Let’s start this by making sure we all understand that the Eagles absolutely earned their Super Bowl win last season. They were the best team in the NFL all year and they overcame injuries that would have killed most teams.
But no team can win a championship without at least a few things going its way. That was true for the Eagles too.
The topic of luck came up with Doug Pederson in a spring session with several reporters not too long ago. It happened when Pederson was asked about how he won a Super Bowl in Year 2, but Andy Reid couldn’t in 14 mostly successful years. Pederson pointed to a lot of key players that Reid brought to town who were integral during the Super Bowl run. … But also luck.
“The ball’s got to bounce your way,” Pederson said.
The Eagles earned their Super Bowl rings, but they did get a little bit of luck along the way too. That conversation with Pederson got us thinking.
Here are six times the ball bounced their way — figuratively or literally — during the playoff run:
This play came on 2nd-and-8 from their own 30-yard line with 22 seconds left in the second quarter of the divisional round game against the Falcons. The ball literally bounced to the Eagles on this one.
Somehow Nick Foles’ errant pass should have fallen right into the arms of Keanu Neal, but for some reason, Neal jumped up and the ball hit him in the knee. It then bounced back about seven or eight yards and fell into the arms of Torrey Smith, who picked up a 20-yard gain. Three plays later, Jake Elliott drilled a 53-yard field goal to pull the Eagles within one point (10-9) heading into halftime.
The Eagles still needed to pick up a first down before they ran out the clock after this play, but this was really the final play of the game. Jalen Mills got aggressive and he deserves credit, but it would have been nearly impossible to defend a perfect throw to Julio Jones in the end zone. This one falls incomplete and the Eagles moved on to the NFC Championship Game.
“If that ball is you know, a foot lower, it might be a different story,” Pederson said.
The NFC Championship Game wasn’t very close game between the Eagles and the Vikings, so I guess it was somewhat lucky the Eagles faced Minnesota instead of New Orleans. That doesn’t happen without this crazy play to end the other divisional game. Somehow Marcus Williams didn’t force Stefon Diggs out of bounds and Diggs went in for a game-winning 61-yard touchdown.
Now, after seeing how the Eagles dismantled the Vikings and then beat the Patriots, they absolutely could have beaten the Saints in the NFC Championship Game, but it would have been much tougher. I always thought the Eagles didn’t want to see Drew Brees in the playoffs; thanks to this play, they didn’t have to.
Early in the second quarter of the Super Bowl, the Eagles were gifted a bad long snap that led to a short missed field goal from Stephen Gostkowski, one of the best kickers in the NFL. Gostkowski had already made a 26-yard field goal earlier in the game. In his career, the veteran kicker has made 89.5 percent of his field goals in the playoffs.
The 26-yard miss was just the fourth miss of Gostkowski’s playoff career (34 for 38) and it’s by far the shortest miss of his playoff career. In fact, it’s tied for the shortest miss of his career; he missed a 26-yarder back in 2008. It was just the fifth miss for Gostkowski from 20-29 yards in his entire career.
Foles didn’t have this problem. Foles caught the ball in the "Philly Special," but Tom Brady couldn’t bring in this ball in the second quarter on third down. On fourth down, Mills broke up a pass intended for Rob Gronkowski down the sideline.
If Brady catches this ball, not only do the Patriots have a first down, they get pretty far into Philly territory. Brady isn’t fast, but check out how much space he’d have.
Oh well. He didn’t catch it.
Brandon Graham waited until the end of the game, but he pulled off the most important play in Eagles history with just over two minutes left in Super Bowl LII. But it might not matter if the ball dropped on the point and bounces to a Patriot. New England would have had the ball back and it would have been third down, with two more chances to advance.
Instead, the ball hit the ground with the flat side and hovered in the air before rookie Derek Barnett grabbed it.
Some could argue the final Hail Mary falling incomplete was lucky too, but that play would have been much luckier for the Patriots had it worked.
We started with this and we’ll end with it. The Eagles earned their championship. None of this takes away from it. It’s just fun to remember how crazy some of these things that went down were.
“I think there's a little bit of that [luck], you know?” Pederson said. “But again, it doesn't, it doesn't pull away from the fact that our guys worked extremely hard and put themselves in a position to win those games."
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