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Five Observations From Super Bowl LII

February 5, 2018
The Philadelphia Eagles secured their first Super Bowl title Feb. 4 with a thrilling 41-33 win against the New England Patriots. The outcome wasn't decided until the Patriots' last-gasp Hail Mary on the final play was batted away by, among others, former Ravens defensive back Corey Graham.

Here are five quick observations on the game:

1. Pay attention, Ravens, this is how successful offense operates.

The Eagles and Patriots combined for a record 1,151 offensive yards, with the Patriots piling up 613 yards in a losing effort and the Eagles totaling 538. Sure, the Patriots have quarterback Tom Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski, but the Eagles' offensive execution in particular stood in stark contrast to the Ravens all season.

Both the Patriots and the Eagles executed screen passes in which linemen got out in front and opened a lane for a running back. The Ravens struggled to do that all season. The Eagles' receivers went up and made tough, contested catches. The Ravens struggled to do that all season, and in fact Ravens head coach John Harbaugh more than once this past season lamented how contested catches not only weren't made but became interceptions. 

 The Eagles went 10-for-16 on third down, in part because of plays such as a third-and-6 early in the fourth quarter: quarterback Nick Foles threw a pass 7 yards, so tight end Zach Ertz caught it past the first-down marker. The Ravens struggled to do that all season. Far too often this year, the Ravens threw third-down passes well shy of the first-down marker. 

These were offensive machines on display at the Super Bowl, and the contrast to the Ravens' offense this season was dramatic and evident. 

2. Foles was named Super Bowl Most Valuable Player. How many teams have a backup quarterback who could pull that off?

Many thought the Eagles' dream season was doomed after starting quarterback Carson Wentz was lost for the season with a torn ACL in Week 14. The Eagles scored one offensive touchdown during their final two games (though they played many backups in Week 17). 

Foles, though, torched the top-rated Vikings defense in the NFC Championship game, and then threw for 373 yards and three touchdowns against the Patriots in the Super Bowl. 

Could Ravens backup Ryan Mallett had pulled off such a feat? Quarterback is one position where, in many cases, the talent level from No. 1 to No. 2 drops off sharply, and the Ravens saw that this season when they faced the Oakland Raiders' E.J. Manuel (not Derek Carr), the Green Bay Packers' Brett Hundley (not Aaron Rodgers) and the Indianapolis Colts' Jacoby Brissett (not Andrew Luck). 

But Foles, who went 14-4 as a starter with the Eagles in 2013-14, proved capable of not only stepping in for Wentz, but succeeding on the biggest stage.

3. The fourth-and-1 touchdown pass to Foles goes down as one of the gutsiest calls in Super Bowl history.

Give Eagles coach Doug Pederson credit: From beginning to end he played to win. Nothing showed that more than the spectacular trick play the Eagles pulled off on fourth-and-goal in the final minute of the first half. With the ball at the 1-yard line, the Eagles could have taken the easy chip-shot field goal and gone into halftime with a solid 18-12 lead. 

Instead, Pederson called one of the great plays in Super Bowl history: Foles shifted up near the line of scrimmage, running back Corey Clement took a direct snap and handed to tight end Tray Burton, who tossed a pass to a wide-open Foles for the touchdown and a 22-12 lead. 

Then in the fourth quarter, with the Patriots leading, 33-32, Pederson decided to go for it on 4th-and-1 at the Eagles' 45-yard line and Foles hit Ertz for a 2-yard pass and the first down. That drive ended with a go-ahead touchdown pass to Ertz.

Many teams -- including the Jacksonville Jaguars two weeks ago in the AFC Championship Game -- have learned that taking the foot off the gas against Brady and the Patriots can be disastrous. Pederson never did that. 

4. Putting pressure on the quarterback makes a huge difference. 

Neither team generated much pressure on the quarterback for much of the game, which helps explain the teams totaling more than 1,100 yards of offense. But the Eagles did get pressure on Brady late, with the game's only sack turning into one of the biggest plays of the game, as defensive end Brandon Graham stripped Brady late in the fourth quarter and the Eagles recovered.

The Eagles also got some pressure on Brady on the final New England series, though Brady was able to spin away from Graham on the final play and launch a Hail Mary pass that fell incomplete in the end zone.

It's easy to see why the Ravens front office has put a premium on drafting and finding pass rushers.

5. Love them or hate them, the Patriots run has been amazing. 

The Patriots played in their eighth Super Bowl since 2001, and they reached the AFC Championship Game in every one of the past seven seasons. They have reached the conference title game 12 times in the past 17 seasons. 

Some will say playing in the AFC East has given them an easy ride during the years, but the fact is in the era of the salary cap and in a league that strives for parity, this kind of dynastic run is remarkable. 

There has been much talk late this season, especially in light of an ESPN report, about possible cracks in the Patriots' foundation and tension between Brady and head coach Bill Belichick. Brady, who will be 41 in August, has suggested he wants to keep playing. 

It's unclear how much longer the Brady-Belichick machine will go on, but give it its proper due as one of the amazing runs in NFL history. 

Follow Bo on Twitter @bsmolka