Upon his arrival to New England in 2000, Bill Belichick, a modern day Philip II of Macedon, began sculpting his kingdom and pulling a struggling franchise up from the bottom of their division. Molding his players as if they were clay, Bellichick was able to turn this skinny-fat, milquetoast 6th rounder into the greatest quarterback of all time:
Since 2000, the Patriots have been to the Super Bowl 8 times. They've only missed the playoffs thrice. Over the last 20 years, to play against the Patriots has been an exercise in futility and save for a few absurd plays by an ultimately terrible quarterback (bless your heart Eli), they haven't hit many potholes on their road domination. They've met nearly every test that the NFL has thrown at them and while the conspiracy theorists keep parroting on about cheating, the fact of the matter is, on any given Sunday since 2000, the Patriots have looked like the better team. They've always shown up on game day and outperformed their competitors and until this past Sunday, their supremacy was undeniable. Yesterday however, an empire fell.
There were several would-be champions that experts picked to defeat Belichick's Patriots. The Saints and the Steelers, with their powerhouse offenses, were strong candidates. Some people had faith in Sean McVay's Rams. Others even picked the Jaguars and their record setting defense to knock the Patriots out. But, in the end, it was an unlikely band of heroes from Philadelphia, the birthplace of American democracy, who freed the NFL from Belichick's tyrannical reign.
There are no words with which to adequately express the joy Philadelphia sports fans are feeling right now. The Eagles braved the entire postseason as underdogs. Over the course of the season, they lost their starting running back, their best offensive tackle, and their quarterback. Despite this, they walked into Minneapolis, played against the best team of all time, and left with the Lombardi trophy. Throughout the postseason, the Eagles defense let up an average of 8.5 points. The narrative going into the Super Bowl was set. We've seen it before, Tom Brady goes up against an impenetrable defense, and manages through sheer will, to grind it out and win. The only thing is, the Eagles defense didn't really show up. Tom Brady threw for over 500 yards. He threw 3 touchdowns and the Patriots offense put up 33 points. This game wasn't a classic case of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object. It was a fucking shoot out. Between the two teams, there was 1,150 yards of total offense. That broke the post season record by over 200 yards. The truly remarkable thing is, Nick Foles, a career backup who was thinking of retiring just one year ago, went shot-for-shot against the best passer the league has ever seen. He threw for 3 touchdowns and over 350 yards himself, and kept the game under his control the entire time. He even CAUGHT a touchdown pass on a borderline psychopathic 4th down call by Doug Pederson :
Nick Foles wasn't the quarterback Eagles fans wanted to see starting in the Super Bowl. He doesn't have Carson Wentz's flash or raw talent. He's not Ron Jaworski or Randall Cunningham. Nick Foles was not supposed to win this game. By saying this, I'm not trying to undercut his performance or to take away from anything he did, but rather trying to highlight how miraculous this win truly was. With subplots ranging from ex-Patriots playing for Philadelphia to the recently imprisoned Meek Mill's Dreams and Nightmares (Intro) being selected as the Eagles walk-up song, there is no doubt that this is the greatest sports moment in Philadelphia's history. The hopes of a city rested on the shoulders of one of the unlikeliest champions in modern sports history, and he delivered.
This weekend, Belicheck's Patriots lost their third Super Bowl ever, but instead of a helmet catch, or a dropped ball by Wes Welker, this game didn't come down to bad luck. No, the Patriots, with their greatest of all time shtick, were out maneuvered and ultimately defeated by a team that was hungrier than they were. They got outplayed, and though they'll will have their five rings, the Eagles exposed them last night, and gave the league the recipe for how to beat them. Trust your pass rushers, drop into coverage, give up the short ball, control the tempo, and the Patriots can be contained. That said, it doesn't hurt to have Nicky Franchise under center.
Matt Clibanoff is a writer and editor based in New York City who covers music, politics, sports and pop culture. His editorial work can be found in Inked Magazine, Pop Dust, The Liberty Project, and All Things Go. His fiction has been published in Forth Magazine. -- Find Matt at his website and on Twitter: @mattclibanoff
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