Despite season of chaos, Roger Goodell and NFL still winners after Super Bowl

Dan Wetzel

MINNEAPOLIS – The New England Patriots had fallen. So too the green and silver confetti. Half a stadium, much of America and all of Philadelphia was in a state of celebration. Nick Foles was the MVP, Bill Belichick was trying to piece together what happened and Gisele Bundchen was wandering the hallways of U.S. Bank Stadium personally congratulating Eagles players.

The whole thing seemed surreal, a lot confusing and mostly exhilarating after four hours of football.

Roger Goodell soon came marching along, surrounded by security and a sense of importance. The look on the commissioner’s face was equal parts relief, excitement and satisfaction.

Once again, the Super Bowl delivered.

Once again, after a season marked with off-field drama, scandal and suspicion, the big game came through to rekindle America’s romance with professional football.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell (middle) presents the Vince Lombardi trophy to Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie after the Eagles defeated the New England Patriots 41-33 in Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium. (Getty Images)

Eagles 41, Patriots 33 in a wild shootout that was wonderfully entertaining.

Big plays, trick plays, clutch plays. A pregame that was appropriately patriotic. A halftime that was respectfully entertaining. And a football game that went all 60 minutes, not over until a Tom Brady Hail Mary bounced free.

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If you weren’t entertained, then that’s on you.

A season filled with injuries ended with a game full of star-turning performances. A year of sloppy play saw a Super Bowl, at least offensively, played to near perfection. A sport that too often is weighted to mediocrity, had brilliance across the board.

The NFL can be its own worst enemy, arrogant and controversial. There was still some of that. The Patriots’ Patrick Chung was concussed, but stayed in the game. There were two plays (both Eagles touchdowns) that rekindled the most boring debate in sports – what is and isn’t a catch.

But this was also some thrilling football, for all variety of reasons.

Nick Foles to Alshon Jeffrey for 34 yards. Tom Brady to a rumbling Rex Burkhead for 46. Foles tossing it into the smallest of windows for a 22-yard touchdown to Corey Clement. Brandin Cooks trying to leap over Rodney McLeod. Rob Gronkowski plowing over everyone. LeGarrette Blount rumbling as well as ever. Brandon Graham’s clutch strip sack.

There were 1,151 total yards and 10 separate plays of at least 25 yards gained. There was a field goal off the upright, two missed extra points and two failed two-point conversions. You couldn’t count on anything. With a little over two minutes left in the game, the Patriots trailed despite having neither punted nor turned the ball over – they then turned the ball over.

If nothing else, there was the Eagles on fourth-and-goal from the 1, daring to not just go for it, but pull something out of high school football when they dialed up the old fake-audible, Wildcat-snap, reverse to a wide receiver and throw into the flat to the quarterback for a touchdown pass.

“A quarterback going out for a route?” said Foles, who caught the TD pass and threw for three others. “I [was] excited.”

It wasn’t even that rare. New England sent Tom Brady out as a receiver on a trick play too, and he saw the pass bounce clumsily off his hands, much to the delight of everyone tired of hearing how perfect he is.

“I just didn’t make the play,” Brady said.

About the only question was whether social media had more fun with the image of Brady dropping the ball or Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. performing a “Dirty Dancing” routine in a Super Bowl ad.

This was some pretty good football. This was a pretty good show at a time when the league desperately needed it.

The NFL season will likely be most remembered for when President Donald Trump, just before Week 3, decided to declare all the players who knelt for the national anthem as “sons of bitches.” Actually, very few players were kneeling at that point, the protest mostly petering out.

Trump likes creating chaos though and chaos ensued, with mass protests over the next few weeks, including larger numbers of players and even drawing in team owners. There were calls for an NFL boycott and probably some made it all the way through the year without watching anymore.

The number of players kneeling returned to about a dozen a week league wide. No player knelt during the playoffs. Trump broke tradition of doing an interview on the pregame show.

The damage to the league remains. The NFL became polarizing and political, a punching bag for the White House. Television ratings, for a variety of factors, sagged. “Thursday Night Football” remained a low-quality money grab. CTE and lousy refs and worse quarterbacking continued.

On Sunday though, there was this game, up here in Minnesota, which threw a week-long celebration of Middle America and weather – the Bold North it proclaims itself and its sub-zero air. Prince even made an appearance on a giant curtain as Justin Timberlake played “Purple Rain.”

And then the hundred-plus millions who tuned in were delivered a game that was, if nothing else, fun to watch, with the underdog prevailing, with Foles becoming the unlikely MVP, with Philadelphia finally coming out on top.

This is how the Super Bowl has been of late: incredible drama, incredible efforts, incredible finishes to close out months of grumbling and grousing. And next season is expected to feature legalized sports wagering.

So here was Goodell and the NFL again, late on another February night, knowing that in the end, the product wins over all.

Everyone can claim they hate the NFL all they want, but in the end, they’ll be back.

More Super Bowl coverage from Yahoo Sports:
Eagles beat Patriots in epic Super Bowl LII
Foles’ improbable journey ends with Super Bowl MVP
Gronk on retirement: ‘I’m going to look at my future’
Black screen leaves Super Bowl viewers baffled
NFL’s catch rule factors into Eagles’ game-winning TD