Eagles

Super Bowl champs! Eagles take down Pats to cap special season

Super Bowl champs! Eagles take down Pats to cap special season

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MINNEAPOLIS — All the grease in the world isn't going to keep Eagles fans off those light poles in the city. 

The Birds are coming home with the Lombardi Trophy (see celebration).

For the first time in franchise history, the Eagles have won the biggest game in sports. In an incredible performance, they bested Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots, 41-33, at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minnesota on Sunday night. 

Nick Foles played magnificently as the Eagles' offense out-fired Brady on the stage where he's become the G.O.A.T. and Brandon Graham made an incredible play when the Eagles absolutely needed him to (see story).

There's finally going to be a green parade down Broad Street (see Roob's observations).

After all they went through this season, it seemed rather fitting that it all ended like this. What a game. It certainly wasn't easy. 

While Foles was throwing dimes, the defense struggled. The Eagles gave up 613 yards. It's the most yards they've given up in any game in the Super Bowl era, regular season or playoffs. Didn't matter. 

Eventually, they pulled it off. Somehow, defying the odds, like they've done all season (see story)

The Eagles took a 22-12 lead into halftime after a ridiculous first 30 minutes that featured 673 total yards of offense. The Patriots actually outgained the Eagles in the first half but it didn't matter. The Eagles went up 10 when Pederson pulled off what might have been the gutsiest play call in Super Bowl history (see story)

The Birds got on the scoreboard first with a field goal but the Patriots were able to match it with one of their own. From there, the offensive floodgates opened and the two teams got into a shootout. The craziest thing about the Eagles' trick play is that the Patriots tried one of their own earlier in the game and Brady couldn't bring in the pass.

Turning point
Even though they already had the lead, that Graham strip sack has to be it. When Brady has the ball in his hands down one score, nothing feels safe. Every Eagles fan in the building likely felt that way. Until Graham knocked the ball free. 

Key stat
The Patriots' 613 yards of offense is the highest total in Super Bowl history. 

It didn't matter. 

Offensive stud
Foles made some incredible throws on Sunday night. We wondered which Foles would show up. No question. It was the good one. He's the MVP (see story)

Offensive dud
Jay Ajayi didn't have the kind of game many people probably thought he would have. 

Defensive stud
The defense was lackluster all game, but Graham made the play of the night with his strip sack on Brady. 

Defensive dud
Jalen Mills made some plays but also got called for a big penalty and was beaten on a deep ball to Chris Hogan. Corey Graham struggled to cover Rob Gronkowski. 

Key plays
• Jake Elliott hit a 46-yarder to put the Eagles up eight points after the Graham strip sack. 

• After the Eagles' offense took the lead, Graham got a strip sack on Brady and the ball bounced into Derek Barnett's hands. The place erupted. 

• On 3rd-and-7 from the Patriots' 11-yard line, Foles hit Zach Ertz for a touchdown to take back the lead from the Patriots with 2:21 left in the game. The play was reviewed, but upheld. Then the Eagles failed on the two-point conversion. 

• Brady hit Gronk, covered by Ronald Darby, for a 4-yard touchdown pass to give the Patriots their first lead in the game at 33-32 with 9:22 remaining in the fourth quarter. It capped another 75-yard touchdown drive. 

• Elliott kicked a 43-yarder to increase the Eagles' lead early in the fourth quarter to 32-26. 

• Brady hit Hogan for a 26-yard touchdown pass with 3:23 left in the third quarter to cut into the Eagles' lead, 29-26. It capped a 75-yard touchdown drive. 

• Foles hit Corey Clement for a beautiful 22-yard touchdown pass in the end zone on 3rd-and-6. The play was reviewed but the call stood. Clement caught the ball and got both feet down in bounds. That put the Eagles up 29-19. 

• Gronkowski caught a 5-yard touchdown pass on the Patriots' first drive of the second half. On that drive, he had four catches for 68 yards and a touchdown after having just one for nine yards in the first half. 

