With all due respect to Julius Erving, the Broad Street Bullies, Mike Schmidt, and the heroes of the 2008 World Series for the Phillies, this is the pinnacle.
The Eagles just slayed Goliath to win their first Super Bowl in franchise history. But even more extraordinarily, these Eagles provided a city with sports roots that can be traced back as far as 1862, the year legendary baseball manager Connie Mack was born, with its greatest sports moment.
Connie Mack won five World Series as manager of the Philadelphia Athletics, the last of which came in 1930. But it’s tough to imagine that even the gentleman known for wearing a suit and tie in the dugout wouldn’t be partaking in the celebrations if he were here today.
Nobody discounts that the Philadelphia Flyers were the NHL’s first expansion franchise to win the Stanley Cup, doing so in back-to-back fashion in 1974 and 1975. There will always be a place for the 1983 NBA championship the Philadelphia 76ers won.
After the Athletics left for Oakland, Philadelphia’s new baseball team, the Phillies, won the World Series in 1980 and 2008.
Two million people attended the parade celebrating that 2008 triumph. In fact, it was voted as the greatest moment in Philadelphia sports history.
The Eagles really did take the scenic route to football heaven. Nick Foles becoming the first quarterback in Super Bowl history to throw and receive a touchdown was a microcosm of the craziness that ensued Sunday night.
After receiving the ball first from the opening kickoff, Foles led an impressive drive, but it only culminated in a field goal. New England had a similar possession after to knot the score at 3-3. The opening exchange of field goals was the most normal part of the entire affair.
Foles then found Alshon Jeffery for a 34-yard touchdown to open up the touchdown scoring party, but Jake Elliot’s extra point was off the mark. The kicking troubles then shifted to the other sideline when New England kicker Stephen Gostkowski missed a 26-yard field goal, and then an extra point in the second quarter.
But perhaps the defining moment of the game came with the final noteworthy action of the first half.
I don’t know how many people bet on Trey Burton having more touchdown passes than Tom Brady in the first half. Then again, who bet on the Eagles to be here back in August?
The tight end tossed not only the ball to Nick Foles to put Philadelphia up 22-12 at the intermission, but his own hat into the ring for most iconic Super Bowl plays of all time.
The second act started as something of a college football game. New England seemed to remember almost out of thin air that they had the human form of a cheat code on Madden in tight end Rob Gronkowski. He had four receptions for 68 yards on the opening possession of the second half to cut the lead to three.
But Foles, as unflappable as the city he represents, wasn’t letting the five-time Super Bowl champion get to him. The biggest twist of all in one of the wildest Super Bowls ever might have been the Eagles responding New England’s surge with a touchdown drive of their own.
And then the Patriots returned serve, and then in a return Roger Federer would have been proud of, broke the 30-point barrier with yet another sustained drive to carry the game into the 4th quarter.
The defining drive in Philadelphia Eagles history came after the Patriots took a 33-32 on New England’s third consecutive touchdown in the second half.
14 plays, 75 yards, 7:01 off the clock.
A 4th and one conversion on a pass from Nick Foles to Zach Ertz that will live forever in Philadelphia sports lore. Three consecutive completed passes to Nelson Agholar nobody will forget. Some tough running from Jay Ajayi. And to finish off a masterpiece, Foles delivered a strike to his tight end Ertz to polish off the touchdown drive.
He had it in his hands, bobbled it, and then came down with it. Just like his team in this game to end all games in Philadelphia.
The rookies showed up late to Philadelphia. They also made their biggest impact late. The first round draft pick out of Tennessee Derek Barnett had a strip sack of Tom Brady to set up his rookie counterpart kicker Jake Elliot to drill a field goal to extend the lead.
And then, the moment Philadelphians have waited their entire life for.
With nine seconds left, Tom Brady launched the ball into the end zone, looking for one last desperate chance at their sixth championship.
It fell to the turf.
In one season, culminating in one surreal night in Minneapolis, the Eagles have rewritten their history. The scars from an agonizing Super Bowl loss to the Patriots in 2005 don’t cut as deep anymore.
The pain of watching their archrivals in New York, Washington, and Dallas win Super Bowls has been eased by denying the greatest quarterback in NFL history his sixth championship in a game almost nobody gave them a chance to win.
Until the clock struck 0:00 at U.S. Bank Stadium tonight, those aforementioned history books regarding the Eagles have been occupied by a lot of disappointment, but also some great memories.
You can still hear the roar of Veterans Stadium in them. Shutting down those hated Cowboys in the 1981 NFC Championship Game to reach their first Super Bowl. An impossible Donovan McNabb to Freddie Mitchell 4th and 26 conversion to keep the 2004 playoff run alive. Both miracles at the Meadowlands.
The rest of the football world will have a million narratives on this game. From inevitable articles about if this is the end of New England’s dynasty to the rise of Nick Foles, and everything imaginable in between.
But in Philadelphia, only one story will come out of Super Bowl LII that matters.
After a half-century of near misses, Philadelphia sports fans finally have their crowning moment. And they did it in true Philadelphia fashion.
This city, built on a foundation of underdogs from Americans in 1776 to Rocky Balboa, now has one more they can celebrate.
Their Eagles stunning the New England Patriots to become world champions.