PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It’s come down to this. Two teams. One, the New England Patriots (15-3), going for a NFL record-tying sixth Super Bowl championship; the other, the Philadelphia Eagles (15-3), still searching for their first.
On Sunday, Feb. 4, the Eagles and the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots will meet in Super Bowl LII (6:30 PM ET, NBC) at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Super Bowl LII will feature the No. 1 seed in each conference – the NFC champion Eagles against the AFC champion Patriots. It also marks a rematch of Super Bowl XXXIX when New England defeated Philadelphia 24-21 on February 6, 2005 in Jacksonville.
This is the third Super Bowl in which each team ranked in the top five in both points scored and fewest points allowed (Super Bowls IV and XIII). The Eagles were third in points scored (28.57 points per game) and fourth in points against (18.4) while the Patriots ranked second in points scored (28.63) and fifth in points against (18.5).
The Eagles earned a berth in the Super Bowl with a 38-7 win over Minnesota in the NFC Championship Game. Philadelphia, which scored 38 unanswered points in the win over the Vikings, became the third team to head to a Super Bowl on a scoring run of at least 38 points.
Philadelphia advanced to the Super Bowl for the third time in franchise history (1980 and 2004) and the Eagles are looking for the team’s first Super Bowl title. Philadelphia will be playing for its fourth NFL championship (1948, 1949 and 1960) and will be playing in its seventh NFL championship.
The Eagles, led by second-year head coach Doug Pederson, tied a franchise record with 13 regular-season wins (2004) and earned the No. 1 seed in the NFC for the fourth time since 2002. The Eagles, who completed a “worst-to-first” turnaround, are the first team since the 2009 New Orleans Saints to win its division the season after finishing in or tied for last place and advance to the Super Bowl.
“It’s a tremendous feeling to be going to the Super Bowl,” says Pederson, the Maxwell Club 2017 Greasy Neale Professional Coach of the Year winner. “I love coaching this football team. I love coaching these players. The thing about this team is that despite all the adversity that surrounds the team, these guys don’t listen to that. I don’t listen to that. They come to work and practice hard every day. They love being around each other. One of our goals was to be the NFC champions and represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. And now we’ve got our work cut out for us. We’re going to the Super Bowl and we still have some unfinished business ahead of us.”
Eagles’ quarterback Nick Foles completed 26 of 33 passes (78.8 percent) for 352 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions for a 141.4 passer rating in the NFC Championship. Foles is the only quarterback in NFL history to record a 100+ passer rating in each of his first three career postseason starts (minimum 20 attempts per game). In this year’s postseason, he has completed 49 of 63 passes (77.8 percent) for 598 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions for a 122.1 passer rating.
Foles, who has taken over for injured Pro Bowl quarterback Carson Wentz is only the fourth quarterback in the Super Bowl era to win two postseason games after making three or fewer starts in the regular season. The other three quarterbacks to accomplish the feat are Doug Williams (1987 Redskins), Jeff Hostetler (1990 Giants) and Frank Reich (1992 Bills). Reich currently serves as Philadelphia’s offensive coordinator.
Eagles’ running back LeGarrette Blount, who has rushed for a touchdown in both playoff games this season, has 10 rushing TDs in his postseason career, the most among active players. Running back Jay Ajayi has led the team in rushing in both of the club’s postseason victories. The Eagles ranked third in the NFL this season averaging 132.2 rushing yards per game.
Philadelphia wide receiver Alshon Jeffery had two touchdown receptions in the NFC Championship Game and wide receiver Torrey Smith added one touchdown catch. Eagles’ tight end Zach Ertz led the team with eight receptions and 93 receiving yards against the Vikings. Foles became the first quarterback in NFL history with completions of at least 40 yards to three different receivers in a single postseason game – Jeffery (53 yards), Nelson Agholor (42) and Smith (41). Additionally, Foles connected with Ertz on a 36-yard pass play.
Eagles’ cornerback Patrick Robinson had a 50-yard interception-return touchdown in the NFC Championship Game, his first career postseason interception. Philadelphia rookie defensive end Derek Barnett, the team’s first-round selection in the 2017 NFL Draft (No. 14 overall), had a sack and forced fumble, which was recovered by defensive end Chris Long.
