Eagles fly to first Super Bowl win with memorable victory vs Patriots

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As their delirious fans sang their theme song and their owner lifted the Lombardi Trophy, the Philadelphia Eagles’ finally could breathe freely.

Yo, Philly, you really did beat Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in a thrilling Super Bowl that rewrote the offensive record book.

Nick Foles guided the drive of a lifetime, Zach Ertz made a bobbling touchdown catch that had to survive replay review, and an exhausted defense came up with not one but two stands in the final moments Sunday for a 41-33 victory. For the first time since 1960, the Eagles are NFL champions.

“Fly Eagles Fly,” indeed.

“We’ve played this game since we were little kids, we dreamed about this moment,” game MVP Foles said. “There’s plenty of kids watching this game right now dreaming about this moment and someday will be here.”

In a record-setting shootout between backup QB Foles and five-time champ Brady of the favored Patriots, Foles led a pressure-packed 75-yard drive to the winning touchdown, 11 yards to Ertz with 2:21 to go .

Then Brandon Graham strip-sacked Brady and Derek Barnett recovered, setting up rookie Jake Elliot’s 46-yard field goal for an 8-point lead.

Brady got his team to midfield, but his desperation pass fell to the ground in the end zone.

“For us, it was all about one stop we had to make. We went out here and made that one stop,” Graham said.

The underdog Eagles (16-3), even injured starting quarterback Carson Wentz, came bolting off the sideline in ecstasy while Brady sat on the ground, disconsolate.

It was the first Super Bowl title for Philadelphia (16-3), which went from 7-9 last season.

“If there’s a word (it’s) called everything,” Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said. “That’s what it means to Eagles fans everywhere. And for Eagles fans everywhere, this is for them.”

Super Bowl MVP Foles orchestrated the victory with the kind of drive NFL MVP Brady, a five-time champion, is known for. The drive covered 14 plays, including a fourth-down conversion.

“I felt calm. I mean, we have such a great group of guys, such a great coaching staff,” Foles said. “We felt confident coming in, and we just went out there and played football.”

The Eagles had to survive a video replay because ball pop into the air as Ertz crossed the goal line.

The touchdown stood — and so did thousands of green-clad Eagles fans who weren’t going to mind the frigid conditions outside US Bank Stadium once they headed out to celebrate. But not before a rousing rendition of “Fly Eagles Fly” reverberated throughout the stands once the trophy was presented to Lurie. Later, fans danced along with the “Gonna Fly Now,” the theme from “Rocky,” the city’s best-known fictional underdog.

The Patriots (15-4) seemed ready to take their sixth championship with Brady and coach Bill Belichick in eight Super Bowls. Brady threw for a game-record 505 yards and three TDs, hitting Rob Gronkowski for 4 yards before Stephen Gostkowski’s extra point gave New England its first lead, 33-32.

Then Foles made them forget Wentz — and least for now — with the gutsiest drive of his life.

“We couldn’t make a play to give the ball back to the offense,” Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore said.

Foles has been something of a journeyman in his six pro seasons, but he has been spectacular in four career playoff games. He finished 28 of 43 for 373 yards and three TDs.

The combined 1,151 yards were the most in any modern NFL game, and Brady’s 505 were the most in any playoff contest. The 40-year-old master finished 28 of 48 and picked apart the Eagles until the final two series.

It was such a wild game that Foles caught a touchdown pass , and Brady was on the opposite end of a Danny Amendola throw that went off his fingertips.

Eagles coach Doug Pederson brought home the championship in his second year in charge. Belichick is 5-3 in Super Bowls and his teams have only a plus-4 overall margin in those games.

So this one was in keeping with that trend: breathtaking and even a bit bizarre.

Brady and the Patriots looked ready for another comeback by opening the second half with a 75-yard touchdown drive. Gronkowski was unstoppable, grabbing four passes for 69 yards, including the 5-yard score.

Philly didn’t flinch, answering with a precise 75-yard march and three more third-down conversions; the Eagles were 10 for 16. The last was on Foles’ perfect pass to Clement over double coverage. The rookie’s reception was upheld by review, and the Eagles were back on top by 10.

Brady shrugged and, getting steadfast protection, connected with Chris Hogan from the 26 for another touchdown.

When all the Eagles could manage was Elliott’s 42-yarder for a 32-26 lead, it seemed inevitable the Patriots would go in front, then become the first repeat Super Bowl winner since they did it in the 2004 and ’05 games.

Foles, Ertz, and — at last — a revitalized defense said otherwise.

