Foles lets it fly, leads Eagles to franchise's first Super Bowl win

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Foles lets it fly, leads Eagles to franchise's first Super Bowl win

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MINNEAPOLIS — The Philadelphia Eagles' flight from last to first ended up with a Lombardi Trophy.

In a record-setting shootout between Nick Foles and Tom Brady, the backup quarterback led a pressure-packed 75-yard drive to the winning touchdown, 11 yards to Zach Etrz with 2:21 to go Sunday night. Then a defense that had been shredded throughout the second half made two final stands to win 41-33.

Brandon Graham strip-sacked Brady and Derek Barnett recovered, setting up rookie Jake Elliot's 46-yard field goal for an 8-point lead.

Brady got his team to midfield, but his desperation pass fell to the ground in the end zone.

The underdog Eagles (16-3), even injured starting quarterback Carson Wentz, came bolting off the sideline in ecstasy while Brady sat on the ground, disconsolate.

It was the first Super Bowl title for Philadelphia (16-3), which went from 7-9 last season to the franchise's first NFL title since 1960.

Super Bowl MVP Foles orchestrated it with the kind of drive NFL MVP Brady, a five-time champion, is known for. The Eagles covered 75 yards on 14 plays and had to survive a video replay because Ertz had the ball pop into the air as he crossed the goal line.

The touchdown stood — and so did thousands of green-clad Eagles fans who weren't going to mind the frigid conditions outside US Bank Stadium once they headed out to celebrate.

But not before a rousing rendition of "Fly Eagles Fly" reverberated throughout the stands once the trophy was presented to owner Jeffrey Lurie. Later, fans danced along with the "Gonna Fly Now," the theme from "Rocky," the city's best-known fictional underdog.

The Patriots (15-4) seemed ready to take their sixth championship with Brady and coach Bill Belichick in eight Super Bowls. Brady threw for a game-record 505 yards and three TDs, hitting Rob Gronkowski for 4 yards before Stephen Gostkowski's extra point gave New England its first lead, 33-32.

Then Foles made them forget Wentz — and least for now — with the gutsiest drive of his life, including a fourth-down conversion to Ertz at midfield.

Foles has been something of a journeyman in his six pro seasons, but has been spectacular in four career playoff games. He finished 28 of 43 for 373 yards and three TDs.

The combined 1,151 yards were the most in any modern NFL game, and Brady's 505 were the most in any playoff contest. The 40-year-old master finished 28 of 48 and picked apart the Eagles until the final two series.

It was such a wild game that Foles caught a touchdown pass, and Brady was on the opposite end of a Danny Amendola throw that went off his fingertips.

Eagles coach Doug Pederson brought home the championship in his second year in charge. Belichick is 5-3 in Super Bowls and his teams have only a plus-4 overall margin in those games.

So this one was in keeping with that trend: thrilling and even a bit bizarre.

Son of Raiders legend Howie Long devoted to paying it forward

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USATSI

Son of Raiders legend Howie Long devoted to paying it forward

Editor's note: Raiders Insider Scott Bair is in Minneapolis all week long covering Super Bowl festivities -- check out Scott's archive as he files stories and podcasts leading up to the big game on Sunday  

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Terry Bradshaw cornered Chris Long shortly after Philadelphia won the NFC championship. He asked the veteran defensive and son of Raiders legend Howie Long about making Super Bowl LII, and the emotions that come with it.

The interview didn’t last, despite Chris Long’s eloquence. FOX cameras cut back to the pregame set, to capture his son Waylon having a Riley Curry moment.

The two-year old’s smile never ceased while sitting on grandpa Howie’s lap, reveling in a moment for the entire Long clan. Chris Long made his second Super Bowl.

Waylon might not remember that moment. He’s still too young. That didn’t sully Chris Long’s joy of sharing a great moment with his boy. Here's a bond he intends to fortify. He knows, after all, what it’s like to have a father as a best friend. Replicating that is his primary focus.

“The bond with my son Waylon is the most important thing,” Chris Long said. “My dad would say that, too. He’s the best thing that ever happened to me, and he makes anything I accomplish even better. It was so great having him on the field. He was having a blast. He saw granddad through the confetti and ran over to him. He’s such a ham, and got right on TV.”

