MINNEAPOLIS — The stage was set for another dramatic Super Bowl comeback for Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.
That’s when Brandon Graham delivered one of the few defensive highlights in the most prolific offensive game in NFL history, ripping the ball out of Brady’s hands for a fumble that gave the Philadelphia Eagles their first Super Bowl title in franchise history with a 41-33 victory on Sunday night.
Rookie Derek Barnett recovered the loose ball and Eagles fans began celebrating their first title since winning the 1960 NFL championship in what proved to be a surprise ending.
Brady had made the late-game comeback a specialty in winning a record five Super Bowl titles, including last year’s rally from 28-3 down to beat Atlanta in overtime. He also led late game-winning scoring drives to beat the Rams, Carolina and Seattle.
The Eagles showed no sign of slowing Brady down on Sunday as he threw for a playoff-record 505 yards and three touchdowns, carving up the defense at will on a night when the Patriots did not punt once or turn it over until Brady’s late fumble with New England on its 33 with just more than two minutes remaining and poised for a comeback.
That’s when Graham beat Shaq Mason off the line and reached his left hand out for Brady just before he was set to throw. Graham knocked the ball loose and Barnett landed on it in what will go down as one of the most memorable plays in Philadelphia history.
“We said we needed a play,” Graham said. “If we got one more opportunity, we’re going to give everything we’ve got and I just so happened to get there.”
The fumble set up a field goal that gave the Eagles an eight-point lead and then the game ended when Brady’s desperation heave for Gronkowski in the end zone fell to the turf, sending green and white confetti to the field, emotional Eagles pouring out on the field and Brady on the ground in frustration.
The Eagles defense had offered little resistance for the first 57 minutes as the Patriots moved the ball on every drive, getting stopped only on a missed field goal by Stephen Gostkowski and a failed fourth-down attempt one play after Brady dropped a pass from Danny Amendola on a trick play.
But the Patriots had scored three straight touchdowns to open the second half to take their first lead of the game at 33-32 and still were in position to win after Nick Foles gave the Eagles a 38-33 lead on a TD pass to Zach Ertz.
Graham and the defense made sure it wouldn’t happen, giving a defensive exclamation point in a game that featured a record 1,151 yards of offense by both teams, including 613 for the Patriots.