Brady will be 41 next season, but he said Sunday, “I don’t see why I wouldn’t be back.”
So will the Eagles, whose demeanor in the past week evoked the 2013 Seattle Seahawks, who knew how good they were — and couldn’t wait to prove as much against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. Jeffery spoke last week in definite terms: when, not if, the Eagles won the Super Bowl. Of Brady, he said Sunday night, “I respect him, a great player, probably one of the greatest ever, but hey, he had not played the Eagles yet.”
Indeed, he had not. He had not faced the team that choreographed elaborate touchdown celebrations and railed against social injustice and donned goofy dog masks to embrace their underdog status while mocking it. Fulfilling Lurie’s demand for a coach with emotional intelligence, Pederson fomented an inclusive locker-room culture that empowered players to flaunt their personalities. Lurie knew Pederson not only as a brilliant offensive mind but as someone who taught Lurie’s son, Julian, how to throw a football, and who, from being pelted with batteries from impatient fans wishing McNabb to start as a rookie in 1999, had the requisite toughness to coach in Philadelphia.
“Wherever he was,” Lurie said of Pederson last week, “he was always the most genuine person in the room.”
Pederson also has a preternatural feel for optimizing his players. On Saturday night, he told his team that he had formulated an assertive game plan, with plenty of downfield throws and bold tactics.
Teams tend to shrink against New England, especially when leading. The Eagles? No chance.
All season they have flouted conventional wisdom by going for it in counterintuitive situations. Only one team, Green Bay, went for it more often on fourth down. After Duron Harmon halted a promising drive by intercepting Foles on a ball that caromed off Jeffery, and after the Patriots proceeded to march 90 yards to draw within 15-12 with about two minutes remaining in the first half, the Eagles regrouped and found themselves at the New England 1 with 38 seconds left.
Instead of attempting a field goal, Philadelphia called its inverse: a play called Philly Special. It resembles a version the Chicago Bears have run, and the Eagles have been practicing it for the last month: a direct snap to Clement, who pitched to Trey Burton — a former college quarterback who converted to tight end — who tossed to Foles, who became the first player to throw and catch a touchdown in a Super Bowl.
“That play we’ve been working on for the last couple of weeks, and just needed the right time, right opportunity, and the guys executed it brilliantly,” Pederson said.
Burton said of Pederson: “He’s got a lot of guts.”
The Eagles’ sideline turned into a mosh pit, with players and coaches jumping around, as it did a couple hours later, when their only sack of the game dislodged the ball from one of the greatest quarterbacks in history.
Last week center Jason Kelce remarked that he had seen that the Chinese Year of the Dog was coming up. “So maybe the odds are in our favor,” he quipped.
Indeed, they were. Despite losing their franchise quarterback, their All-Pro left tackle (Jason Peters), their most versatile running back (Darren Sproles) and their best special-teams player (Chris Maragos), the Eagles thwarted the mighty Patriots in the final game of the season.
Outside the Eagles’ locker room, a sign read: “An individual can make a difference. A team can make a miracle.” And that is what it must have felt like from Northern Liberties to Manayunk to Mantua, cathartic joy that will not dissipate for days, weeks, months. They will scale lightpoles and high-five strangers and chant “Fly Eagles Fly” until their voice disappears because after 57 years the improbable has happened.
The Eagles, finally, are Super Bowl champions.