TSC SPECIAL: Joey P’s Super Bowl LII Observations

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Here are LII (that’s right, 52) observations about everything in and around Super Bowl 52.

I. The Philadelphia Eagles won their first Super Bowl and first NFL championship since 1960 with a heart-pounding 41-33 win over the defending champion New England Patriots. The game was played before 67,612 fans at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. The slugfest set several Super Bowl records (more below), and the game finished with a one-score margin for the eighth time in the past 11 years.

II. The Eagles won in their third attempt at a Super Bowl and became the first team to win a Super Bowl after a losing record the year before since, ironically, New England in 2001. Philadelphia was 7-9 last year. The Eagles are also the fourth team to win a Super Bowl after finishing in last place in their division the previous season. New England had jersey choice. Teams with that option are now 21-32 in the Super Bowl. The Patriots wore white and teams in that color had won 12 of the last 13 title games before the green-clad Eagles won this year.

III. The 74 combined points made this game the second-highest-scoring Super Bowl in history. The game was surpassed only by the 75 points tallied in Super Bowl XXIX when San Francisco blasted San Diego, 49-26. The Vince Lombardi Trophy presenter was ex-Washington cornerback and return specialist Darrell Green.

IV. Philadelphia quarterback Nick Foles (28-for 43, 373 yards, three touchdowns, one interception) was handed the Pete Rozelle Trophy as the Super Bowl Most Valuable Player. He’s the 29th quarterback to win the award and the ninth in the last 12 Super Bowls. He wears #9 and quarterbacks with that number are now 2-1 in Super Bowls. New England’s Tom Brady passed for a Super Bowl-record 505 yards (breaking his own record of 466, set last year). The combined 878 passing yards and 1151 total yards were Super Bowl records. There was just one punt in the game, a Super Bowl-record low. There were two punts in Super Bowl XXXIII (Falcons-Broncos). Brady had never passed for over 300 yards in a Super Bowl and lost before this year.

V. Despite making a record tenth Super Bowl appearance, New England suffered its fifth Super Bowl loss. With the loss, the Patriots broke a dubious record the team held with Buffalo and Minnesota–a 0-4 record in Super Bowls. The Patriots lost twice in the pre-Belichick/Brady era (XX vs. Chicago, XXXI vs. Green Bay) before falling twice to the New York Giants in Super Bowls XLII and XLVI.

VI. Holding the ball for just over 34 minutes, Philadelphia rushed for 164 yards and won the time-of-possession battle. The teams that have had the greater time of possession are now 39-13 in Super Bowls.

VII. A combined 167 points have been scored during the fourth quarter of the last ten Super Bowls. There were 19 such points scored in this year’s Super Bowl. The game took three hours, 47 minutes to play, the exact length of last year’s New England-Atlanta overtime contest.

VIII. The game was almost the first-ever Super Bowl to be played without any quarterback sacks. But it became the fifth Super Bowl with just one sack when the Eagles’ Brandon Graham strip-sacked Brady just before the two-minute warning. Defensive end Derek Barnett recovered the fumble, which preserved the Eagles’ five-point lead. The play set up a 46-yard Jake Elliott field goal with 1:05 to play and gave the Eagles their eventual winning 41-33 edge.

IX. The officials, beset by bad publicity regarding the catch rule, got the call correct on Zach Ertz’ go-ahead 11-yard bobbling touchdown catch with 2:21 left. The score gave the Eagles a 38-33 lead. Ertz took two steps after making the catch and that made him a runner. He broke the plane of the goal line, after which the ball came slightly loose, which became irrelevant at that point. But the Eagles missed their second two-point play of the night, leaving themselves vulnerable to a Patriots comeback.

X. Former lacrosse player Chris Hogan kept New England close as he made an outstanding 26-yard touchdown catch to keep the Patriots close late in the third quarter. But the Eagles still led, 29-26, as both teams’ offenses continued their torrid first-half pace. “If you play defense in this game, you should have to give your (pay)check back,” radio analyst Boomer Esiason said. The Hogan score no doubt pleased Johns Hopkins lacrosse coach, Dave Pietramala, a close friend of Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.

