We’d seen this dance before. Too many times to recall, in fact.

So when the New England Patriots fell behind the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII, there wasn’t too much concern. Time and again Bill Belichick has made the adjustments, Tom Brady has refocused and the Patriots have found their rhythm.

It happened in each of their last Super Bowl victories, over the Seattle Seahawks and the Atlanta Falcons, when New England rallied in the fourth quarter each time to grasp victory from defeat.

But something was different Sunday night.

The Eagles were the team who rallied late, pulling out a 41-33 win. It was their first Super Bowl victory in a game that shattered offensive records and kept viewers entertained from start to finish.

The Patriots were the ones making curious coaching decisions Sunday night, from cornerback Malcolm Butler – New England’s second-best cover man – standing on the sideline the whole game because of a coach’s decision. All the while, the Patriots’ defense was shredded by Philadelphia quarterback Nick Foles, the Super Bowl MVP. “I made the decision to give our team the best chance to win,” Belichick said of Butler in a halftime interview.


Really? Was he not watching the same game.

It was the Patriots coming this close to making a big play, only to see it slip away, as when Danny Amendola passed – yes passed – to a wide-open Tom Brady, who saw the ball flick off his fingertips.

This time there would be no sixth Vince Lombardi trophy coming back to Foxborough, no duck boat parade. Instead, the Eagles won the league championship for the first time since 1960, and the Patriots were saddled with their fifth Super Bowl loss, tying the Denver Broncos for most all-time.

The Eagles beat back the Patriots because they didn’t back down.

You can’t play timid. If you have to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1 just before the half, why not have your back-up tight end throw a touchdown pass to your quarterback, who was uncovered and didn’t miss the pass.

It was a gutsy decision simply to go for it on fourth down. It was a stupendous decision to throw the ball to your quarterback. But this is how you beat the Patriots.


You can’t wait for the breaks. You have to make them.

You can’t get caught up in the legends that are Brady and Belichick.

With the Patriots trailing 38-33, they got the ball back with 2:21 remaining at their 25. Three times in the second half New England had the ball. Three times Brady drove them 75 yards for touchdowns.

Yeah, this was one of those moments that Brady and the Patriots thrive in.

After an 8-yard pass to Rob Gronkowski on first down, Brady dropped back. He had the ball knocked out of his hand by Brandon Graham, recovered by Eagles’ end Derek Barnett.

A field goal made it 41-33, the Patriots getting the ball back with 58 seconds left at their 9 following another incredibly curious call on the kickoff, when Dion Lewis lateraled the ball to Rex Burkhead, losing yardage and valuable seconds.


One last Hail Mary pass by Brady from the Patriots 49 to Gronkowski in the end zone was batted away, and the Eagles – underdogs in every one of their post-season games because they lost their No.1 quarterback, Carson Wentz, to an injury – had the victory.

Stunning, yes. But fitting. In a game where the offenses set Super Bowl records, where Brady passed for over 500 yards and three Patriots receivers had over 100 receiving yards, it was the Eagles defense that made the play when it was most needed.

“We are world champs,” said Graham. “Everyone who doubted us, we are world champs.”

Who knows what will happen next for the Patriots? Heck, this could be the last hurrah of the greatest dynasty in NFL history.

Brady will be 41 next year. And even his pliable lifestyle can’t protect him forever.

Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is heading to the Indianapolis Colts to coach Andrew Luck. And defensive coordinator Matt Patricia is reportedly leaving to become the head coach of the Detroit Lions.


Beyond that, you know players will be leaving. New England has 15 unrestricted free agents, with some big decisions to be made.

Start with running back Dion Lewis, who has emerged as New England’s lead back, a powerful, elusive runner who is effective in the passing game, and Butler, who had the Super Bowl-winning defensive play against Seattle. That Butler didn’t play against the Eagles makes you think he’s already gone.

Wide receiver Danny Amendola, who plays his best when the moment is largest, is also a free agent. He’s taken pay cuts worth $10 million the last three years, an indication that he would probably be willing to return.

There are others – left tackle Nate Solder, Burkhead, special teams aces Matthew Slater, Brandon Bolden and Nate Ebner among them.

There’s a lot to think about.

But today, this morning, there’s only the hurt of another Super Bowl loss. And this one will linger.

“They’re all disappointing,” said Brady, who’s now lost three. “Losing sucks.”


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