Super Bowl LII brought us one of the most explosive offensive showdowns in NFL playoff history, and of all the ways that could have turned out, Nick Foles and the Eagles outdueled Tom Brady and the Patriots. Philadelphia finally won its Super Bowl, the fans went wild, and another NFL season was put on the books. Before we move on to conversations about the NFL Draft and other sports, however, it feels necessary to recap some of the craziest things that happened in a wild, dramatic game.
1. Brandin Cooks Took A (Legal) Helmet-to-Helmet Hit
We’ll start with this because it’s probably the most important thing that happened in the Super Bowl, even if it’s not fun to talk about. Heading into this game, talk about the NFL’s concussion problem seemed to be at an all-time high. There were articles written about why we continue to watch football when we know the players are sustaining brain injuries, and there was even talk in detailed game previews that Rob Gronkowski’s concussion could be a factor. The Patriots star sustained a hit to the head in the AFC Championship game and though he was cleared to play there were more than a few questions about whether he ought to have been.
It wasn’t Gronkowski that wound up having issues with this sort of thing during the game, but seemingly inevitably there was a concussion. Another Patriots star, wide receiver Brandin Cooks, took a brutal helmet-to-helmet hit and was ruled out for the rest of the game. The trouble, and what made it crazy, was that the hit was ruled legal simply because Cooks had established himself as a runner after a catch. This kind of technicality is frankly absurd when player safety is already such an issue, and it ought to be dealt with during the offseason.
2. Malcolm Butler Was Benched
Malcolm Butler is one of the Patriots’ best defensive players – and for that matter one who’s helped them win a Super Bowl before. And for seemingly no reason at all, he was suddenly benched for the Super Bowl. Head coach Bill Belichick made a vague remark about making the decisions he needed to for his team to win. Butler himself said he had no idea what had happened, and that the team had given up on him. Huh?
This would have been a crazy decision by an all-time great coach even if we just saw it on paper before the game. What made it completely insane was that the Patriots’ other cornerbacks got absolutely torched the entire game. Eric Rowe, who started in Butler’s place and played most of the game, allowed six catches for 79 yards. The others in the secondary didn’t do much better. Butler indicated after the game that he could have changed the outcome, and he’s probably right.
3. Nick Foles Caught A Touchdown
At one point in this game the Patriots reached into their bag of tricks and tried a play out of the shotgun resulting in two handoffs and a pass attempt to a (slowly) streaking Tom Brady. The play worked like a charm, but for the fact that the ball was thrown just a few inches too far and Brady’s outstretched fingertips were unable to make the catch. Just a short time later, the Eagles decided to get cheeky and run more or less the exact same play – only theirs was in the red zone and resulted in Nick Foles catching a touchdown. It was undoubtedly the play that will get talked about most from Super Bowl LII, and it was wild.
4. Tom Brady Fumbled Late
When Tom Brady gets the ball back and has a chance to win the game, you assume he’s going to win the game. That’s an enormous credit to the Patriots’ 21st century-long dynasty and the greatness of Brady himself, even if people are tired of acknowledging it. The fact that New England overcame the biggest deficit in Super Bowl history just last year only added to the feeling that no lead against them is safe, even late in the game.
So, when the Eagles took the lead and Brady got the ball back with a little over two minutes to go, it looked like we were watching a familiar script play out. The Eagles had left too much time on the clock and Brady would be able to do his thing. But that’s just not how it played out this time, and at this point that’s thoroughly unexpected. Seemingly before the drive could even get started Brady’s pocket collapsed and the ball was knocked out of his hand for a clear fumble, which Philly recovered.
5. Eli Manning Stole The Show
Leave it to Eli Manning and the Giants to upstage the Patriots in a Super Bowl. Despite the fact that the Giants had a deeply disappointing 2017 season and weren’t in the playoffs to spoil the party for Brady and Co. on the field, Manning and his leading wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. made their presence felt. The two starred in a Dirty Dancing spoof that’s widely being labeled as the best ad of the Super Bowl (though it’s hard to argue against the Doritos/Mountain Dew double ad featuring Peter Dinklage and Morgan Freeman). It was a terrific ad, and one that brought a dose of levity to the occasion.