By Jose Saldana
The Philadelphia Eagles earned their first Super Bowl after defeating the New England Patriots 41-33 in a high-intensity affair on Sunday afternoon. With five Stanford alumni between the two teams, the most of any school, the former Cardinal had their fingerprints on the final outcome of the game.
The fate of the Philadelphia Eagles’ Super Bowl chances laid at the hands of a former Stanford Cardinal. Tight end Zach Ertz lined up on the left side of the field with one-on-one coverage by Patriots safety Devin McCourty. Eagles quarterback Nick Foles snapped the ball, and Ertz did what he did all season — he ran a great route. He ran a slant pattern and on his cut made McCourty stumble. Foles delivered the ball on the money, and Ertz fought through the outstretched hands of McCourty for the touchdown.
Although the play would be reviewed due to the “process of a catch” rule made infamous by Dallas Cowboys Dez Bryant incomplete catch in the 2015 NFL Playoffs, the touchdown stood and gave the Eagles the lead for good.
One of the more interesting facts of the play is that Ertz is not known to get many yards after the catch (3.8 yards per catch) but made a huge play on the run when the Eagles needed it.
Ertz finished with 67 receiving yards on seven receptions and the all-important go-ahead touchdown. His performance was the grand denouement to an incredible season for Ertz and the Eagles. He caught a career-high eight touchdowns on the season in 14 games played. His rapport with quarterbacks Foles and Carson Wentz helped lead Philadelphia to the NFL’s first seed with a 13-3 record and the franchise’s first Super Bowl championship.
Joining Ertz as Super Bowl champion is Eagles defensive end Aziz Shittu, though he did not play in the game.
On the New England Patriots side, offensive tackle Cameron Fleming was part of a unit that only allowed one sack to a vaunted Eagles’ front seven. However, the one sack was the biggest play of the game defensively when the Patriots right guard allowed Eagles pass rusher Brandon Graham to strip sack Tom Brady. Fleming could do nothing as he was engaged in a trench battle with Chris Long.
Patriots safety Jordan Richards contributed with five combined tackles, and cornerback Johnson Bademosi had one tackle. They didn’t play much beyond special teams as they are primarily backups.
The 2017 NFL season saw incredible performances from Stanford alumni, from the elite offensive-line play of Andrus Peat and David DeCastro to the development of rookies Christian McCaffrey and Solomon Thomas to the steady play of veterans of Doug Baldwin and Blake Martinez.
One hopes the next crop of Stanford players in the NFL will be worth writing about as well.
Contact sad Cowboys fan Jose Saldana at jsaldana ‘at’ stanford.edu.