There is nothing else like it in all of sports.
Everyone, from the serious bettor to little old ladies, has some kind of wager on it. There are parties all over the country for it. And there has even been talk of making the day after a national holiday since nobody goes to work anyway.
It’s the Super Bowl.
February 2, 2020 in Miami will mark the 54th, or LIV in Super Bowl numerals, edition of the game.
Eagles fans might remember the one two years ago where the organization ended a 56-year championship drought and brought an NFL title to Philadelphia for the first time since 1960.
That was the team’s third trip to the Big Game. Here’s a look back at that affair and the two previous encounters that didn’t end up quite as well.
Super Bowl XV, January 25, 1981
Oakland 27, Eagles 10
Site: New Orleans Super Dome
MVP: Jim Plunkett, QB, Raiders (13-for-21, 261 yards, three TDs, 145.0 QB rating).
How They Got There: The Eagles went 12-4, won the NFC East and earned the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs. They handled the Minnesota Vikings, 31-16, in the divisional round and got a break when wild-card Dallas upset top-seed Atlanta. The Eagles then hosted and beat Dallas, 20-7, in the NFC Championship Game.
Key Stat: Oakland linebacker Rod Martin intercepted three Ron Jaworski passes in the game. Only one Eagles wide receiver, Harold Carmichael, caught more passes (5) from Jaworski that day.
Plot: The Eagles had beaten the Raiders, 10-7, in a defensive battle at The Vet during the regular season and were installed as three-point favorites that grew to six points throughout most of the Delaware Valley by game time.
Story: It was over early. Martin’s first interception led to a two-yard touchdown pass from Plunkett to Cliff Branch and after an Eagles punt, Plunkett went 80 yards to Kevin King and it was 14-0 at the end of the first quarter.
Story Behind the Story: This was two teams with two different perspectives. The Eagles win over the Cowboys was their Super Bowl. The team was also too tight, almost too nervous. Oakland, meanwhile, enjoyed the New Orleans nightlife, had fun and used their underdog status as best they could.
Post Mortem: The Raiders became the first wild-card team to win a Super Bowl and would win their third one three years later as the Los Angeles Raiders. The Eagles made the playoffs in 1981, but were eliminated in the first round and wouldn’t see the postseason again until 1988.
“After the Dallas game, it was almost like, ‘We did it.’ Oh, by the way, we have one more game and they happen to call it the Super Bowl. I don’t want to say that Dallas was our Super Bowl, but you know something? Dallas was our Super Bowl. If you can’t get ready for a World Championship Game what the hell can you get ready for? But we put so much into that Dallas game mentally and physically and we couldn’t get it back, not even close.’’ — Eagles linebacker Bill Bergey.
“I noticed the Raiders were loosey-goosey as can be. We were tight as hell, tight as banjo strings. We went in and the tension you could cut it with a knife. I tried to say a few things to loosen the guys up and there was no response.’’ — Eagles assistant coach Jerry Wampfler in “The Ultimate Super Bowl Book.”
Super Bowl XXXIX, February 6, 2005
New England 24, Eagles 21
Site: Alltell Stadium, Jacksonville
MVP: Deion Branch, WR, New England (11 catches, 133 yards).
How They Got There: The Eagles got out to a 13-1 start to the season and clinched the No. 1 seed in the NFC. After a first-round bye, they beat Minnesota, 27-16, and then knocked off Atlanta, 27-10, in the NFC Championship Game.
Key Stat: It’s the only game in Super Bowl history that was tied after the first quarter (0-0), at halftime (7-7) and at the end of the third quarter (14-14).
Plot: After losing three straight times in the NFC Championship Game (twice at home, the Eagles got over the hump and made it to the second Super Bowl in team history. There they faced the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots.
Story: New England played a 3-4 defense all season, but went to a 4-3 for the game and held Eagles running back Brian Westbrook to 2.9 yards per carry. Westbrook gained 44 yards rushing, but half of those came on one run. Turnovers and penalties plagued the Eagles in the first half and questionable clock management hurt them late in the fourth quarter. The Patriots broke from the14-14 tie with 10 fourth-quarter points to make it 24-14 before the Eagles scored with less than two minutes to go on a touchdown pass from Donovan McNabb to Greg Lewis.
