Former Cincinnati Bengals kicker Jake Elliott didn’t have to make his 46-yard field goal attempt with 1:05 remaining for the Philadelphia Eagles to win Super Bowl LII.
But the kick still came with plenty of pressure.
Had Elliott, who was one of several players in the game with area connections, missed, the New England Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady would have had the ball at their own 36 down by five.
Instead, Elliott’s field goal, his second of the game, gave the Eagles a 41-33 lead. And his short, well-placed kickoff that followed forced the Patriots to burn another seven seconds off the clock during the return.
And a few minutes later Elliott, whose evening began with a missed extra point, was celebrating underneath falling confetti along with former Lakota West linebacker Jordan Hicks, former Miami University offensive lineman Brandon Brooks and several other teammates with local connections.
Hicks celebrated in street clothes after suffering a season-ending Achilles injury in October, while Brooks, the starting right guard, played a vital role in preventing the Patriots from getting to quarterback and Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles.
Also instrumental in keeping Foles upright against a New England defense that finished tied for seventh in the regular season with 42 sacks — and first in the postseason with 13 — was center Jason Kelce, a University of Cincinnati product.
“The last two weeks, after we beat Atlanta, after we beat (Minnesota), I found myself in the shower crying, dreaming of this moment,” Kelce told reporter after the game. “I’ve worked so hard in my life to get here, and everything culminates. No matter what obstacle is in the way, just keep moving forward. The resiliency of this team is incredible.
“We’ve all talked about it, but when you really sit back and think, a lot of you guys picked us to finish dead last in the NFC East,” he added.
Another former Bearcat, tight end Brent Celek, also played a key role. He played 32 percent of the offensive snaps without a catch or target, meaning his primary focus was pass protection and blocking for a rushing attack that posted 164 yards on 27 carries for a 6.1 average.
One of the plays Celek was in for was the controversial, game-winning touchdown reception by fellow tight end Zach Ertz.
“I was telling the ref that he had three feet down and that’s a catch,” Celek said of the play. “And the ref wouldn’t tell me either way, and I was like ‘C’mon, ref, you got to tell me that three feet down is a catch and he’s like ‘I don’t know, I don’t know.’ But I thought it was a catch, a catch for sure. And obviously it was a catch.”
And former Ohio State standout Malcolm Jenkins made an impact for the Philadelphia defense. it was his legal hit on Brandin Cooks that knocked the Patriots leading receiver out of the game with a head injury with 13 minutes left in the second quarter.
Jenkins finished with four tackles and one pass defended as the Eagles allowed Brady to throw for a Super Bowl-record 505 yards and three touchdowns.
“We don’t care how many yards we gave up,” Jenkins said. “We were just trying to win. We obviously have a lot of respect for Brady and that offense. He obviously is the best to do it, and we understand that. The way it went, it was just going to come down to whoever got the last stop. And we were able to come up with it.
“I couldn’t be more proud of this group,” he added. “Everything that we fought through, carried. The City of Philadelphia, what it means to bring this back, it feels great.”
Former OSU punter Cameron Johnston also is a member of the Eagles with a reserve/futures contract.