Players, fans and the NBC cameramen might want to call their chiropractors Monday, because a lot of people could have whiplash after the Eagles’ 41-33 victory over the Patriots in Super Bowl LII.
An old mantra says defense wins championship, but that message must have gotten frozen in the frigid air on its way to U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick made his bones in the NFL as a defensive mastermind. The Eagles made it to the Super Bowl in part because of strong defense and a pass rush that was among the best in the NFL.
But offenses that provided more fireworks than Justin Timberlake’s halftime show etched this game in the record books.
No number from the game is as remarkable as this one — Sunday represented the most net yardage of any game in NFL history. That includes regular season and postseason games. All the years of evolution to the game of football and all the players and coaches who helped change and shape the game to make offenses more potent and prominent — all that history led to Sunday, when a 68-year-old record fell.
The Patriots and the Eagles combined for 1,151 yards — .65 miles of offense — to beat the record of 1,133, set Nov. 19, 1950, during a game between the Giants and Rams.
The teams had broken the record for most yards in a Super Bowl set in 1987 by the end of the third quarter, according to statistical data firm Sportradar.
At 40 years old, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady threw for 505 yards, the second most in his storied career. That tied him for the 15th-most passing yards in any game in NFL history, and if he had converted a last-second Hail Mary pass, he would have broken Warren Moon and Matt Schaub’s NFL record of 527 set in 1990 and 2012, respectively.
Of course, Brady and the Patriots weren’t alone in setting the record. The Eagles offense played its part by steamrolling a vulnerable Patriots defense. Nick Foles threw for 373 yards and the Eagles rushed for 164.
“I felt calm,” Foles said. “I think the big thing that helped me was knowing that I didn’t have to be Superman.”
The Patriots defense was a pretty weak Lex Luthor. It allowed the most yards per drive of any team this season but was able to win thanks to its red-zone defense. Beginning in Week 6, the Patriots allowed opponents to score on only 64.5 percent of red-zone drives, the best mark in the NFL. But the Eagles gashed the bend-but-don’t-break wide open.
It was striking the Eagles exacted a significant amount of their damage from outside the red zone, defined as the area within 20 yards of the goal line. Alshon Jeffrey hauled in a 34-yard touchdown pass and to taunt the Patriots’ red-zone defensive percentages, LeGarrette Blount had a 21-yard touchdown run and Corey Clement had a 22-yard touchdown reception. The Patriots’ red zone defense can’t affect you if you score from outside the red zone.
“I think we were just so aggressive as a team and we wanted to stay aggressive,” Philadelphia running back Jay Ajayi said. “We didn’t want to take our foot off the gas pedal.”
Neither did the Patriots, and there was enough gas in the tank to take this game farther than any before it.