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Super Bowl LII recap: Eagles pull off upset in thrilling offensive battle

Nick Foles and the Eagles won the Super Bowl. Eagles.com

We were treated to a good old fashioned chess match. A classic contrast of styles/specialties between New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson in the Eagles 41-33 win. The all-time great defensive guru Belichick versus the second year offensive wiz kid Pederson. But let’s be honest. Who saw a combined 1,100 plus yards and 70 plus points?

The game started off with both teams using the short/intermediate pass game and traded field goals after neither could punch it in. Alshon Jeffrey then put Eric Rowe on the next segment of “You Got Moss-ed” with a 34-yard touchdown catch to put the Eagles up 9-3; the extra point was missed wide right, a common theme. The Eagles scored again after the teams exchanged possessions with a 21-yard touchdown run by ex-Patriot LeGarrette Blount, but the two-point conversion failed, making it 15-3 now. The Patriots ensuing drive was jump-started by a 46-yard gain on a screen pass from Tom Brady to Rex Burkhead. Not much happened after that and they settled for a field goal, 15-6. Jeffrey was on the verge of another highlight reel grab when he batted the ball back in the air and it was intercepted by Duron Harmon. Brady went Brady on the 90-yard touchdown drive that followed the pick. The extra point was missed, making it 15-12. However, the Eagles scored after getting the ball back with one of the greatest play calls in Super Bowl history. On 4th & Goal from the 1-yard line, Pederson called a direct snap reverse pass to quarterback Nick Foles for a touchdown. The huevos it took to call that play at that moment in time is legendary. We finally saw an extra point made for a 22-12 Eagles lead. This all took place in the first half, for goodness sake.

The second half was even more exciting. It opened with Brady leading the Pats on a 75-yard drive in which he an Rob Gronkowski hooked up for 4 catches and 68 of those yards to draw within three at 22-19. Foles wasn’t going to let Brady upstage him as he lead the Eagles on an 11 play, 85-yard drive capped off by a great 22-yard touchdown catch by running back Corey Clement.  The Pats went on yet another 75-yard touchdown drive to punch back and come back within three at 29-26. The Eagles responded with a field goal to go up 32-26. This is where we expected the Pats to take control. They answered the call with their third consecutive 75-yard touchdown drive to go up 33-32 as Gronk scored his second touchdown of the game. Pederson showed his dice-rolling style as the Eagles went for it on 4th & 1 from their own 45-yard line on the ensuing drive. They capped it off with a Zach Ertz 11-yard touchdown catch which was reviewed since the catch “didn’t survive the ground” as this year’s point of emphasis proclaimed. However, he was ruled a runner and it didn’t matter because the ball crossed the plain and now they’re up 38-33 following a failed two-point conversion. Here’s another spot for Brady to do Brady things. Unfortunately for Patriots fans, the Eagles’ stud pass rusher Brandon Graham had other plans as he strip-sacked Brady, then rookie end Derrick Barnett recovered. The Eagles used the short field, and a shade over a minute of clock, to add a field goal to go up 41-33 with 1:05 left in the game. The Eagles pass rush came out to play on the final drive as they harassed Brady into several incompletions, tough throws, and a failed Hail Mary attempt as time ran out.

Bonus Observations

-Brady threw for 505 yards because the Eagles secondary is only as good as their pass rush. When the pass rush got to Brady, they secured the Lombardi Trophy.

-I stated in my preview that the Eagles needed to harass Brady, keep the short/intermediate pass game in check, and run the ball if they had a shot at winning. They harassed Brady when it mattered most, stopped the short/intermediate routes on final drive, and totaled 164 yards on the ground.

-When Brandin Cooks went out with an apparent concussion, I think the Patriot’s gameplan was altered. He had more 20 plus yard catches this season than any Patriots player in team history, including newly elected Hall Of Famer Randy Moss. Gronk missing most of the AFC title game may have affected their play-calling, but Cooks stretches the field and is a homerun threat every time he touches the ball.

-Malcolm Butler went from Super Bowl hero three years ago to special teams bench rider in this Super Bowl. Sure Eric Rowe is a good corner, but to give up on Butler in the biggest game of the year was odd. He will most likely leave via free agency. Foles threw for 373 yards. I’m not saying he would have dramatically cut that number, but with the amount of man to man defense the Pats played, they could’ve used one of their best man cover guys.

I thoroughly enjoyed this game. People asked me for the last two weeks who do I think will win or who do I want to win. I’d respond by pointing to my preview article and saying all I want is a good game. Prisoners of the moment will call this one of the best Super Bowls ever. Let them have it because this was in fact one of the best.

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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