An Underdog of the Ages
Photo from Getty Images.

An Underdog of the Ages

WEST LONG BRANCH, N.J.- Everybody’s Super Bowl predictions were half correct from the beginning of the season when everyone picked the New England Patriots to reach their eighth Super Bowl appearance of the Tom Brady- Bill Belichick era.
No one guessed that the Philadelphia Eagles would represent the NFC.
On one of the most unprecedented Super Bowl runs in recent history, here is how the Eagles won their first Lombardi Trophy in team history.

Photo from Getty Images.

Offseason moves by Howie Roseman created depth and updated skillful positions that helped put this team in prime position to win games. The selection of defensive end Derek Barnett provided depth to the defensive line, which was already the most skilled unit of the team. The signing of wide receivers Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith gave the team a true receiving core for up and coming quarterback Carson Wentz.
The team signed veteran running back Legarrette Blount and eventually traded for youngster Jay Ajayi to solidify the running game for a run and pound style of play. They traded receiver Jordan Matthews for cornerback Ronald Darby to strengthen a weak defensive back group. From there, the signing of veterans like Corey Graham, Patrick Robinson, Chris Long, and Nick Foles provided further depth to a deep roster full of talent and youth.
The team was built for success and sustainability. As the season unfolded, starters went down due to injuries, but the roster meant that they could survive such damages. As the team kept winning games, they lost key starters such as Darren Sproles, Caleb Sturgis, Jason Peters, Jordan Hicks, Chris Maragos, and eventually their superstar player Carson Wentz who was the leading candidate for MVP of the season before his season ending ACL injury.
Wentz was playing at a high level before his injury against the Los Angeles Rams in week 14. He ended the season with 33 touchdowns, 7 interceptions while throwing for 3,296 yards. He was second in the league in touchdowns thrown despite missing the final three games. Wentz created plays when there wasn’t any there. His sneaky athleticism fooled defenses when he used his legs to run for first downs. With Wentz playing, the Eagles converted the most third down conversions in the NFL. They were first in time of possession giving the defense needed rests. Nick Foles, who was once the starter for the Eagles in 2013 and 2014, was thrown into action.
When Sproles went down, they eventually traded for Ajayi and, with the emergence of undrafted rookie Corey Clement, cemented one of the strongest running back groups in the league. When their kicker Sturgis was hurt after week 1, they signed Jake Elliot who was a solid kicker. He kicked a 61-yard field goal to win a game against division rivals New York Giants in week 3, the longest field goal in team history.
Jordan Hicks replacement Joe Walker played exceptionally well until he went down with an injury before the playoffs. They signed veteran Danell Elerbe but used packages where versatile safety Malcolm Jenkins would play linebacker.
Left tackle Jason Peters was lost after a matchup against the Washington Redskins tearing his ACL and MCL. Halapoulivaati Vaitai stepped up mimicking the talent of the hall of fame player. Not many teams can overcome this many injuries and succeed, nonetheless win a Super Bowl.
Riding off the success from players that put the Eagles in position for the first seed in the playoffs, it was in Foles hands to lead this team to their first Super Bowl victory.
Photo from Getty Images.

After the Wentz injury, the team was picked near last in power rankings among the playoff teams. Against the Atlanta Falcons, they were picked to lose, the fist number one seed to be picked as underdogs in NFL history. They eventually would win that game in a 15-10 score in a subpar performance by Foles. It was a game won by the defense.
In the NFC championship against the Minnesota Vikings, the Eagles were picked to lose again this time to a team with a similar tale. The Vikings lost starting quarterbacks in Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater and starting running back in Dalvin Cook and succeeded under phenomenal play by journeyman Case Keenum. The team had a better defense than the Eagles making it a much harder contest than the Falcons. Then suddenly, the impossible happened.
Foles lighted up the Vikings defense throwing for 352 yards and 3 touchdowns with only 7 incompletions. The best defense in the NFL decided to take the night off. Everyone thought it to be the other way around but the Eagles defense held the Vikings to only 7 points. The Eagles won 38-7 and enjoyed every minute of it knowing the next stop was the Super Bowl against the best of the best Patriots.
For a third time in the playoffs, the Eagles were picked to lose and rightfully so. The Patriots been there eight time, won five and have Tom Brady. The game was to be won by the quarterback and Foles didn’t shy away from the moment. The Eagles scored quickly and was on top throughout the game. Every time Brady scored, Foles and the offense would answer with a scoring drive of their own. It was a back of forth game as both defenses did not show up until the last few minutes of the fourth quarter when the Eagles created the biggest play of night that was full of highlights.
With 2:21 left and the ball in Brady’s hands, the Patriots were driving for the game winning score until Graham pushed up the middle to strip the ball from Brady to give it back to the Eagle’s offense. On a night full of offense, it was a feeling in the air that the first biggest defensive stop would be the decisive play of the game and it came from the Eagles. In one of the most exciting Super Bowls in history, the Eagles finished their underdog story on top hoisting their first Super Bowl victory.
In the city of brotherly love that obsesses over the underdog story of Rocky Bolboa, the city celebrated after the team overcame injury after injury to surprise the NFL world. Just like how Rocky said it, “It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.”
If there was a story other than Rocky’s that can embody that quote, it would be the Eagles improbable Super Bowl run this season.

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