Long and Blount were both members of last season’s New England team which won Super Bowl LI.
“We have great players and coaches in this locker room and I knew we’d be able to compete for this,” says Long. “We’ve earned this opportunity but that’s all it is. We still have a lot of work to do.”
Philadelphia had six players selected to the 2018 Pro Bowl: guard Brandon Brooks, defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, tight end Ertz, safety Malcolm Jenkins, tackle Lane Johnson and quarterback Carson Wentz, the Maxwell Club 2017 Bert Bell Professional Player of the Year winner.
The Patriots advanced to their NFL-record 10th Super Bowl by defeating Jacksonville 24-20 in the AFC Championship Game. New England, which won Super Bowl LI, is looking to repeat as Super Bowl champions for the second time in franchise history (XXXVIII and XXXIX).
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady will be making their eighth Super Bowl appearance together, the most NFL title games for any head coach and starting quarterback duo in league history. Belichick and Brady have won five Super Bowls together, the most by a head coach and starting quarterback combination.
“You cherish these moments and opportunities,” says Brady. “I know we’ve had quite a few of them, which we’ve been very blessed to do. It’s just been an unbelievable run and I think everyone should be really proud of what we’ve accomplished. I’m proud of our team. It’s been a great year and it would be really great if we can take care of business in the next game.”
Belichick has led the Patriots to five Super Bowl titles, the most in NFL history. With a victory in Super Bowl LII, Belichick will pass Pro Football Hall of Famer Vince Lombardi and tie Pro Football Hall of Famers George Halas and Curly Lambeau with the most NFL championships (six) in league history.
Brady, who is making his NFL-record eighth career Super Bowl start, is the only starting quarterback in league history to win five Super Bowls and the only player ever to be named Super Bowl MVP four times (XXXVI, XXXVIII, XLIX and LI).
Brady, who set a Super Bowl record with 466 passing yards last year, is the all-time leader in Super Bowl passing yards (2,071), completions (207), passing attempts (309) and touchdown passes (15). He is also the NFL postseason leader in wins by a starting quarterback (27), completions (892), passing attempts (1,416), passing yards (9,721) and touchdown passes (68).
In the AFC Championship Game, the Patriots overcame a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter (20-10). Brady’s two touchdown passes to wide receiver Danny Amendola changed that. Belichick and Brady have won four postseason games in which the Patriots have trailed by at least 10 points in the fourth quarter, the most in NFL history by a head coach and quarterback combination. No other duo has accomplished the feat more than once. The Patriots overcame a 19-point fourth-quarter deficit (28-9) to win Super Bowl LI last season.
“We all believe in each other,” says safety Devin McCourty. “This team is battle tested. We’ve gone through ups and downs. We’ve gone through adversity. You just have to keep playing. When you have a foundation that you can lean on, you don’t panic. You understand and believe in each other and you just give yourself a chance to win.”
Patriots’ running back James White, who scored three touchdowns (two rushing, one receiving) in Super Bowl LI, has scored six touchdowns (four rushing, two receiving) in his past three postseason games. Over the past two postseasons (2016 and 2017), White leads the NFL with seven total touchdowns and 44 points scored.
New England tight end Rob Gronkowski has 10 touchdown receptions in his postseason career and trails only Pro Football Hall of Famers Jerry Rice (22) and John Stallworth (12) for the most in NFL playoff history. Gronkowski’s 856 receiving yards and 10 touchdown receptions are the most ever by a tight end in NFL postseason history.
The Patriots have recorded 11 sacks in the postseason, the most in the NFL. Eight different players have registered at least one sack in this year’s playoffs, the most by any team. Three Patriots – rookie defensive tackle Adam Butler and defensive ends Geneo Grissom and rookie Deatrich Wise, Jr. – have each recorded two sacks in this postseason. New England linebacker James Harrison has 11 career postseason sacks, tied for the fifth-most in the NFL since the individual sack became an official statistic in 1982.
The Patriots had four players selected to the 2018 Pro Bowl: quarterback Brady, fullback James Develin, tight end Gronkowski and special teamer Matthew Slater. Additionally, safety McCourty and tackle Nate Solder were named to the team as alternates.