Mark Craig’s Five Extra Points
1. Did the NFL avoid ‘catch’ rule controversy?
You have to wonder. Especially during a season in which so much time, energy and utter confusion have been spent discussing what is and isn’t a catch. Did the NFL take the easy way out during a replay review in Sunday’s Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium? Did it rule that Corey Clement’s 22-yard TD catch for the Eagles on third down was indeed a catch just to avoid the general outrage that would have ensued if it had ruled that the ball moved a tick or two as Clement was going through the back of the end zone with 7:18 left in the third quarter? Based on some of the overturned catches I’ve seen this season, the catch should have been overturned because it was moving slightly.
2. Pederson call is best Super Bowl trick
Eagles coach Doug Pederson called the best Super Bowl trick play I can remember seeing. On fourth-and-goal from the 1 with 40 seconds left in the first half, Nick Foles moved from the shotgun to right H-back. Clement took a direct snap, pitched to tight end Trey Burton going to his right. Burton threw to a wide-open Foles for a touchdown and a 22-12 halftime lead. Pederson might be the most aggressive coach in the league. And he didn’t choke on the big stage against Bill Belichick. He made a mistake going for two midway through the second quarter, but he more than made up for it at the goal line.
3. Brady drop fuels Eagles’ fire
This Tom Brady fella never will make the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a receiver. The Patriots trailed 9-3 and were facing third-and-5 from the Eagles 35 early in the second quarter. Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels called a reverse pass to … Brady? Actually, it was a stunning call that should have worked. The 40-year-old quarterback, playing with a glove on his left hand and possessing a recently injured right hand, was understandably wide open. But Danny Amendola’s pass bounced off Brady’s hands. The Patriots went for it on fourth down. Brady was knocked down on a five-man rush while throwing incomplete deep. The Eagles turned that into a 65-yard TD drive.
4. Big, um, guts
Man, Pederson has no fear. With 6:26 left in the game, the Patriots made one of this game’s rare third-down stops. Linebacker Kyle Van Noy pressured Foles up the middle, forcing a quick throw to Torrey Smith on third-and-1 at the Eagles 45. Safety Devin McCourty swooped in and made a stop for 1 yard. Knowing his team would never survive punting while trailing by a point at that time, Pederson went for it on fourth down. Foles completed a 2-yard pass to Zach Ertz. Seven plays later, the Eagles took the lead for good.
5. No opening jitters for this RPO QB
The Patriots won the coin toss and deferred. Perfect scenario for a Super Bowl veteran team. Force the backup quarterback, Foles, to start the game with a full belly’s worth of butterflies. Only it didn’t start that way. Pederson, king of the run-pass option (RPO), called two straight passes to get Foles settled in. Foles then completed a 17-yard pass on third-and-4, and the Eagles were off. Foles completed another third-and-12 with a 15-yard completion. The Eagles would have scored a TD, but Ertz false-started on second-and-goal at the 2. That’s a big problem against the Patriots, who ranked fourth in red-zone defense. The Eagles settled for a 25-yard field goal. Working the run-pass option efficiently, Foles completed six of nine passes for 61 yards while mixing in four runs.