Corey Clement was juggled but nevertheless ruled to be a touchdown — one that put the Eagles up 29-19.
The Patriots, however, responded with another touchdown drive. This one ended on a 26-yard pass from Brady to Chris Hogan. And with Philadelphia only mustering a field goal on their next possession, the path was cleared for New England to take its first lead of the day. 10 plays and 75 yards later, Brady and Gronkowski connected again — this time for a 4-yard pass — to put the Patriots up 33-32.
Unfortunately, however, those would be the last points New England added to the scoreboard as it was all Eagles from then on. First, the team drove 75 yards in 14 plays — including two third downs and a fourth down — to go up 38-33. Two plays later, the Patriots turned the football over when Brady was strip-sacked inside his own territory. New England held its opponent to a field goal but with 1:10 left and eight points needed, the Patriots failed to deliver.
Brady’s Hail Mary attempt fell incomplete and the quarterback’s historic performance — he threw for a Super Bowl record 505 yards — turned into little more than a footnote in the NFL’s annals.