Philadelphia Eagles’ defensive end Brandon Graham has been making big plays in the postseason. However, Graham made the biggest play of the season on the NFL’s grandest stage.
Late in the fourth quarter, Graham had a key strip sack of New England Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady, who was named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player. The ball was recovered by rookie defensive end Derek Barnett to help the Eagles defeat the New England Patriots, 41-33, to capture Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
His crucial play will go down as one of the most memorable plays in Eagles history. It will have a special place in Philadelphia sports history as well.
“When the fourth quarter came we had to go out there and make a stop,” Graham told the Associated Press. “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.”
Graham’s efforts led to a 46-yard field goal by Jake Elliott to give the Eagles an eight-point lead, which ended up being the final margin.
Now, the Eagles (16-3) are Super Bowl champions for the first time in franchise history, with their first NFL crown since 1960.
“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.”
For Graham, this was his second big play in the postseason. The first one came in the Eagles’ 15-10 win over the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC divisional playoffs. Falcons’ running back Devonta Freeman had a chance to break a long run for a touchdown that would have been a game changer.
But the former University of Michigan product made a spectacular shoestring tackle to keep him to a modest gain.
This has been a terrific year for Graham. The 6-foot-2, 265-pounder led the Eagles with a career-high 9.5 sacks this season and his ability to rush the passer made a big difference.
Graham has been with the Eagles longer than any other defensive player.
In 2010, he was a first-round pick of the Eagles coming out of the University of Michigan. He was the 13th overall selection that year. Graham grew up in Detroit, where he starred at Crockett Vocational Technical.
Graham opened a lot of eyes with his big-play ability in the Super Bowl.
This was a game that featured a Super Bowl MVP performance by quarterback Nick Foles, who completed 28-of-43 passes for 373 yards with three touchdowns and one interception.
Foles also caught a TD pass from tight end Trey Burton. Wide receivers Nelson Agholor (9 receptions for 90 yards), Alshon Jeffery (3 receptions for 73 yards, 1 TD), Zach Ertz (7 receptions for 67 yards, 1 TD) and running back Corey Clement (4 receptions for 100 yards, 1 TD) all had magnificent games catching the football. Running back LeGarrette Blount had 14 carries for 90 yards and one touchdown on the ground.
There were a lot of great performances, but Brandon Graham’s spectacular play has a special place in sports history. Barnett, who had a great rookie year with the Eagles, will certainly remember this big play.
“BG made the play to win it,” Barnett said. “It was a good bounce. Right into my hands.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.