Zach Ertz

As Super Bowl sunk in, Brent Celek just wanted to party with fans

As Super Bowl sunk in, Brent Celek just wanted to party with fans

MINNEAPOLIS — As the Eagles slowly made their way off the confetti-covered turf and away from the mass hysteria unfurling on the field at U.S. Bank Stadium, most turned their attention to the next celebration in the locker room. 

Brent Celek wanted a different one. 

The longest-tenured athlete in the city of Philadelphia could think about just one thing on Sunday night after becoming a Super Bowl champion. He wanted to share it with the people who have cheered his name, worn his jersey and watched him grow up. 

He just wanted to get back to Philly. 

"I'm so excited for my team, this organization, but man, I'm so excited for these fans," he said. "I can't wait to get back to them and party." 

Brent Celek is a Super Bowl champion. 

Brent Celek is a Super Bowl champion. 

Once just didn't seem enough. Not for this guy. Not for the guy who might embody what it means to be a Philadelphia athlete more than anyone in the city. Not for a guy who has missed one game in his 11-year playing career, and simply for a concussion that didn't heal in time for a Thursday night game. Not for a guy who has never once complained about taking a backseat to younger players at his position and who even went out of his way to laud those same players at his postgame Super Bowl press conference. 

Celek just gets Philly. And Philly gets Celek. 

"I'm sure they're all going nuts," Celek said. "I wish I was there hanging out with them because I know they're going crazy right now." 

Celek, who turned 33 recently, will get his chance to party with the fans this week. The city is holding a parade to end all parades on Thursday at 11 a.m. It'll go from South Philly near the sports complex and end, fittingly, on the Rocky Steps. It's going to be nuts and Celek knows that. Nay, he relishes that. 

These are his people. And he's going to throw back a few adult beverages with them. He's earned that right. For the last 11 years, he's put on his hard hat and gone to work for the Eagles. He was once a pass-catching tight end, who shifted roles into a primary blocker and is now really the team's third option at the position. He's handed it all with such undeniable grace because he cares about his teammates and his team. 

On Sunday night in front of a packed group of reporters, Celek said he knew in his first week in Philadelphia how much the Eagles meant to the people of the city. He said right from the beginning, he knew how much it would mean to win a Super Bowl with the Birds because fans hadn't ever had one. 

"Now they do!" Celek said. 

It means so much for Celek to play his entire career with the Birds. That's why it wouldn't be that outrageous to think this might be the perfect time for him to ride off into the sunset. Eleven years with the same team and cap it off with a Super Bowl ring. 

"This is the icing on the cake but we'll see," Celek said. "I'm not saying one way or the other what the deal is." 

A few weeks ago at the NovaCare Complex, Celek got in front of his teammates and spoke. He didn't tell them anything they didn't know. He just told them his truth, his story. He told them about how in his second year in the league, he made it to the NFC Championship Game and had waited nine years to get back. He told them that making it to these heights wasn't the goal. The goal was to bring the Lombardi Trophy back to Philly. 

Celek and the Eagles have done that. 

And on Thursday, he'll get to throw down with millions of fans who became family. 

"It's surreal. Especially in Philly," Celek said. "People who played in Philly and know our fans understand what it means to these people. I know what it means to them. This is legendary! This is legendary right here."

To be fair, so is Celek.

Almost all A-pluses in Eagles' Super Bowl grades

Almost all A-pluses in Eagles' Super Bowl grades

Grading the Eagles' 41-33 win IN THE SUPER BOWL.

The Eagles are Super Bowl champions. Probably gonna be awhile before seeing that gets old.

As far as the report card from the game? It's not fridge-worthy. No, no, no, no. Frame it. Etch it in stone. Commission a statue of it.

There's no telling when you'll see marks this good again.

QUARTERBACK

Nick Foles: 28/43, 373 YDS, 3 TD, 1 INT

And one touchdown catch that will go down as the most famous in franchise history.

Remember when Foles' confidence was a huge question mark? We're only talking about from 2014 up until two weeks ago. Well, how 'bout now? Have you ever seen a more poised, a more cool, calm and collected performance in a big game from a quarterback in an Eagles uniform?

Foles was as close to flawless as anybody could ask. The pick wasn't his fault — the result of a pass deflected by its intended target. Other than that, the Patriots were credited with seven pass breakups and failed to register a sack. The decision-making was impeccable but didn't come at the expense of throwing downfield, as Foles averaged 8.7 yards per attempt. The touchdowns to Alshon Jeffery and especially Corey Clement were things of beauty.

Incredible performance, especially coming from a player precious few people believed in when the playoffs began.

Grade: A+

RUNNING BACKS

LeGarrette Blount: 14 rushes, 90 yards, TD
Corey Clement: 4 receptions, 100 yards, TD

Cris Collinsworth couldn't seem to figure out why Jay Ajayi didn't touch the football for large portions of the game. Well, Collinsworth couldn't figure a lot of things, but that's another story. As for Ajayi's disappearing act, Blount had the hot hand.

Anybody who's followed the Eagles all season knows the running back rotation is confounding at times, often defying explanation. Ajayi's diminished role in the Super Bowl was not one of those occasions. Blount's vision was better than 20/20, he was running angry against his former team, and he good luck tackling 250 pounds when it's on a mission. Ajayi played well (9 rushes, 57 yards), but sticking with Blount was the right call.