The weird image of Brady ambling downfield on a pass pattern came three plays after New England lost receiver Brandin Cooks to a concussion on a vicious but clean hit by Malcolm Jenkins in the second quarter. Amendola’s pass required an over-the-shoulder grab and the ball fell off Brady’s outstretched hands.

Brady got back to passing after a wild interception. Alshon Jeffery nearly made a spectacular catch near the Patriots’ goal line, only to juggle the ball into the air. Duron Harmon picked it off at the 10. Moments later, Brady was connecting with Chris Hogan for 42 yards.

James White broke several tackles with a brilliant 26-yard run and it was 15-12. That gave White seven touchdowns in his past three postseason games, including the overtime winner in last year’s Super Bowl.

But the Eagles still had 2:04 left in the half — and some more magic in their bag.

A short third-down throw to rookie Corey Clement on a circle route turned into a 55-yard explosion down to the Patriots 8. Philly got to the 1 and on fourth down, it was Foles’ turn to morph into a receiver.

He did better than Brady. On fourth down, Clement took a direct snap, pitched to tight end Trey Burton, and the former Florida QB hit an uncovered Foles. The Eagles were up 22-12 at halftime, the most points New England has allowed in the opening half of a Super Bowl under Belichick.

Each team started with 67-yard drives to field goals — New England had never scored a first-quarter point with Brady in a Super Bowl.

Each kicker later faltered, with Elliott missing the extra point, his fifth failed PAT this season, after Jeffery’s 34-yard touchdown. Then Gostkowski hit the left upright with a 26-yard field goal after holder Ryan Allen mishandled the snap. Gostkowski also missed an extra point.

When LeGarrette Blount, who won the title last season with the Patriots, scored on a 21-yard burst, Pederson went for 2, but the pass failed, making it 15-3.

The Eagles and Pederson brushed it off and stayed with their usual aggressive approach. Breathtakingly, it eventually paid off.

Eagles’ Fletcher Cox set for 1st taste of any Super Bowl

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) Fletcher Cox is playing in the first Super Bowl he’s seeing.

Or so he says.

The three-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle is a big reason why the Philadelphia Eagles are facing the New England Patriots next Sunday in Minneapolis for a chance to bring home the franchise’s first Vince Lombardi Trophy.

But the 27-year-old Cox isn’t much of a football fan. He insists he’s never even watched a Super Bowl.

Road to Super Bowl LII: Stream, start time, highlights and more

“I don’t watch sports,” Cox said. “You know that.”

If he spends the night getting in Tom Brady‘s face and helps the Eagles win their first NFL title since 1960, Cox may want to watch the highlights sometime.

First, all that matters is winning.

“We haven’t been talked about all year,” Cox said. “That’s our story. No one has been talking about the Eagles, the defense, or the offense. If you go back and look, we finished in the top five of a bunch of different categories. This team just keeps finding ways to win, and that’s our motto.”

Cox, the 12th overall pick in the 2012 draft, had 5+ sacks in 14 games, recovered two fumbles and returned one for a touchdown. He often faces two or three blockers, so that allows his teammates opportunities to make plays.

“Cox is as good as anybody in the league at his position,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “He’s a very disruptive player, hard to block, run, pass, no matter what it is.”

Earning praise from Belichick doesn’t come easy. Cox appreciates it.

“It’s a lot of respect from a coach like Belichick, a guy that’s been around, a guy that’s seen a lot of great players in this league,” he said. “For him to say that that means I obviously must be doing something right. But at the same time, I’ve got three other guys besides me that’s helping me push that limit, that’s helping me get that recognition and I want to do the same thing for those guys.”

The Eagles have plenty of depth on their defensive line. Ends Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry and tackle Tim Jernigan start along with Cox. Chris Long, Derek Barnett and Beau Allen also played at least 40 percent of the snaps.

“I wish it was just four (linemen),” Belichick said. “It’s a very disruptive group. They have some edge rushers, a good interior pass rush. They come hard every play. You have to block them on every play. There are no plays off. To deal with that front down after down, they wear you down. It’s a great group and a huge strength for their defense.”

Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has enough confidence in all the players to rotate them in and out for series at a time. Because they split reps, they still look fresh this late in the season. It showed in a pair of dominant performances against the Falcons and Vikings in the playoffs.

“To roll in that many guys and not see a drop-off, it’s great,” Cox said. “We’re pushing those guys to be on the same level as us.”

Cox knows harassing Brady is the key to success against the Patriots. The Giants sacked Brady five times in their stunning Super Bowl upset 10 years ago, spoiling New England’s perfect season.

Led by Cox and Graham, the Eagles generate a strong rush without having to blitz much. They’ll need to keep extra defenders in the secondary against Brady.