XI. Against a hobbled New England defense that wasn’t tacking all that well, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson continued to stay aggressive against the Patriots. Undrafted rookie free agent running back Corey Clement hauled in a 22-yard touchdown catch to answer a Patriots’ third-quarter score and extend the Philadelphia lead to 29-19 midway through the period.

XII. Ten times this season New England has scored on its first possession of the second half. It did so again in the Super Bowl. Tight end Rob Gronkowski caught just one first-half pass for nine yards, but he caught four on the opening third-quarter possession, including a five-yard touchdown that closed the Eagles’ lead to 22-19. Ironically, the Pats had to go to “Gronk,” who returned from a concussion in the AFC title game, when standout receiver Brandin Cooks had to leave the game in the first half after a concussion of his own. Later, Gronkowski would haul in a four-yard scoring catch in the back of the end zone with 9:22 to go to give New England its first lead of the game. Brady and Gronkowski have hooked up for 12 postseason touchdowns, tying a league record set by San Francisco’s Joe Montana and Jerry Rice.

XIII. The offensive nature of the first half was reflected in the intermission statistics. Those stats resembled full-game numbers. New England held slight edges in total yards (350-323) and first downs (13-12), but the Eagles held a ten-point lead because they made the most of their opportunities and ran the ball slightly better, gaining 107 ground yards to the Patriots’ 74. After a fast-paced first quarter, the second frame took an hour and two minutes to play. The 673 combined yards at halftime was the second-most for a first half in Super Bowl, surpassed only by Washington and Denver in Super Bowl XXII in San Diego.

XIV. Philadelphia used New England’s trick playbook against it just before halftime. Tight end Trey Burton, a college quarterback at Fordham, threw a touchdown pass to quarterback Nick Foles to take a 22-12 halftime lead. Teams that lead at the half are now 38-11 in Super Bowls. The play came on a fourth-and-goal from 1. The Eagles were 17-for-26 on fourth down, leading the NFL in fourth-down conversions and attempts during the 2017 regular season. Burton now joins a select, few non-quarterbacks who have thrown Super Bowl TD passes. The list includes Dallas’ Robert Newhouse, Los Angeles’ Lawrence McCutcheon, and Pittsburgh’s Antwaan Randle-El.

XV. The Patriots have prided themselves on having multiple running backs that can hurt defenses either running the ball or catching it out of the backfield. But James White’s physical 26-yard touchdown run, coupled with his overtime game-winning jaunt in last year’s Super Bowl over Atlanta, shows that he can be a player that can serve as a workhorse back if the Patriots – or another team, for that matter – wanted to use him that way. White’s touchdown closed the Patriots to within three points; the Eagles led, 15-12, with two minutes to go in the first half.

XVI. Astoundingly, Patriots safety Duron Harmon’s second-quarter interception at his team’s own ten-yard line – which came only after a bobble by the intended receiver – was the team’s first defensive takeaway since Week 15 of the regular season. New England did not do a good job creating turnovers this season, getting only 18 through the 16-game schedule. The Eagles had 31, three behind Baltimore’s league-leading total.

XVII. New England drove the ball well in the first half, but couldn’t cash in on early opportunities. A 46-yard field goal midway through the second quarter still left the Patriots trailing the Eagles, 15-6, despite four drives into Eagles territory. That score should look painfully familiar to Ravens’ fans. It was the score by which Indianapolis beat Baltimore in the 2006 Divisional playoff game at M&T Bank Stadium. The Ravens’ defense allowed no touchdowns to quarterback Peyton Manning, yielding just five Adam Vinatieri field goals.

XVIII. Foles was only the third true backup quarterback to start a Super Bowl (Doug Williams, XXII; Jeff Hostetler, XXV, were the others). Foles started the game by completing six of his first seven passes, then fell victim to the Patriots’ rush, completing only three of his next seven throws. Foles had to rely on big plays–and he made them–hitting Zach Ertz for 19 yards and Alshon Jeffery for 22 more yards to set up LeGarrette Blount’s 21-yard second-quarter touchdown run. The Eagles held a 15-3 lead at that point. Foles was excellent on third-down plays this postseason. By the midway point of the Super Bowl’s third quarter, he had completed 22 of 28 third-down passes for 20 first downs.

