It was set out perfectly. Gift wrapped, even. The Eagles were cutting through the NFL like a knife, Carson Wentz was the likely MVP, and Doug Pederson was looking like a Coach of the Year candidate.
Then Wentz blew out his knee. It happens in football, injuries are a reality. Sometimes head injuries distract from the fact that football is otherwise torturing on the human body. The potential MVP was gone, and the Eagles had to turn to Nick Foles, who has had exactly one good season as an NFL quarterback, and has recently wrestled with the idea of quitting the sport. When Philadelphia managed to get by through the NFC and Foles actually played pretty well, the table was surely set. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick were poised to cruise to their sixth Super Bowl title together.
It is in the nature of sport that one party will be disappointed. Sometimes, the match is bad and everyone is disappointed, but from the opening possession, no one believed that would be the case.
Doug Pederson, bereft a functioning starting NFL quarterback, exploited something no one had the sense to do before him. It was elegant in its simplicity. His Eagles went out and scored nearly every damn time they had the ball.
The Patriots did the same thing – there was only one punt in the game – and the teams combined for the most yards ever in an NFL game. As has been the case before, the game would come down to Tom Brady having to lead his team downfield in the two-minute drill. It appeared that the Eagles, who had soldiered on bravely, would fulfill their role as loveable losers once again. The narrative was intact. Tom Brady and the legion of Boston sports fans that can be found everywhere from Massachusetts to Saskatoon would raise yet another championship, and the world would be subject to another offseason of Tom Brady can play until he’s 50 takes.
It was not to be. Brandon Graham, who led the Eagles defense in sacks, was having a pretty mediocre game. He didn’t get home once in the first three quarters, which explained a lot about Brady’s gaudy passing numbers. Then, just as Brady was surely about to launch a pass to a ludicrously wide-open Danny Amendola, Graham got home. He swatted the ball out of Brady’s right hand and brought him to the turf. The Eagles recovered, kicked a field goal, and that was it. Game over, the Eagles win. The narrative had gotten its jaw broken.