Sunday’s Super Bowl game between the Eagles and Patriots wasn’t the best ever (Rams-Titans, 49ers-Bengals II, Giants-Patriots I, Seahawks-Patriots … all are in the running). Nor, as wild as it was, was it even the highest-scoring NFL championship game (the 49ers’ 49-26 1995 win vs. the Chargers holds the mark).
But the 41-33 Eagles win in Minneapolis was definitely the strangest one ever … and it shows the way the game has evolved into something that more closely resembles pinball than football.
Here are some strange factoids:
• The two offenses combined for 1,151 yards, breaking the Super Bowl mark (Redskins-Broncos, 1988) by an astonishing 222 yards. It also was the most total yards in ANY NFL game, regular season or playoffs.
• The teams combined for an SB record 874 passing yards. The Pats’ set an SB team mark of 500 passing yards. The two teams combined for 54 first downs, tying the SB mark, and 42 passing first downs, breaking the SB record. Please note that all four records in this paragraph had been set in last year’s overtime game between the Patriots and Falcons. Expect this trend to continue.
• No QB in NFL history has had Tom Brady’s stats (505 yards, 3 TDs and 0 interceptions) — and lost.
• No team before Sunday had ever scored 33 points in a Super Bowl — and lost.
• The Patriots had 613 total yards, 0 punts, 1 penalty for 5 yards, 1 sack for 5 yards and 1 turnover. And lost.
• The Patriots had 29 first downs, converting 5 of 10 on third down and going 1-2 on fourth down. That means 23 first downs came on first or second down. And they lost. Where is the defense? More on this later.
• The two teams combined for 94 passing plays and just one sack, with 2:16 left in the fourth quarter. The sack, it must be noted, was the game’s key play. I also should note that there were 45 fewer rushing plays (49).
• The Eagles averaged 8.5 yards per play and the Patriots 10.0. Neither team could be considered a rushing dynamo, but Philly averaged 6.1 yards per rush and the Patriots 5.1. No wonder there was just one punt.
• There were 14 scoring drives, 11 of them of 65 yards or more. Philly had scoring drives of 70. 77, 77 and 85 yards. N.E. cashed in on three consecutive 75-yard drives in the second half and also had a 90-yarder.
• Brady averaged 18.0 yards per completion and three of his receivers (Amendola, Hogan and Gronkowski) caught passes for more than 100 yards. And they played most of the game without injured former Beavers star Brandin Cooks, their best deep threat.
• Best two drives of the game? Both by Philly. After Pats pulled within 22-19 early in the third period. Nick Foles led the Eagles 85 yards in 11 plays and 4:57 of elapsed time to move the lead back to 10. He converted three times on third down, including on the TD. And after N.E. took a 33-32 with a little more than 9 minutes left, Foles led the Eagles 75 yards in 14 plays in 7:01 to regain the lead for good. Two third-down conversions, including the TD, and one fourth-down success came during the march. When Brady, Belichick and the Pats take the lead on you in the fourth quarter you are supposed to fold. Philly didn’t flinch.
• Where was the defense? Good question. Yes, the league has loosened rules on offensive line play while clamping down on the muggings DBs used to administer to wideouts. And they are also trying to reduce the number of helmet-led collisions that can end careers. Those factors have given offensive coordinators a critical edge against their defensive counterparts. Although I like defensive stops from time to time and prefer 27-24 games to 41-33, I’m inclined to accept 41-33 title games if it keeps players’ brains from being scrambled.
• One of my favorite Super Bowl stories came from the first one, when a hungover Max McGee caught a pair of TD passes from Bart Starr in the Packers’ 35-10 win against the Chiefs. McGee wasn’t even supposed to play. He was the No. 3 WR in a time in which a) there were no 3 WR, 4 WR or 5 WR sets; and b) the starter, in this case Boyd Dowler, was expected to play every offensive snap. But Dowler got hurt, McGee hunted around and found his helmet — and the rest is history. The lesson here is just how much different the game is today.
So there you have it — weirdest Super Bowl game ever. And I didn't even mention the TD pass to Foles!