Satan walks into a hardware store, and asks where he can purchase a snow shovel. The clerk looks at him, and asks why he needs a snow shovel. Satan replies “Didn’t you hear? The Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl. Hell has frozen over!”
I just typed the words “The Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl”. I never thought that I would write those seven words.
In September of 2008, the Philadelphia Phillies started to falter. They had been in first place for much of the summer, but as the weather cooled, so did the Phillies. On September 10, they lost the third game (and the series) to the Florida Marlins, and fell 3 1/2 games behind the division-leading New York Mets. With only 16 games to go in the season, I recall saying to Theresa “the Phillies are done”. At that point, they had a record of 79-67 (.541) and showed no signs of playoff hope.
I am a bad predictor. The next day, the Phillies went on a tear, winning 7 in a row, and 13 of their final 16 games to win the National League East. They then won the Division Series 3-1 against Milwaukee, the National League Championship Series 4-1 against the LA Dodgers, and won the World Series 4-1 against Tampa Bay. After playing .541 baseball through 146 games, they played .800 baseball for the final 30 games.
The reason that I mention “the Phillies are done” from 10 years ago, is that I recently said “The Eagles are done”. Carson Wentz tore his ACL and MCL in a game on December 10, 2017 against the LA Rams. The Eagles won the game, and were 11-2 after that win. But without Carson Wentz, I figured that the Eagles had no chance in the playoffs with Nick Foles.
I wasn’t alone in that opinion. Las Vegas oddsmakers had the Eagles as 4-1 picks to win the Super Bowl before the Carson Wentz injury, and 14-1 picks to win after his injury.
Carson Wentz wasn’t the only important member of the Philadelphia Eagles to suffer a season-ending injury this year. Jason Peters (left tackle), Jordan Hicks (linebacker), Darren Sproles (running back), Chris Maragos (safety and special teams) and Caleb Sturgis (kicker) all suffered season-ending injuries. Ronald Darby (cornerback) experienced an ankle injury in game one that kept him out for 10 games.
Try winning a football game without your starting quarterback, left tackle, running back, linebacker, safety, cornerback and kicker. Go ahead, I’m waiting.
After Carson Wentz’s injury, the Eagles finished the season by winning 2 of their last 3 games, although not very convincingly. Their regular season record was 13-3, but my hopes were not very high for playoff success.
After a week off for a bye week, they played the Atlanta Falcons and won 15-10, but only after Julio Jones (Atlanta Falcons) allowed a pass to go through his hands that would have won the game for the Falcons.
The following week, I attended the NFC Championship game against the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings scored the opening touchdown, and took a 7-0 lead. They gained yardage on every play of their opening drive. I thought “uh-oh…”.
The Vikings never scored again. The Eagles won 37-7, and it didn’t seem that close.
After the NFC Championship game, my cousin and I ordered a pair of tickets for Super Bowl LII in Minnesota. My feeling about the Super Bowl was “if the Eagles are going, I am going”.
So we went to the Super Bowl.
This Super Bowl was epic. The two teams set a number of records, including total yardage by a team (Patriots), total yardage by both teams combined, most points by the losing team (Patriots), fewest punts in a game, and most first downs passing by both teams.
There was a lot of offense in this game. The two teams combined for 1151 yards of total offense, and 874 yards of passing offense. The two teams set the record for most combined yardage in a Super Bowl by the end of the third quarter!
I saw something on the internet after the game, which noted that Tom Brady had 503 yards passing, 3 passing touchdowns, no interceptions, the Patriots had only 1 penalty for 5 yards, and never had to punt.
And they lost! How does a team throw for 503 yards, and lose?
I kept wondering “how did the Eagles win a game in which the Patriots gained more yards (613 to 538), had more possessions (11 to 10), had less penalties and penalty yardage assessed (the Patriots only had one penalty for 5 yards), the same number of turnovers (1 apiece), and the Patriots never punted the ball?
I looked at the drive charts. The Eagles and Patriots each had 5 drives in the first half. The Eagles scored on 4 of those drives (FG, TD [with a missed extra point], TD [with missed 2 point conversion], and TD) versus three Patriots scores (FG, FG, and TD ([with a missed extra point]). In the second half, the Patriots had 5 drives, the Eagles had 4. The Patriots scored on three drives (TD, TD, TD) and the Eagles scored on all 4 drives (TD, FG, TD, FG). The Eagles did not score on drives that ended in a punt and an interception. The Patriots did not score on drives that ended in a missed FG, downs, end of first half, fumble, and the end of the game.
The Eagles scored on 8 of their 10 drives! The Patriots scored on 6 of their 11 drives.
The game was always close (at least it felt that way to me). The score was within 10 points or less for all but 1:24. And the Patriots only led for 7:01. But that 7:01 was in the heart of the 4th quarter, so it felt longer than that.
The Eagles were remarkably efficient when they had the ball. Almost historically so. They scored on 80% of their possessions! I did not realize that until I looked at the data.
None of this conveys the emotion of going to the Super Bowl, and watching the Eagles win. Maybe a couple of photographs and stories will help.
This is a photograph of my cousin Howard and I. We had attended Super Bowl XXXIX in 2005, when the Eagles lost to the Patriots 24-21. Given that the Patriots have won 5 Super Bowls, beaten the Eagles in a Super Bowl, and came back last year to win the Super Bowl against Atlanta after falling behind 28-3, I did not have high hopes. At the time this photograph was taken, I was very nervous.
This is a photograph of us after the game. I had spent several minutes on the telephone with my family crying together, as we shed 57 years of watching losing football together.
After I took that photograph, I crossed the following item off of my bucket list, while I was still in the stadium: “Watch the Philadelphia Eagles win a Super Bowl”. Done. Checked off. Complete.
I want to take a moment to thank all of the people in my life who have supported my Philadelphia Eagles habit. Let me start with my father, who started taking me to Eagles games when I was about 4 years old. We went to games together at Franklin Field. Thank you also to Theresa, Heather and Dylan, who never complained about the time or the cost, because they know how happy I am watching the Philadelphia Eagles win. Thank you to my cousin Howard, who went to the Super Bowl with me, and who sang and laughed and cried with me.
And lastly, I have a few apologies to make. I was wrong about several people, and I want to admit that publicly. I was wrong about the hiring of Doug Pederson, the coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. I thought that he would be an Andy Reid clone, and I am tired of Andy Reid. I was wrong about Howie Roseman, the General Manager of the Eagles. He constructed an incredible team, including Carson Wentz and Nick Foles. I was wrong about Carson Wentz and Nick Foles. I did not think they could win on a big stage like the Super Bowl. I was wrong about Jeff Lurie, too. I doubted whether he really wanted to do whatever it takes to put a winning football team on the field. When I saw the expression on his face when he accepted the Vince Lombardi trophy, I saw someone who was (almost) as happy as I was.
I thought it might be appropriate to finish this story with the lyrics to one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever had the pleasure of singing with 70,000 of my closest friends:
Fly Eagles Fly!
On the road to victory,
Fight Eagles Fight!
Score a touchdown one, two, three
Hit ‘em low,
Hit ‘em high,
And watch our Eagles fly!
Fly Eagles Fly
On the road to victory!