• In the gutsiest play call of the year, Pederson dialed up that insane gadget play on 4th-and-goal from the 1-yard line to give the Eagles a 22-12 lead heading into halftime. 

• James White had a 26-yard touchdown run late in the second quarter to cut into the Eagles' lead. He broke three tackles on his way to the end zone to make the score 15-12 after the missed extra point. Mills had a rough go on the 90-yard drive. He was called for a penalty and then got beat deep on a pass to Hogan. 

• Foles tossed a deep pass to Alshon Jeffery that was tipped up and intercepted by Duron Harmon in the second quarter. Jeffery almost made a circus catch but actually tipped it up to the DB. 

• LeGarrette Blount rumbled into the west end zone for a 21-yard touchdown in the second quarter to put the Eagles up 15-3. The two-point conversion play failed. 

• Brady became a receiver on a key trick third-down play in the second quarter and dropped the ball. He's the best quarterback in NFL history and the Patriots decided to make him a receiver. OK. Then on fourth down, his pass to Gronkowski fell incomplete and the Eagles took over on downs.

• On a 3rd-and-2 from the Eagles' 9-yard line, the Patriots handed the ball off to Brandin Cooks, who tried to hurdle Rodney McLeod. McLeod simply stood up and slammed him to the ground. Then the Patriots missed a 26-yard field goal after a botched snap. 

• After Blount broke off a big, rumbling 36-yard run, the Eagles followed it up with an incredible play-action pass. Foles tossed a dime to Jeffery, who caught the ball over Eric Rowe for a 34-yard touchdown (see story). The Eagles went up 9-3 after Elliott missed the extra point. 

• Mills broke up a pass to Gronkowski in front of the end zone on third down to force a Patriots field goal on their first drive. Before that, the Pats sliced through the Eagles' defense using some tempo to get them out of their game. 

• The Eagles converted two third downs, the last of which was a 3rd-and-12 pass to Torrey Smith for 15 yards. The Eagles capped the 14-play drive (7:05) with a 23-yard field goal to put them up 3-0. 

Injury update
Dannell Ellerbe (hamstring) returned to action after missing the NFC Championship Game and the Eagles' sick players were able to heal up enough in time for the game. 

Stefen Wisniewski left for a brief time during the game but returned. 

Up next
See you at the parade. 

Eagles hoping no-risk, high-reward veteran signings can rekindle past success

Eagles hoping no-risk, high-reward veteran signings can rekindle past success

When you’re in salary cap hell, you have to be creative when building a roster.

And one tactic Howie Roseman used when putting together the Eagles team that begins training camp Thursday is signing a handful of no-risk, high-reward guys.

Players trying to revive their careers. Players trying to reclaim past glory. Players running out of chances.

These are no-risk, high-reward guys. They could become contributors, but if it doesn’t work out? The Eagles can release them before the season with modest or no cap ramifications.

When you’re in salary cap hell, you can’t sign all the free agents you want. So you sign the free agents that you can. And you do that by signing players nobody else wants. Guys with no leverage.

One tool Roseman likes to use is the NFL’s minimum-salary benefit, which gives teams some salary cap relief when they sign veteran players to certain deals.

The minimum-salary benefit can be used only for veterans with at least four years of experience who sign one-year minimum-wage deals with combined bonuses equalling $90,000 or less. 

Here’s a look at four of these no-risk, high-reward players the Eagles added this offseason.

Markus Wheaton

The Eagles signed Wheaton to a one-year deal with a $790,000 base salary (sixth-year minimum) with a $45,000 signing bonus, a $45,000 workout bonus but a cap number of $720,000, thanks to the minimum-salary benefit.

If the Eagles release Wheaton before the season, he would count just $90,000 against the cap, the value of his two bonuses.

Wheaton is only 27 and should be in his prime but has done nearly nothing the last two seasons after two very good years.