“It’s going to come down to the front four guys getting after the quarterback, making him uncomfortable in the pocket,” Cox said.

Easier said than done against Brady.

AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Follow Rob Maaddi on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AP-RobMaaddi

Cowboys beat playoff-bound Eagles 6-0

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) Healthy? Yes. Sharp? Not quite.

The Philadelphia Eagles are heading into the playoffs with no further injuries after playing it safe in a 6-0 loss to Dallas on Sunday.

Dak Prescott tossed a 20-yard touchdown pass to Brice Butler early in the fourth quarter and the Cowboys denied the Eagles a franchise-record 14th win.

Road to Super Bowl LII: Stream, start time, highlights and more

The Eagles (13-3) rested several starters on a frigid day and played others briefly after securing the NFC’s No. 1 seed last week. They’ll have two weeks to work on a slumping offense before hosting a playoff game on Jan. 13 or 14.

“I’m not concerned,” coach Doug Pederson said. “I have confidence in our guys.”

Nick Foles struggled in one quarter, going 4 of 11 for 39 yards with one interception. Foles was excellent in his first start after Carson Wentz went down for the season, tossing four TD passes in a 34-29 win at the Giants on Dec. 17. But he has followed up with two poor performances.

“I feel great and I know what I can do,” Foles said. “I know the guys are confident in me. We expect to execute better. This wasn’t acceptable. We know how talented we can be. We can do special stuff.”

Second-year pro Nate Sudfeld replaced Foles and was 19 of 23 for 134 yards in his first career game. He was tackled inside the 5 after catching a lateral on a desperation play to end the game.

“Pretty solid for the most part in terms of efficiency and everything,” Sudfeld said. “But I felt there were some plays that we weren’t able to finish.”

The Cowboys (9-7) earned their second straight winning season for the first time since five in a row from 2005-09. That’s little consolation for Dallas, which was eliminated from playoff contention in Week 16.

“I’m sad the season is over,” Ezekiel Elliott said. “I wish we were playing in the playoffs. I’m going to use that as fuel for next year.”

The Cowboys drove 99 yards for the first score. A holding penalty on Rasul Douglas on an incomplete pass on third down extended the drive and Prescott connected with Butler on a slant on third-and-7. Dan Bailey hooked the extra point wide left, only his second career miss in 278 tries.

Bailey also missed a 23-yard field goal wide left with 13 seconds remaining.

Elliott ran for 103 yards, falling 17 short of 1,000 in only 10 games. He was the first player to reach 100 against the Eagles since Washington’s Matt Jones ran for 135 yards in Week 6 last year.

The teams were 0 for 12 on third and fourth down before the Cowboys converted on third down late in the second quarter. The Eagles got their first third-down conversion midway through the third quarter. Sudfeld then ran 22 yards on another third down and the crowd roared.

Philadelphia’s best drive with Foles was the game opener. The Eagles drove to the Cowboys 39 before Torrey Smith dropped a pass on third-and-7. Foles was hurried and threw an incomplete pass on fourth down.

Foles underthrew Alshon Jeffery and was picked by Chidobe Awuzie at the Cowboys 48 on Philadelphia’s third possession. It was Awuzie’s first career interception. The offense went three-and-out on the first unit’s fourth and final series.

DEZ SAYS

“Wherever they want me to be,” Dez Bryant said when asked about his expected role for next year. “I just want to win. That’s all I care about.”

SCORELESS HALF

This was the first NFL game to be 0-0 at halftime since the Bears-Broncos in Week 14 of 2011. It was the first time in a Cowboys-Eagles game since the series began in 1960.

LAYERING UP

Eagles P Donnie Jones ran onto the field for a punt with his warmup pants still on and had to rip them off before the snap. He pinned the Cowboys inside the 5 with his punt and later placed one at the 1.

SID’S DEBUT

Eagles rookie CB Sidney Jones, a second-round pick, played his first game. Jones ruptured his Achilles tendon before the draft.

RESTING UP

Five of Philadelphia’s defensive starters – LB Nigel Bradham, DE Brandon Graham, DT Tim Jernigan, S Rodney McLeod, CB Jalen Mills – and one regular – DE Derek Barnett – were inactive. DT Fletcher Cox and S Malcolm Jenkins played one series. RB Jay Ajayi also was inactive.

INJURIES

Cowboys: Awuzie left the game with a shoulder injury.

Eagles: Graham (ankle) and Mills would’ve played if the game mattered.

UP NEXT

Eagles: A first-round bye followed by a home playoff game on Jan. 13 or 14.

Follow Rob Maaddi on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AP-RobMaaddi

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL