Kevin Gorman's Take 5: Five thoughts on Super Bowl LII
1. The NFL (finally) got it right: How appropriate that the go-ahead score to decide Super Bowl LII came on a play that has been at the center of controversy, one that previously worked in the New England Patriots' favor but this time came back to bite them.
When Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz dived into the end zone, only to see the ground force the ball into the air before it landed back in his hands, the NFL had to confront its complete-the-catch rule. It was reminiscent of the play cost the Steelers a last-minute touchdown against the Patriots on Dec. 17 at Heinz Field, when a review ruled that Jesse James' touchdown catch did not survive the ground.
As NBC's Al Michaels said, "You know, I'm sure in Pittsburgh they're going, 'Are you kidding me? If they called Jesse James' back, what are they going to do with this one?'"
When Cris Collinsworth responded, "I cannot wait for them to change this rule," Michaels finished the sentence by saying, "Hopefully, by the end of this game. You knew the catch, no-catch thing was going to rear its ugly head before the end of this game."
This time, Ertz was ruled to have completed the catch, making a football play and turning himself into a runner who scored once the ball crossed the plane of the goal line.
This time, the officials got it right.
2. Steratore stumbles at start, finishes strong: How appropriate that the referee to relay that, upon review, the call on the field stood was none other than Washington's Gene Steratore .
Steratore got off to a rocky start in his first Super Bowl, botching the introduction of the honorary captain at the coin toss, Cpl. Hershel "Woody" Williams, a Medal of Honor recipient for his heroics at Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II. Steratore called him Willie Williams and Cpl. Wilson.
Blame that on nerves.
Steratore and his crew were solid in the game, calling only seven penalties for 40 yards. Rob Gronkowski drew the Patriots' first flag of the postseason, for a false start in the first half.
But Steratore was the referee for games in which the catch rule was controversial, those involving Calvin Johnson and Dez Bryant, so he must be relieved to have been involved in one that wasn't overturned.
3. Backups best Belichick, Brady: How appropriate that Tom Brady broke his own Super Bowl record with 505 passing yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, but the Super Bowl LII MVP honors went to Eagles quarterback Nick Foles instead.
Foles, the backup until Carson Wentz suffered a season-ending knee injury, was nothing short of brilliant in completing 28 of 43 passes for 373 yards and three touchdowns, with one interceptionthe.
Collinsworth made a great observation: "Doug Pederson, a career backup quarterback, had his backup quarterback in the game, and he called those plays with such guts, like he was calling them for himself."
But it was the catch that Foles made an Brady didn't that made a difference in the game. Where Brady dropped a throw from Danny Amendola that went off his fingertips, Foles caught a fourth-and-goal pass from tight end Trey Burton, a former Florida quarterback, for a touchdown late in the second quarter.
What was amazing is that Foles executed the same play at Westlake High School in Travis County, Texas.
4. Defense (kind of) wins championships: How appropriate that in a game in which the teams set not only a Super Bowl record but modern-day NFL record with 1,151 yards (613 for the Patriots, 537 for the Eagles), the play that might have decided the game was a strip sack.
Sure, Ertz gave the Eagles the lead. But Brady is magical in the fourth quarter, owning 11 career postseason comback victories, including five in Super Bowls. So, no lead was safe with 2:21 remaining.
When the game was on the line, the Eagles' defense came up big. Brandon Graham got a strip sack of Brady that was recovered by rookie Derek Barnett. That set up rookie Jake Elliott's 46-yard field goal for a 41-33 lead with 1:05 remaining.
The Patriots still had a chance, but this was going to require more than magic.
They needed a miracle, and their Hail Mary fell incomplete in the end zone.
5. Pittsburgh roots for Philly: How appropriate that in a pick-your-poison Super Bowl, Pittsburghers could revel in a Philadelphia team winning a world championship. The rivalry between Penguins and Flyers fans is intense, and Pirates-Phillies once was spirited and even Pitt fans despised Villanova, simply for Scottie Reynolds.
But the Eagles hadn't registered much on the Steelers' radar.
Philadelphians finally ended their five-decade drought for a Super Bowl championship. By preventing the Patriots from tying the Steelers with six Lombardi trophies, many Pittsburghers were pulling for them.
This. Is. Amazing.Five stories up, some students at the Merriam Theater of the Arts just broke out some brass intruments and led Broad Street in the Eagles' fight song pic.twitter.com/PdksYCxNQR— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) February 5, 2018
Even if, aside from that video, Philly's celebration was mostly inappropriate.
Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.