In 2014 and 2015, he combined for 97 catches for 1,393 yards, seven touchdowns and a 14.4 average. He had seven catches of 40 yards or more during those two years. Pretty good production.

But the last two years, Wheaton had just seven catches for 102 yards and one TD for the Steelers and Bears.

If he’s healthy and can be even half the player he was in 2014 and 2015, he could really help as a fourth receiver.

Matt Jones

The Eagles signed Jones to a two-year, $1.51 million deal that includes base salaries of $705,000 this year and $805,000 next year with no bonus money, which means no dead cap money if he’s released.

Even though Jones’ deal is not subject to the minimum-salary benefit, his base salaries of $705,000 and $805,000 are minimum wage for a third-year veteran in 2018 and a fourth-year vet in 2019.

Jones was one of the NFL’s best running backs the first half of 2016. Through seven games, he had 460 yards and a 4.6 average with three TDs. In a mid-October win over the Eagles at FedEx Field, he ran for 135 yards, the most rushing yards against the Eagles the last two years.

But he hurt his knee and never got his job back, then was released before last season. He resurfaced with the Colts but had only five carries all year.

Jones is only 25 and is a good enough receiver that he caught 19 passes for 304 yards and a TD as a rookie reserve.

With LeGarrette Blount gone, Jay Ajayi on a pitch count because of chronic knee soreness, Corey Clement’s role still undefined and Darren Sproles likely to be limited on offense at 35 years old, Jones will have a chance to work his way into the mix.

And if it doesn’t work out? No cap hit.

Richard Rodgers

The Eagles signed Rodgers to a one-year, $880,000 contract that includes a $790,000 base salary, a $45,000 signing bonus, a $45,000 workout bonus and a $720,000 cap figure, courtesy of the minimum-salary benefit rule.

If the Eagles release him, he’ll count $245,000 in dead money, the amount of guaranteed money in his one-year deal.

As recently as 2015, Rodgers caught 58 passes for 510 yards and eight touchdowns, which ranked him 12th among all NFL tight ends in catches and fifth in TDs. But he dropped to 30 catches in 2016 and just 12 last year.

Rodgers is only 26 and should be in his prime, but he’s reached only 30 yards twice in his last 31 games.

With Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert, the Eagles have a potent 1-2 punch, but if Rodgers can regain his form of 2015, it would give Doug Pederson even more options in a ridiculously talented array of skill players.

LaRoy Reynolds

The Eagles signed Reynolds to a one-year, $880,000 contract that includes a $790,000 base salary, a $90,000 roster bonus and a reduced $720,000 cap figure.

Because there’s nothing guaranteed in his contract, the Eagles would not absorb any dead money under the cap if they release him before the season.

Reynolds, now with his fourth team in four years, has played in 68 games with seven starts. He’s only 27 and is considered an above-average special teamer and adequate depth linebacker.

The Eagles have some big question marks at linebacker, with Paul Worrilow (Reynolds’ former teammate) out for the year, Mychal Kendricks now with the Browns, Nigel Bradham suspended for the opener and Jordan Hicks able to finish one of his first three seasons.

Reynolds will have a chance to work into that mix. If not? No harm done.

More on the Eagles

Eagle Eye: When does a contract negotiation become a problem?

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Eagle Eye: When does a contract negotiation become a problem?

In the latest edition of Eagle Eye, John Clark and Barrett Brooks are pumped for the start of training camp. Following MLB Commissioner's comments on Mike Trout's marketability, the guys discuss if it's on the player or the league to market an athlete? The Falcons said they will not give Julio Jones a new contract. At what point does a public contract negotiation become a distraction in the locker room?

1:00 - Guys are excited for the start of training camp.
4:45 - Is it on a player or a league to market an athlete?
11:00 - When does a Julio Jones contract situation become a locker room distraction?
18:00 - When money starts dividing a locker room.

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