Tom Brady strutted into U.S. Bank Stadium in a stylish trench coat and dark shades, looking as if he were about to audition for a James Bond remake. On his way out of Super Bowl LII, Brady appeared less like an action hero and much more like a man who needed a stiff drink or three. He was staggering down a hallway wearing his game pants and a light hoodie, his sweat-soaked hair mussed and his eye black smudged. He cut through a curtain, took his seat for a news conference and tried to explain how a man could throw for a playoff-record 505 yards at age 40 and still feel miserable about it. Brady said: “Losing sucks. If you want to be world champs, you have to play in this game”. If you’re going to win five Super Bowl titles by a combined 19 points, you’re going to get burned, too. You’re going to play 60 minutes without punting the ball even once, and you’re going to connect with three receivers — Danny Amendola, Chris Hogan and Rob Gronkowski — for more than 100 yards apiece, and you’re still going to feel as gutted as your Patriots felt a decade ago when the New York Giants derailed a 19-0 season with a series of wild and crazy plays. Without Julian Edelman all season and without Brandin Cooks (head injury) for most of the final three quarters, Brady erased a 10-point deficit Sunday night and gave New England its first lead with his third touchdown pass of the second half, a 4-yarder to Gronkowski, with 9 minutes, 22 seconds to play. But two second-string quarterbacks on the other side, Nick Foles and his head coach, Doug Pederson, were reveling in the biggest night of their football lives, too. On fourth-and-goal near the end of the first half, Pederson ran a successful flea-flicker pass to Foles, who had never caught an NFL throw. Better yet, Pederson ran the play after Belichick had tried a flea-flicker pass to Brady, who dropped the ball despite the fact his previously injured right hand was no longer taped up. Pederson went for it again on fourth-and-1 at his own 45 after Brady’s go-ahead touchdown, and Carson Wentz’s body double, Foles, honored his coach’s faith. Seven plays later, Foles found Zach Ertz for a lead the Eagles wouldn’t surrender. Brady took the field with 2:21 to play, a timeout and the two-minute warning in his hip pocket. Everyone had seen this movie before, over and over and over. As the greatest quarterback of all time, Brady was going to drive the Patriots down the field, win the game and break his tie with Bart Starr for most NFL titles. He hadn’t been sacked all night, as the GOAT of offensive line coaches and soon-to-be-70-year-old Dante Scarnecchia had done a masterful job scheming against Philly’s deep and dangerous front. But on the second snap, that impenetrable Patriots’ wall finally caved. The Eagles’ Brandon Graham rushed hard and reached in with his left hand to knock the ball out of Brady’s grip and into the arms of Derek Barnett. Philadelphia’s only sack and New England’s only turnover of the night left Brady sitting on his rump, incredulous over what had just happened and hoping against hope that the Tuck Rule would save him the way it did that snowy night in Foxborough 16 years ago when the dynasty was born. The Eagles erupted in celebration of their first Super Bowl victory, and their first NFL title since 1960, while Brady and Belichick assumed the role of gracious losers as somebody else’s confetti fell around them. It would’ve been nice to beat the Eagles for a third title in four seasons, 13 years after Brady accomplished that very thing. He thought it was going to happen, too. On his way out for pregame warm-ups, Brady ran into his former teammate and new Hall of Famer, Randy Moss, and screamed in his face, “Let’s go … Let’s go.” Brady arrived at U.S. Bank Stadium a proud and fierce defending champ, and exited the building a broken man. Losing sucks.
Whenever there is sadness on one end there is joy and celebration on the other. The Super Bowl MVP, Nick Foles said: “I wasn’t worrying about the scoreboard, I wasn’t worrying about the time, I was just playing ball. Sometimes you start worrying about that so much that it starts creeping into your brain. Whatever play (head coach) Doug (Pederson) called, I was going to go out there and rip it. That was our mindset going into this. We had to play a strong 60 minutes, and it took 60 minutes to win this game”. The best thing the Eagles did with Foles was continue to believe in him. Pederson already knew Foles was a gifted deep-ball thrower. What the coach also discovered was that the quarterback was just as comfortable with read-pass options. Even when Foles was struggling at the end of the regular season, he knew the coaches were adding more plays that suited his strengths. He just had to be ready when the critical moments arrived, because there was something obviously magical about this Eagles team. That mindset is what endeared him to his teammates. Eagles tight end Zach Ertz praised his teammate: “The stage was never too big for him. He did the same thing that we expected him to do tonight. To get into a shootout against [Brady] is probably not ideal for anyone ever. That guy is the best guy to ever play the game, and that team is phenomenal”. In fact, Foles has been on such a strong run during the postseason that one reporter asked him after the game when he knew a Super Bowl victory might be a possibility. He said he never allowed himself to think that far ahead. Foles went firther: “I was really staying in the moment. This was always the outcome and the goal. But I feel like if you put it on a pedestal, you start forgetting to do the little things — the preparation, the practice. You start forcing balls because you’re trying to play at a [certain] level. When this became reality is when we won the NFC Championship Game. I wasn’t worrying about the next day. I was worrying about the moment, and that is what I was doing today — doing everything in the moment to be successful. And the outcome was that we were world champs”. Foles added that he savored his time after the game with his wife, Tori, and daughter, Lily. Along with his deep religious faith, his family was one of the foundations that kept him moving when his career was careening toward a likely dead end. Few people saw Foles ever having a shot to be a starting quarterback in the NFL again. It’s hard to think a month ago anybody was betting on him standing at the Super Bowl MVP podium.