Story Behind the Story: There were several. Start with wide receiver Terrell Owens, who came back from a broken leg, to play in 63 of the 72 snaps and caught nine passes for 122 yards. Did Donovan McNabb get sick on the final drive? Center Hank Fraley said he did. McNabb has said he had the wind knocked out of him on a vicious hit from Pats linebacker Tedy Bruschi. Finally, Eagles wide receiver Freddie Mitchell didn’t help himself or his teammates when he questioned who the New England defensive backs were leading up to the game.
Post Mortem: That was the Patriots third of what is now six Super Bowl titles and the last to go back-to-back. The Eagles fell apart the following year when Owens, in a contract dispute with management, ripped everyone in the organization.
“What it really came down to is when we got to the big games in the playoffs we didn’t play well. It was the same way in the Super Bowl. We played well the week before (against Atlanta) then we got to the Super Bowl and didn’t play well. Turnovers killed us. We should have blown them out of the water early.’’ — Eagles tackle Jon Runyan.
“I remember looking at McNabb and seeing the seconds tick away and wondering what they were doing. Why didn’t they have a sense of urgency? Maybe they knew something I didn’t know. But I knew that the fourth quarter was winding down and they didn’t have more points than we had.’’ — New England linebacker Tedy Bruschi.
“Yeah, I probably should have done that (no huddle) a little more. When your quarterback gets hit, it’s hard to get the no huddle thing going.’’ — Eagles head coach Andy Reid.
Super Bowl LII, Feb. 4, 2018
Eagles 41, New England 33
Site: U.S. Bank Stadium, Minnesota
MVP: Nick Foles, QB, Eagles (28-for-43, 373 yards, 3 TDs, 106.1 QB Rating.) Also caught a TD pass.
How They Got There: The Eagles were once again the top seed in the NFC with a 13-3 record. They struggled, but hung on to beat Atlanta, 15-10, in the divisional round and then crushed Minnesota, 38-7, in the NFC Championship Game.
Key Stat: New England is the only team in Super Bowl history to not punt in the game, and still lose.
Plot: After consecutive 7-9 seasons in 2015 and 2016 the Eagles went 13-3 and clinched the top seed in the NFC. Second-year quarterback Carson Wentz was the catalyst until a torn ACL on December 10th knocked him out for the season. Could the Eagles survive with backup quarterback Nick Foles in charge?
Story: Foles, who had been traded by the Eagles to the Rams before the 2015 season, and subsequently released by both the Rams and Kansas City Chiefs, became the hero and a city icon. He struggled, but survived in the wild-card win over Atlanta and then was brilliant in the destruction of the Vikings and outdueled Tom Brady in the Super Bowl. The Eagles led by 12 points in the first half, thanks to the “Philly Special,’’ a play in which Foles caught a TD pass from backup tight end Trey Burton on 4th-and-goal. They led by 10 at halftime and by 10 late in the third quarter. But Brady brought the Pats back for a 33-32 lead with just over nine minutes to play. Foles answered with an 11-yard touchdown pass to tight end Zach Ertz for a 38-33 lead. And on the Eagles best defensive play of the game, Brandon Graham strip-sacked Brady on the ensuing drive.
Story Behind the Story: When Wentz went down the Eagles became the ultimate underdog with Foles, and cherished every moment. Las Vegas played along, installing both the sixth-seed Falcons and overmatched Vikings as road favorites which is almost unheard of in the postseason. And of course, the Patriots were the favorites in the Super Bowl.
Post Mortem: The Patriots did come back to win their sixth Super Bowl in 2019. The Eagles, again behind Foles, made the playoffs, upset Chicago in the wild-card round and came within a dropped pass of getting back to the NFC Championship Game.
“You want to know what was going through my mind? I’ll either be the biggest genius or the biggest goat.’’ — Eagles head coach Doug Pederson on calling The Philly Special.
“You want Philly Philly?’’ — Foles to Pederson on the sideline before the play.
“That’s the greatest play in Eagles history. That pass under those circumstances. I know Philly Special gets all the hype. It was a touchdown pass to the quarterback. I get it. But that pass, that’s the greatest play.’’ — Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich, now head coach of the Colts, on Foles TD pass to Ertz.