MINNEAPOLIS -- When Nick Foles contemplated retiring two years ago and let his love for football pull him back, could he have imagined that his decision would yield a night such as this?
Could he have pictured how this would all play out, with him leading the Philadelphia Eagles to their first Super Bowl by going toe-to-toe with his boyhood idol, making history as the first player to throw and catch a touchdown in the Super Bowl and earning MVP honors after one of the best performances of his career?
Of course not. That's what makes this serendipitous outcome that much sweeter.
When Tom Brady heaved a last-ditch effort toward the end zone as time ran out on the New England Patriots' historic quest, Foles was on the sideline with his hands on his head, watching the seconds tick off the scoreboard, which relayed the Eagles new reality.
Super Bowl champions.
Leading Philadelphia to its first Vince Lombardi Trophy with a 41-33 win on Sunday, Foles became the first quarterback to start the season as a backup and win the Super Bowl since Brady did it 16 years ago. Foles is the third QB to start and win the Super Bowl after starting three or fewer games in the regular season; he took over for Carson Wentz after Wentz tore his ACL in Week 14.
Foles' journey has been a long one. He started his career in Philadelphia, and after three seasons, including the 2013 campaign in which he notched an NFL-record 27-to-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio, Foles bounced from St. Louis to Kansas City and back to Philadelphia as Wentz's backup this season.
The Eagles were underdogs in each of their three postseason wins, led by a quarterback who refused to let the stage appear too big.
"There's plenty of kids watching this game right now dreaming about this moment, some day will be here, and to be here with my daughter, my wife and my family, my teammates, this city," Foles said when he received the MVP honor, his voice cracking, "we're very blessed."
Against New England, Foles was 28-of-43 passing for 373 yards, three touchdowns, an interception and a 106.1 passer rating. The Eagles and the Patriots set a Super Bowl record with 1,151 yards of total offense, while Foles and Brady combined for 878 yards passing.
Brady was brilliant in defeat, passing for a postseason record 505 yards, but the difference between the quarterbacks came down to trick plays. After Brady couldn't catch a pass on a trick play, Foles one-upped him with what coach Doug Pederson coined a "Philly Special."
On fourth-and-goal with the first half coming to a close, Foles moved out from under center, having center Jason Kelce snap the ball to running back Corey Clement, who turned and swiftly handed the ball off to tight end Trey Burton.
Foles had ran freely to the far side of the end zone and turned around right before he crossed the plane to haul in a touchdown pass from Burton that gave Philadelphia a 22-12 lead.
"That's something we've been working on," Foles said. "I was like, let's just run it. It was a good time, and the end was a little wider than I thought. I was like, I really need to sell it like I'm not doing anything. And it worked."
The success Philly has had with Foles and the run-pass option dominated the conversation throughout the playoffs. But his accuracy on his throws, with perfect placement on deep passes, stole the show in the Eagles' past two wins.
Foles was 4-of-8 with two touchdowns on passes that traveled 20 or more yards downfield on Sunday, after going 4-of-6 on such throws in the NFC Championship Game. Prior to this stretch, Foles was 1-of-12 overall and 0-of-10 as a starter passing that deep this season, per ESPN Stats & Information.
The born-again quarterback benefited from Pederson's aggressive playcalling, which allowed the Eagles to hold the lead for most of Super Bowl LII.
"I trust my players, I trust the coaches, and I trust my instincts," Pederson said. "I trust everything that I'm doing, and I want to maintain that aggressiveness with the guys. In games like this against a great opponent, you have to make those tough decisions that way and keep yourself aggressive."
During the regular season, the Eagles had a league-high 17 fourth-down conversions. They stuck with that same identity in Minneapolis, converting on two critical fourth downs.
They were big-time plays made by a big-time quarterback. A Super Bowl champion and Super Bowl MVP. An underdog no more.