XIX. Ravens fans had to experience some déjà vu when Patriots receiver Danny Amendola tried to execute a throw-back pass to Brady early in the second quarter. The ball went through Brady’s hands, killing the drive. The Patriots used a similar trick play in the AFC Divisional playoff game after the 2014 season. Amendola hit a receiver for a New England touchdown as the Pats rallied from a pair of 14-point deficits to beat Baltimore.

XX. New England won the toss and deferred). Teams that do are now 23-29 in Super Bowls. NFC teams have won 18 of the last 22 coin tosses–including 14 consecutive tosses at one point. “Tails” has a 27-25 lead in Super Bowls. Its four-year winning streak was broken when “heads” came up this year. Going into this year’s game, coin-toss winners were 5-5 over the last ten Super Bowls. Ever since deferring the choice became an option, teams that have done so have lost six of nine times.

XXI. Unfortunately, Navy product Joe Cardona, the Patriots’ long snapper, came into the spotlight as the second quarter began. He fired a bad snap on a 26-yard field goal try that ended up clanging against the left upright. The fact the Patriots were even attempting a field goal was surprising. They needed only about a foot for a first down inside the Eagles’ ten-yard line. However, that was not the shortest field-goal miss in Super Bowl history. Denver’s Rich Karlis shanked a 21-yarder against the New York Giants just before halftime of Super Bowl XXI.

XXII. To counteract Philadelphia’s aggressive defense, New England smartly used a no-huddle, short-passing attack to keep the Eagles off-balance and unable to substitute–especially along its deep defensive line. It resulted in a brisk, action-packed 37-minute first quarter that ended rather even. Philadelphia outgained the Patriots in an offensive-oriented period, but only by 149-140. The Eagles had six first downs to the Pats’ five.

XXIII. The game nearly started right at the designated time, 6:30 p.m. (ET) kickoff time, but the pregame ceremonies temporarily knocked out power at US Bank Stadium. Fortunately, the game was delayed only about a minute and a half. It did not result in a 34-minute stoppage, as was the case in the third quarter of Super Bowl XLVII (Ravens-49ers) at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.

XXIV. With Ravens fans lamenting their own team’s need for playmaking wide receivers, they had to feel envious of Philadelphia’s situation. The Eagles’ Alshon Jeffery–a free-agent pickup from the Chicago Bears–outfought New England’s Eric Rowe for a leaping 34-yard touchdown to put the Eagles back in front, 9-3. However, kicker Jake Elliott missed the extra point, which was the 11th blown conversion kick in Super Bowl history. New England’s Stephen Gostkowski missed one in last year’s game and he hooked one wide left in this game for the 12th missed Super Bowl PAT.

XXV. New England answered Philadelphia’s opening field goal with Gostkowski’s 26-yard three-pointer. Remarkably, New England had previously scored no first-quarter points in seven straight Super Bowls in the Brady/Belichick era. Minnesota-based fans who attended the game no doubt recall that when the Vikings lost four of the first 11 Super Bowls (IV, VIII, IX, XI). Minnesota didn’t score a single first-half point in any of those games–and lost all of them.

XXVI. Former University of Maryland and Ravens receiver Torrey Smith, who won a Super Bowl ring with Baltimore (Super Bowl XLVII), dropped a pass during the game’s first drive. He then quickly redeemed himself by making a spectacular third-and-12 catch, helping the Eagles keep the ball as they drove into Patriots territory. Smith’s catch led to an early Elliott 25-yard field goal as the Eagles scored first and took a 3-0 lead. Teams that score first are now 35-17 in Super Bowls.

XXVII. Referee Gene Steratore’s mixed all-star crew called an abundance of pass-interference and defensive holding penalties this season, along with plenty of pre-snap flags (false starts, offsides). There were five first-half penalties – four on the Eagles – and all of them were either defensive holding calls or pre-snap penalties. Steratore was working with just one member of his regular crew, umpire Roy Ellison. Fourth-year referee Craig Wrolstad, the field judge at the Ravens’ Super Bowl XLVII win, was the alternate.

