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After watching the Philadelphia Eagles score a touchdown on fourth down near the end of the first half, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots came out firing to start the second half of the 2018 Super Bowl at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Upstaged by Eagles quarterback Nick Foles catching the touchdown to help put his Patriots in a 22-12 hole, Brady peppered Rob Gronkowski with targets to start the third quarter in what wound up as a 29-26 advantage for the Eagles heading into the final frame.
Gronkowski had been quiet for most of the night before Justin Timberlake’s halftime performance. Halftime adjustments, though, clearly emphasized getting the league’s best tight end involved:
We have a @RobGronkowski TOUCHDOWN. You know what that means… GRONK SPIKE. #SBLII #NotDone https://t.co/YtRn2DlfY6
NFL Research emphasized how adjustments got the dynamic duo going:
NFL Research @NFLResearch
Tom Brady when targeting Rob Gronkowski in #SBLII First 6 attempts: 1/6, 9 passing yards, 39.6 passer rating Last 4 attempts: 4/4, 68 passing yards, 1 TD, 158.3 passer rating (perfect passer rating)
The touchdown helped close the game to a 22-19 advantage for the Eagles, putting the pressure on Foles and coaching adjustments to stay in front of a team known for Super Bowl comebacks.
Granted, the Patriots defense didn’t look like it was a unit known for comebacks. Philadelphia’s first drive was mostly strong running by LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi, who didn’t have problems bruising through noticeable consistent missed tackles.
It seemed like a bend-and-eventually-break drive for the Patriots, which looked to ring true on a dart from Foles to rookie Corey Clement for a touchdown—pending a review.
Given the controversy surrounding the catch rule all season, it’s easy to see why millions held tight with bated breath as this one went to the officials for a decision:
Nick Foles with the absolute DIME! #SBLII https://t.co/xVaZmET7Y0
The call on the field ended up correct after review, though, putting the Eagles back up by 10 points after the extra point, 29-19.
Another real-time angle made the play by a rookie on a huge stage all the more impressive:
The @Eagles go back up by 10! #FlyEaglesFly #SBLII https://t.co/sZkPCvkWp4
Also impressive? Brady carving up the Eagles on the very next drive, swapping out the Gronkowski emphasis for a Chris Hogan emphasis, which ended in another touchdown to help bring it back 29-26 in favor of the Eagles.
The touchdown itself seemed routine enough:
TB12 finds @ChrisHogan_15 for the @Patriots TOUCHDOWN! #SBLII #NotDone https://t.co/BJ6wZwts0g
More impressive were the numbers, with Brady sitting on 404 yards over 19 completions. Put another way, Brady made history a year ago, made a little with that touchdown pass and could one-up himself over the final frame, as illustrated by ESPN Stats & Info:
ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo
Tom Brady is now the first QB in Super Bowl history with multiple 400-yard games. Last year, Brady set a single-game Super Bowl record with 466 passing yards. https://t.co/nNwyGU6LwJ
In a credit to Philadelphia’s coaching staff, though, Foles moved the Eagles right down the field yet again on the next drive, displaying some accuracy reminiscent of MVP contender and starter Carson Wentz:
.@NFoles_9 to @nelsonagholor for a gain of 24! #SBLII #FlyEaglesFly https://t.co/AcjhllzLlb
The Eagles didn’t get to finish the potential scoring drive before the third quarter ended, but at 29-26 and both quarterbacks dealing, it was quite apparent the two could be on the way to an all-time classic ending.
Stats courtesy of NFL.com.