The stage was set for another dramatic Super Bowl comeback for Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.
That’s when Brandon Graham delivered one of the few defensive highlights in the most prolific offensive game in NFL history Phillip Gaines Color Rush Jersey , ripping the ball out of Brady’s hands for a fumble that gave the Philadelphia Eagles their first Super Bowl title in franchise history with a 41-33 victory on Sunday night.
”When the fourth quarter came we had to go out there and make a stop,” Graham said. ”As a defense we hadn’t been doing it all game. The offense carried us all the way through. At the end of the day we kept coming.”
Rookie Derek Barnett recovered the loose ball and Eagles fans began celebrating their first title since winning the 1960 NFL championship in what proved to be a surprise ending.
Brady had made the late-game comeback a specialty in winning a record five Super Bowl titles, including last year’s rally from 28-3 down to beat Atlanta in overtime. He also led late game-winning scoring drives to beat the Rams, Carolina and Seattle.
The Eagles showed no sign of slowing Brady down on Sunday as he threw for a playoff-record 505 yards and three touchdowns, carving up the defense at will on a night when the Patriots did not punt once or turn it over until Brady’s late fumble with New England on its 33 with just more than two minutes remaining and poised for a comeback.
That’s when Graham beat Shaq Mason off the line and reached his left hand out for Brady just before he was set to throw. Graham knocked the ball loose.
”I knew I had a one-on-one with the guard,” Graham said. ”I knew he likes to be aggressive so I tried to act like I was pulling. I snatched it right off and Tom Brady’s arm was right there and I went for the ball.”
Barnett landed on it in what will go down as one of the most memorable plays in Philadelphia history.
”BG made the play to win it,” Barnett said. ”It was a good bounce. Right into my hands.”
The fumble set up a field goal that gave the Eagles an eight-point lead and then the game ended when Brady’s desperation heave for Gronkowski in the end zone fell to the turf, sending green and white confetti to the field, emotional Eagles pouring out on the field and Brady on the ground in frustration.
The Eagles defense had offered little resistance for the first 57 minutes as the Patriots moved the ball on every drive, getting stopped only on a missed field goal by Stephen Gostkowski and a failed fourth-down attempt one play after Brady dropped a pass from Danny Amendola on a trick play.
But the Patriots had scored three straight touchdowns to open the second half to take their first lead of the game at 33-32 and still were in position to win after Nick Foles gave the Eagles a 38-33 lead on a TD pass to Zach Ertz.
”We stuck together,” defensive lineman Fletcher Cox said. ”Nobody panicked. We knew what we had to do to stop him. We knew it would come down to a couple of plays. We’ve been through the situation before. Guys just stepped up and make plays.”
Graham was the one who delivered, providing a defensive exclamation point in a game that featured a record 1,151 yards of offense by both teams, including 613 for the Patriots.
”They made one good play at the right time,” Brady said.
”He hadn’t gotten a hit in four at-bats,” manager A.J. Hinch said of the second basemen who led the American League in hits each of the past four seasons and is the MLB leader so far this year.
Altuve was actually in an 0-for-13 slide before his fifth at-bat Wednesday night against the Texas Rangers. His 115th hit of the season was a one-out single off Chris Martin, who then hit Yuli Gurriel with a pitch before an errant pickoff throw allowed both runners to move up. That set up Evan Gattis‘ tiebreaking sacrifice fly in a 5-4 victory.
Gurriel homered, doubled and scored twice as the Astros overcame an early four-run deficit. His fifth homer, leading off the fifth against starter Mike Minor, tied the game at 4.
Josh Reddick also went deep for the Astros, who their eighth consecutive road game against Texas and are a majors-best 32-14 on the road this season. The Astros have a 12-4 advantage in the season series between the instate division rivals that has only a three-game set remaining in Houston later this month.
Shin-Soo Choo homered and had a single to extend his on-base streak to 44 games, the longest in his career and in the majors this season. That matches Otis Nixon’s streak in 1995 for the Rangers, and trails only Julio Franco’s 46-gamer in 1993 for the team record.
Texas led 4-0 after Choo’s one-out solo homer started a three-run outburst in the third off starter Gerrit Cole.
Collin McHugh (4-0), who won 48 games as a starter for the Astros the past four seasons, allowed only one hit over three scoreless innings. Ken Giles worked the 10th for his 12th save in 12 chances.
”You’re talking about a 19-game winner in the big leagues. Those don’t grow on trees,” said Astros reliever Will Harris, who worked out of a jam in the sixth before McHugh took over. ”He goes out there and he knows who he is. He mixes it up, he’s a strike thrower and he’s a fearless guy out there.”
The start of the game was delayed for a few minutes after Minor had issues with the mound during warmups. The ground crew came out to work on the slippery dirt. Cole also was unhappy with the mound. Martin (1-2) slipped and fell down when throwing the pitch that hit Gurriel. The Rangers said afterward that Martin was being evaluated for a left groin issue.
”The mound early seemed to be slick,” Rangers manager Jeff Banister said.
Cole, who threw 108 pitches to get through five innings, struck out seven to increase his season total to 158. The only Astros pitcher with more strikeouts before the All-Star break is Mike Scott, with 167 in 22 starts in 1986. Cole has made 18 starts, with two more scheduled before the break. … In four starts against Texas this season, Cole has 40 strikeouts in 25 innings.
FAR FROM PERFECT
Minor retired the first 19 San Diego batters he faced in his previous start a week earlier. The lefty allowed four runs (three earned) on seven hits over six innings against Houston with four strikeouts and three walks.
”Probably not as sharp as he’s been,” Banister said. ”Looked like they were sitting on slider.”
Astros: Hinch said C Max Stassi was feeling better than expected after getting hit by a pitch on his right (throwing) wrist in the first inning Tuesday, on the same day starting catcher Brian McCann had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee.
Rangers: 3B Adrian Beltre, baseball’s active career hits leader (3,108), was scratched from the lineup about an hour before the game because of an infected tooth. He had a root canal and then traveled with the team to Detroit. … RHP Tony Barnette went on the 10-day disabled list. An MRI revealed a strained lat that will keep him from throwing for at least four weeks. He left Tuesday night’s game in the middle of a batter.
Astros: Justin Verlander (9-4), who has lost his last two starts, is on the mound when the Astros return home for the opener Thursday night of a four-game series against the Chicago White Sox.
Rangers: The Rangers open a 10-game, 11-day trip that will take them to the All-Star break when they play Thursday night at Detroit. Texas also plays at Boston and Baltimore before their next home game July 20.