XXVIII. The game marked the sixth rematch in Super Bowl history. New England and Philadelphia met in Super Bowl XXXIX 13 years ago in Jacksonville. Before this game, the team that had won the first meeting did it again in four of the previous five cases, including the last three. The only exception was in Super Bowl XXX. Dallas reversed two earlier Super Bowl losses to Pittsburgh by beating the Steelers in Tempe, Arizona.

XXIX. Even after 52 Super Bowls, rather common football occurrences have never happened in a Super Bowl. They include a scoreless first half, a shutout, and a punt-return touchdown. The first-ever OT Super Bowl took place last year. There have been only three Super Bowls tied at the intermission, including Super Bowl XXXIX, which happened to be the first time Philadelphia and New England met in the big game.

XXX. The Patriots definitely had the experience edge going into this game. Fifty of 53 players had postseason experience. Thirty-six players had Super Bowl experience. By contrast, the Eagles had just six players who had ever been in a Super Bowl. Two of those players–defensive end Chris Long and running back LeGarrette Blount–wore Patriots’ uniforms last year.

XXXI. There was a gulf in experience between the head coaches as well. New England’s Bill Belichick was coaching in his 11th Super Bowl, eight as a head coach and three as an assistant coach. Second-year Philadelphia’s Doug Pederson was in his first Super Bowl as a head coach. He was a third-string quarterback in Green Bay behind Jim McMahon and Brett Favre when the Packers won Super Bowl XXXI (ironically against New England).

XXXII. Working his second Super Bowl for NBC, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh did another solid job. Harbaugh was also part of the same network’s coverage of Super Bowl XLIX (Seahawks-Patriots), probably due mostly to his long-standing friendship with former Indianapolis and Tampa Bay head coach and NBC analyst Tony Dungy. The other networks should be taking note of Harbaugh’s on-camera style–even though the coach would certainly rather be coaching the game, not talking about it.

XXXIII. No matter how you feel about President Donald Trump politically, the fact that he did not participate in the annual Presidential Super Bowl pre-game interview marks a radical departure from tradition. Sure, the interview is usually bland and doesn’t produce any headline-making statements. But on one of America’s biggest days, it is customary to hear from America’s leader. It’s a shame President Trump – a former football team owner himself – didn’t continue this long-standing tradition.

XXXIV. It will be interesting to note the TV ratings for this game, considering the public-relations hits the NFL took this year. The highest-rated Super Bowl was XVI (49ers-Bengals), which posted a 49.1 reading. But the most viewers in history were tuned into last year’s New England-Atlanta game. Over 172 million fans watched at least a part of the broadcast. As far as an average number of viewers is concerned, the Super Bowl that drew the most was XLIX (Seahawks-Patriots), which had an average of 114 million people watching. The average number has been over 100 million for the last eight consecutive Super Bowls.

XXXV. According to Nielsen Media Research, the cost for a 30-second Super Bowl advertisement reached $5.2 million this year. For the first Super Bowl, that cost was $37,500. It surpassed $1 million for Super Bowl XXIX (49ers-Chargers), then escalated quickly after that. It broke the $2 million barrier at Super Bowl XXXIV (Titans-Rams), surpassed $3 million for Super Bowl XLV (Packers-Steelers), and broke $4 million for Super Bowl XLVIII (Seahawks-Broncos).

XXXVI. Even though some Super Bowls had kicked off after 6 p.m. (ET), the game has begun at 6 p.m. or later for the last 27 straight years. That run began at Super Bowl XXVI (Bills-Redskins), which was the only other time the game was played in Minneapolis. The last Super Bowl to be played entirely in daylight was Super Bowl XI (Vikings-Raiders) in Pasadena.

XXXVII. BEST COMMERCIALS: “Family Greatly” (Kraft); “Danny DeVito” (M&Ms); “Alexa Loses Her Voice” (Amazon); “Mirror” (Doritos/Mountain Dew); “Heroes” (Hyundai); “Bleep Don’t Stink” (Febreze); “This Is The Pepsi” (Pepsi); “Water” (Budweiser); “Go Vegan” (PETA); “Still Working” (E*Trade), “Guac World” (Avocados From Mexico) (TSC editor’s choice), “The Wonder Of Us” (Coca-Cola); ‘Steven Tyler/Fittipaldi” (Kia); “Peyton Manning” (Universal Studios).