Howie Long’s always on TV, and was a megastar while Chris Long was growing up. Chris wanted to be and play like the Silver and Black’s dominant defensive end. He followed in dad’s footsteps, both in sport and position. 

Chris Long was the No. 2 overall pick, and has 63.5 sacks in 10 NFL seasons. It certainly helped having someone like Howie as a sounding board, though technique isn’t always a topic on the table.

“He helps me a lot football-wise, but first and foremost he’s a best friend to me,” Chris Long said. “It certainly helps to have someone so close identify with what you’re doing and knows what it’s like. I was never the kid who walked off the field and had his dad start coaching right away. He always shot straight with me. I think that has helped me a lot.”

Chris hasn’t matched Howie Long’s illustrious career, but a second Super Bowl ring would provide some bragging rights.

“It’s hard to talk trash to a guy with a gold jacket,” Chris Long said. “I always tell him that my playoff winning percentage is better than his. I won one ring in nine years, and it took him 13, so mathematically I’m collecting them at a better clip.”

Chris Long is doing something unprecedented this year. He’s playing for free. Long donated his entire season’s salary to various charities, especially those focused on education, after fatal, racially motivated protests in his hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia. He has encouraged fans to join the movement, and donations have doubled his original amount.

Long is trying to give back and support racial minorities protesting mistreatment by the criminal justice system. He’s one of a few Caucasian players to stand in front of a movement started by former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

“I had every opportunity growing up,” Chris Long said. “Why wouldn’t I want other people to have the same experience, especially considering I didn’t fully appreciate it? My teammates are like family to me, and we didn’t all come from the same neighborhood. I can accept that I might love America, but others look at things through a different lens.”

He spent most of an hour-long session with the media Monday talking politics and social cause, a period he didn’t enjoy but considers essential given his celebrity status. He scoffs at those who consider athletes promoting social causes a distraction to the games themselves.

“Distraction is code for ‘I don’t like what you’re talking about,’” Long said. “Do I want to be talking about social issues when there’s a Super Bowl coming up? No, I don’t. Players have been contributing and speaking out in more accepted ways, and fans don’t mind that. When we’re talking about criminal justice reform or improving inner cities or helping communities with people of color through education, people say it’s political. I think we’re just trying to help people. That’s it.”

Chris Long attacks his profession, his family and his beliefs with conviction. That’s something his role model, best friend and father admires.

“He has a great passion for football and, as we’ve seen with him donating his salary and playing for free this year, he has passion off the field,” Howie Long said after the NFC Championship Game a fortnight past, with Waylon on his lap. “The passion he has for all that, and the passion he has for his family, is really special.”

Bill Belichick offers thoughts on Jon Gruden returning to Raiders

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Bill Belichick offers thoughts on Jon Gruden returning to Raiders

Editor's note: Raiders Insider Scott Bair is in Minneapolis all week long covering the Super Bowl festivities -- check out Scott's archive as he files stories and podcasts leading up to the big game on Sunday  

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Bill Belichick is the NFL’s longest tenured head coach. The New England Patriots’ chief strategist has manned his post since 2000, one of a few who have coached against Jon Gruden at the top of their profession.

Gruden spent nine years in the broadcast booth between getting fired in Tampa Bay and taking the head coaching gig in Oakland early this month, returning with great fanfare to the team he led from 1998-2001.

Belichick, for one, says he’s glad to see Gruden return to the coaching ranks.

“I have a ton of respect for Jon,” Belichick said Monday night. “It’s great to have him back.”

Some rules have changed since Gruden’s been gone. Practice time, work in pads and player access has been restricted in the new collective bargaining agreement, rules that require coaching adjustments. Gruden’s practices in the old days were notoriously intense, and he has said several times publicly that practice restrictions would be tough to handle

“Jon’s a smart guy,” Belichick said. “I’m sure he’ll figure it out.”

Belichick was head coach of Gruden’s last game as Raiders head coach. The Patriots beat the Raiders 16-13 in the AFC playoffs’ divisional round. Raider Nation remembers it as the “Tuck Rule” game, a torturous memory for many who feel the Raiders were robbed on a technicality, a misapplied rule.

Many on that excellent Raiders team aren’t over it. Count Gruden among them.

He brought up the “Tuck Rule” in his introductory press conference, as a matter of fact.

“Brady,” Gruden said, “fumbled that ball.”