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MINNEAPOLIS – The New England Patriots were as persistent as the icy weather that grips this bone-chilling region Sunday, refusing to let go of something as coveted as the NFL championship that seems their annual destiny.

So even when it appeared the Eagles may be superior to their vaunted Super Bowl rivals at U.S. Bank Stadium, they couldn’t shake the Pats in front a pro-Eagles crowd of 67,612.

In a game that had one punt, it seemed like it would come down to whoever has the ball last wins.

But because the Eagles defense saved its best for last, forcing Tom Brady to fumble when perhaps no other act would suffice, the Vince Lombardi Trophy will soon be paraded down Broad Street in Philadelphia after an amazing 41-33 Eagle win.

The area’s most championship-famished fans have their long sought-after reward.

“For Eagles fans everywhere, this is for them,” Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said after accepting that trophy.

Move aside Chuck Bednarik, Norm Van Brocklin and Tommy McDonald, heroes of that last title team in 1960.

Make room for Nick Foles, Zach Ertz, Brandon Graham and too many other heroes to mention.

Graham delivered the forced fumble heard ‘round Philadelphia with 2:09 left and the Eagles having just moved ahead 38-33. Derek Barnett recovered and the Eagles added Jake Elliot’s 46-yard field goal with 1:05 left for the important 8-point bulge.

Soon after, Eagles fans held their breath as Brady’s last-second bomb sailed toward the end zone and, with giant tight-end target Rob Gronkowski lurking there, fell incomplete.

Fans in the stands and players on the field celebrated with equal glee as green and silver confetti floated down, covering the carpet in the colors of the first-time Super Bowl winners.

The Eagles and Minnesota Vikings had been the only teams to have a winning record since the dawn of the Super Bowl Era and not won the big game. Now the Vikings stand alone as the Eagles added to their 1948, 1949 and 1960 NFL titles.

They’d lost in their two previous Super Bowl endeavors to Oakland in 1981 and these Patriots in 2005.

But there was a sense leading up to this game that the Eagles might just be the superior outfit against the five-time champion Patriots.

Proving it was every bit the formidable challenge the Eagles expected but they certainly summoned the determination that has been their hallmark in a season in which they’ve lost several key players to season-ending injuries.

When quarterback Carson Wentz went down, coach Doug Pederson’s son found a plaque Pederson’s former teammate Brett Favre had given him with a picture of the two. It read “An individual can make a difference. A team can make a miracle.”

They became inspirational words for the Eagles on their drive to the title.

Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles, once again looking anything like a back-up quarterback, kept throwing passes on the money to receivers who embraced the football as if victory depended on it, which it did.

He threw for three touchdowns and caught a touchdown  pass himself from tight end – and former quarterback -- Trey Burton on a clutch fourth-and-1 bit of clever offensive wizardry late in the first half.  

“We just wanted to stay aggressive,” coach Doug Pederson said.

The Eagles, trying to exorcize the demons of their haunted past, kept scoring touchdowns. They led by 12 in the second quarter, 10 at halftime, 10 again when the teams traded third-quarter TDs.

But in a game where the teams combined for 1,151 total yards, shattering the previous record, the Patriots kept coming.

Brady, whose only early fault was dropping what would have been a first-down pass on a throwback play, kept moving the Pats down the field in response to the Eagles doing the same.

The Eagles, who felt their defense could be their key to victory, needed a big defensive play like the one New England’s Duron Harmon, the Caesar Rodney High grad, had made in the first half. He thwarted a potential Eagles opportunity by intercepting a pass that oddly deflected off intended receiver Alshon Jeffery and into his reach.

But Brady kept finding open receivers and throwing them strikes. The Patriots took their first lead 33-32 with 9:22 left on Brady’s four-yard TD pass to Gronkowski and Steven Gostkowski’s extra point.

At that point, the difference in the game was  Elliott missing his first PAT for the Eagles and then the Eagles failing on a two-point try on their next TD, as Gostkowski had also missed an extra-point kick.

Then Foles passed 11 yards to Ertz with 2:21 left, though everyone had to wait through a replay that confirmed Ertz had caught the football and was running with it when he crossed the end zone and the ball was jarred loose.

But the Eagles missed the two-point pass and, with the score 38-33, the Eagles had to stop the Patriots for the first time in the second half.

The Eagles’ pass rush then finally got to Brady, with Barnett recovering the football after Graham forced the fumble.

Afterward, Foles summed it up for all.

“Unbelievable,” he said.

This time, it’s true.

Contact Kevin Tresolini at ktresolini@delawareonline.com. Follow on Twitter @kevintresolini.

 

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