XXXVIII. WORST COMMERCIALS: “Evelyn” (Sprint); “David Schwimmer” (Skittles); “Stacking New Flavors” (Pringles); “Terry Bradshaw” (Tide); “Long Live The King” (Lexus); “Local Business” (Groupon); “Haunted” (Doritos); “Keanu Reeves” (SquareSpace); “Bud Knight” (Bud Light) (TSC editor’s choice), “The Cart Loadeth” (Bud Light), “Rhett And Link” (Wix), “Tom Clancy: Jack Ryan” (Amazon Prime); “Chris Pratt” (Michelob Ultra).

XXXIX. This year’s Super Bowl was the 16th to be played in the month of February. That’s the 15th consecutive time the game has been pushed into the year’s second month. The first Super Bowl played in February was XXXVI (Rams-Patriots), which was moved back by necessity–Week Two games were postponed due to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Those games were made up in early January.

XL. The game marked the 19th Super Bowl that the game aired on NBC, which ties it with CBS for the most Super Bowl broadcasts. CBS will broadcast its 20th next year. The two networks each aired Super Bowl I with different announcers and camera crews. Fox has done eight Super Bowls. ABC, which is not part of the current Super Bowl telecast rotation, has shown seven.

XLI. Longtime play-by-play man Al Michaels called his third Super Bowl for NBC and his tenth overall. That’s one game short of the record set by the late Pat Summerall, who provided color analysis on an additional four Super Bowls. Analyst Cris Collinsworth did his fourth Super Bowl and third for NBC. He also was in the Fox booth for the first New England-Philadelphia matchup (XXXIX). Minneapolis resident Michele Tafoya worked the sidelines. Westwood One’s Kevin Harlan called his eighth straight Super Bowl. Ex-Maryland quarterback Boomer Esiason was the radio analyst for an 18th straight year.

XLII. On the field for the ceremonial coin toss were 16 winners of the Congressional Medal of Honor. Herschel “Woody” Wilson, a veteran from the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II, performed the coin toss. In recent years, the honorary captains had been members of that year’s just-elected Pro Football Hall of Fame class. While that didn’t happen this year, eight members of the Class of 2018 attended the game.

XLIII. Leslie Odom, Jr., a cast member of the blockbuster play “Hamilton: An American Musical” did a stellar, no-frills job of singing “America The Beautiful” during pregame ceremonies. By contrast, the national anthem, sung by pop star Pink, sounded like a poor attempt to duplicate Whitney Houston’s legendary Super Bowl XXV performance. She uttered unnecessary embellishments near the end of the song. Justin Timberlake’s halftime show, his third Super Bowl appearance (XXXV with *NSYNC, XXXVIII with Janet Jackson), was replete with indecipherable hip-hop-style songs. It was a truly–and predictably–bland and mediocre performance, just like his previous subpar efforts. Footage of the late Prince, a Minneapolis native, salvaged the experience.

XLIV. Both the Patriots and Eagles brought their cheerleading squads to the game. Did you know that six NFL teams don’t have cheerleaders? They are the New York Giants, Cleveland, Chicago, Green Bay, Pittsburgh, and Detroit. On the other hand, the Ravens feature the only cheerleading squad in the NFL that includes both male and female members.

XLV. An AFC Super Bowl win has usually been a precursor to a drop in the stock market, while an NFC victory has foreseen a rise. According to Forbes magazine, this indicator has been proven correct after 40 of the previous 51 Super Bowls. But it has been wrong the last two years. Even though New England won last year, that occurrence preceded a 25% jump at the New York Stock Exchange.

XLVI. Seven Super Bowls have been played on the Sunday just after the conference championships with an average final score margin of 11.4 points. But the average margin of other Super Bowl games is not much higher (14.6). The one-week break, while preferred by some, is not expected to occur again except in extraordinary circumstances. There hasn’t been a Super Bowl played one week after the conference title games since Super Bowl XXXVII (Buccaneers-Raiders) in San Diego.

