More than 1,000 miles away from its team, a city exploded with joy Sunday night.
The Philadelphia Eagles clinched their first title in the Super Bowl era, defeating the New England Patriots by a score of 41–33. In a game that was thought to be more of a defensive battle, there was only one punt between the two teams all night.
The game proved to be the most offense-heavy match in NFL history, ending with a total of more than 1,100 yards combined. The Eagles came into the game as one of the top defensive units in the league, having limited the Minnesota Vikings to just seven points in the NFC Championship game.
They did not perform the same way in the Super Bowl, allowing quarterback Tom Brady to rack up more than 500 yards passing and three touchdowns.
It was the first time in Super Bowl history that a quarterback has thrown for 500 or more yards without an interception and lost the game.
On the other side of the ball, quarterback Nick Foles was the story of the playoffs.
Foles finished the postseason with almost 1,000 passing yards in three games with six touchdowns and a 72 percent completion percentage. Foles entered the season as the backup behind Carson Wentz and was forced into action when the MVP-candidate suffered an ACL injury late in the regular season.
The season was over for the Eagles in the minds of many fans and national critics when Wentz went down.
Instead, Foles led Philadelphia to two wins in its last three regular season games. He did not look that great in the final two games, but he still did enough to help the team clinch the No. 1 seed in the NFC and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Despite the dominance shown by the Eagles at home in seasons past and the regular season, the narrative surrounding the team did not change and it was picked as the underdog going into the NFC Divisional matchup with the Atlanta Falcons.
The players used what they saw as disrespect as fuel and motivation as they defeated Atlanta. The defense had a spectacular performance and Foles and the offense did enough to move on to the championship game.
Eagles fans were beginning to regain confidence in their beloved Eagles and believed they had a chance to beat the No. 2 seed Minnesota Vikings.
While the fans’ minds may have changed, sports talk personalities around the country still did not believe the Eagles had what it took to take down, at the time, the best defense in football.
Instead, Foles had his best game since taking over for Wentz, putting up 31 points on the vaunted Minnesota defense. He threw for 350 yards and three touchdowns en route to a massive win and the Eagles’ first Super Bowl berth in 13 years.
Oddly enough, it turned out to be a rematch of that same Super Bowl that ended in anguish for Eagles fans in 2005. The Patriots defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC Championship and looked poised to repeat as world champions.
In the two weeks leading up to the big game, talk shows were filled with “how the Eagles could pull off the upset.” Critics still did not see the Eagles having much of a chance against the dynasty of the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady era. They had the right to have their doubts; Philadelphia was coming into only its third Super Bowl appearance in franchise history with a coach in only his second season — who was coaching high school football just 10 years ago — with a relatively inexperienced quarterback in the playoffs while New England was appearing in its eighth Super Bowl in the Brady/Belichick era.
Philadelphia felt like it was splitting at the seams. The city has long been taunted for its sports teams’ lack of success over the years. The Eagles had been consistently good for years under former coach Andy Reid, but had never been able to capture a title. The last time the Eagles clinched an NFL title was in 1960, before the Super Bowl era began.
Fans will be hard-pressed to find a city that places so much value on its sports teams and not have a football title. Many Philadelphians claimed that this team is different from other past squads, but there was still one thing left for the team to prove.
Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery promised before the season that the team he signed with would win the Super Bowl, and he doubled down on that promise days before the game. Confidence was exuding throughout the city and the team carried that into the Super Bowl.
People were gathered in Philadelphia’s Center City and Broad Street, just waiting and praying that their team would deliver on its promise. Foles was comfortable from kickoff to the end of the game and matched Brady throw-for-throw. He delivered a score on almost every drive and came in clutch when necessary.
When Brandon Graham forced what turned out to be the game-sealing fumble, Eagles fans around the country erupted in cheers and tears. It all seemed too good to be true.
Many fans had been waiting their entire lives to see this moment, like 99-year-old lifer Phil Basser. He had seen the rise of many good teams in seasons past, but was left with a Lombardi Trophy-shaped hole in his heart.
This Eagles team did not just feel different — it was different. For the first time in franchise history, it delivered on its potential.
The Philadelphia Eagles are Super Bowl champions for the first time.