XLVII. This game took place five years and one day after the Ravens won Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans. The Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers, 34-31. Saturday night, linebacker Ray Lewis–whose career ended after that game–became the second homegrown Raven to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The induction ceremony takes place August 4 and it could mean that the Ravens will be selected to play in the Hall of Fame Game for the first time. If so, that would add a fifth preseason game, which is unprecedented in team history.

XLVIII. The climate-controlled indoor conditions meant that the kickoff temperature was a comfortable 72 degrees, avoiding what might have been the coldest Super Bowl game in history. The outdoor temperature in Minneapolis was 3 degrees with a 12 mile-per-hour wind out of the west. The coldest kickoff temperature for an outdoor Super Bowl was 39 degrees at Super Bowl VI (Cowboys-Dolphins). That game was played at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans. Three years later, the wind chill record was set with a 22-degree reading at Tulane (Vikings-Steelers). The warmest game was Super Bowl VII (Dolphins-Redskins) at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (84 degrees).

XLIX. This year, the two-year-old US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis hosted the Super Bowl. It’s one of 24 different stadiums to do so. Capacity is usually around 68,000, but it was expanded to 73,000 for the Super Bowl. It marked the second time the game has been held in Minneapolis–exactly 26 years after Super Bowl XXVI (Bills-Redskins). It was also the sixth Super Bowl held in a so-called northern-tier city–in Detroit (XVI, 49ers-Bengals; XL, Seahawks-Steelers), in Indianapolis (XLVI, Giants-Patriots), and an outdoor game at New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium (XLVII; Seahawks-Broncos).

L. With the announced attendance at 67,612, it means that almost 4 million people have seen Super Bowls in person. The attendance record was set at Super Bowl XIV (Steelers-Rams) with 103,985 attending at The Rose Bowl. The smallest crowd, at just over 61,000, showed up for the first Super Bowl, which was held at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in January 1967. Green Bay (NFL) beat Kansas City (AFL), 35-10.

LI. The Philadelphia offensive line, a key component to the team’s success this year, was named the year’s best such unit during Saturday night’s NFL Honors awards show. The Eagles’ “Electric Slide” end-zone celebration was named the year’s best. It got more support than the Ravens’ “Tug-Of-War” show. Ravens tight end Benjamin Watson lost out to Houston defensive end JJ Watt for the Walter Payton Man of the Year honor.

LII. Next year’s game (Super Bowl LIII) will be played on Feb. 3, 2019, at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. It will be the 18th indoor Super Bowl. Jim Nantz will be at the play-by-play microphone for his fifth Super Bowl and Tony Romo will provide Super Bowl color analysis for the first time. After that game, future Super Bowls are scheduled to be held in Miami (for a record 11th time) and Los Angeles for the first time in 48 years.


About Joe Platania

Veteran beat writer, Joe Platania, is entering his 39th year in Baltimore media. He covers sports with insight, humor, and prescient eye. A former longtime member in good standing of the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association and the Pro Football Writers of America, Platania manned the CFL Stallions beat for The Avenue Newspaper Group of Essex (1994 and ’95) and the Ravens beat since the team’s inception — one of only three local writers to do so — for PressBox, The Avenue, and other local publications and radio stations. A sought-after contributor and host on talk radio and TV, he often appears on “Inside PressBox” (10:30 a.m. Sundays) and he can be heard at 10 a.m. Saturdays on the “Purple Pride Report,” WQLL-AM (1370). He has also appeared on WMAR-TV’s “Good Morning Maryland” (2009), Comcast SportsNet’s “Washington Post Live” (2004-06), and WJZ-TV’s “Football Talk” postgame show — with legend Marty Bass (2002-04). Platania is the only sports journalist in Maryland history to have been a finalist for both the annual Sportscaster of the Year award (1998, which he won) and Sportswriter of the Year (2010). He is also a four-time Maryland-Delaware-District of Columbia Press Association award winner. Platania is a graduate of St. Joseph’s (Cockeysville), Calvert Hall College High School, and Towson University, where he earned a degree in Mass Communications. He lives in Cockeysville, MD.

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