As for Clement, he saved his best for last. Who would've thought an undrafted rookie with 29 career catches in college would've emerged as the Eagles' best receiver out of the backfield? Even prior to the playoffs, he recorded 10 receptions during the regular season. In the Super Bowl, of all games, Clement came up with a 22-yard touchdown in traffic.

By the way, great ball security all around.

Grade: A+

WIDE RECEIVERS

Nelson Agholor: 9 receptions, 84 yards
Alshon Jeffery: 3 receptions, 73 yards, TD

Of the four touchdown catches in the game, Jeffery was the only receiver to come up with one. It also happened to be his best grab of the season — a 34-yard jump ball at the back of the end zone, both feet clearly inbounds, not so much as the appearance of a bobble as he went to the ground. Jeffery converted only three of nine targets, including a two-point try, and his attempt at a one-handed catch wound up aiding an interception. Of course, the refs sure kept those penalty flags in their pockets, didn't they?

Agholor led all Eagles players in receptions and was involved in a lot of the offensive gadgetry. Only two targets went as incompletions. Torrey Smith wasn't quite as sharp, hauling in five of nine throws that came his way while adding 49 yards in production.

When it was all said and done, all three wideouts were responsible for a missed opportunity or two, but each was solid when it mattered most.

Grade: A

TIGHT ENDS

Zach Ertz: 7 receptions, 67 yards, TD

There were some blocking issues early on. The running game had some trouble getting going, and blocks by Ertz and Brent Celek weren't getting it done. Hard to say whether that was quality intel by the Patriots or not, but obviously, the Eagles ran it much better as the game went on, and the tight ends were not an issue.

Regardless, pretty sure we can let them off the hook. As usual, Ertz had a bunch of big catches, none bigger than what proved to be the game-winning 11-yard score. And right up front, get out of here with any conspiracy theories. He took three steps before diving to the ground, establishing himself as a runner in the process, thus removing all of the strife over the NFL's catch rule. Honestly, it's not that complicated. I swear.

Grade: A

OFFENSIVE LINE

This unit's performance can be distilled in two simple statistics.

No. 1: The Eagles averaged a healthy 6.1 yards per rushing attempt.

No. 2: The Patriots failed to register a sack and recorded just five quarterback hits on 43 dropbacks by Foles.

The Eagles weren't necessarily consistent running the football but racked up a bunch of huge gains over the course of the contest. And despite all of the passing, and Foles' occasional need to buy himself some time, he largely went untouched, taking a limited number of shots. In all, the Patriots' defense managed just four tackles for loss on 71 offensive plays. This was a flat-out dominant performance. Franky, "A+" probably isn't good enough. Maybe next season, we'll look into expanding our report cards for situations such as this.

Grade: A+

DEFENSIVE LINE

Brandon Graham: 2 tackles, 2 QB hits, sack, forced fumble
Derek Barnett: Fumble recovery

Not sure statistics truly justify how this front played. Sure, there were stretches there when the Patriots had terrific protection and Tom Brady went untouched. The first three possessions in the second half were a disaster, as New England marched right into the end zone on all three. By the end of the game, the secondary was on the hook for 500 yards passing.

But Brady gets rid of the ball quickly, and the Eagles' D as a whole looked gassed during that late stretch. Once they came back on the field reenergized from a seven-minute scoring drive by the offense, the fire returned. Graham's strip-sack and Barnett's recovery pretty much sealed the deal on the franchise's first world championship. It was the unit's only sack but one of nine quarterback hits on Brady's 50 dropbacks. The pressure was there, if not exactly constant.

More disappointing, perhaps, is the fact that the NFL's No. 1 run defense allowed the Patriots to average 5.1 yards per carry.

Grade: A-

LINEBACKERS

Nigel Bradham: 7 tackles, 1 QB hit

In what was perhaps the most memorable play of the Super Bowl by a linebacker, Bradham hit Brady so hard in the midsection he was reportedly doubled over on the field during the ensuing commercial break. There were a handful of other stops made by Bradham for minimal or no gain that flew under the radar but turned out to be pivotal in ending Patriots drives.

Sort of a shame. Every position group seemed to have its moment to shine. Didn't happen here. Bradham finished third on the team in tackles, while Mychal Kendricks added four more. No big shining moment, unless I'm forgetting something, which is entirely possible — there were so many special plays. A fine game by both players, nonetheless.

Grade: A

DEFENSIVE BACKS

Jalen Mills: 9 tackles, 2 passes defensed
Rodney McLeod: 6 tackles, 1 pass defensed

Legit thought McLeod was going to powerbomb Patriots wideout Brandin Cooks on that reverse attempt. Instead, the Eagles' free safety merely saved a touchdown. It was one of several critical plays by McLeod, who seemed to be in the right place at the right time on a number of stops. Underrated game.

Meanwhile, Cooks probably would've settled for that powerbomb if it meant he wouldn't get knocked out of the game by Malcolm Jenkins. It was an incredibly vicious but legal shot, and even though the Patriots sort of had their way with the secondary from there on, that hit certainly sent a message.

The corners were far from shutdown, though Mills and Ronald Darby each managed two pass breakups. In fact, Darby probably should've come up with an interception to seal the deal on the Patriots' final drive. Again, 500 yards of passing came through here. Ah, what the hell. Who won the game again?

Grade: A-

SPECIAL TEAMS

Jake Elliott: 3/3 FG, 2/3 XP

Ya know, this whole thing might've gone a bit more smoothly had Elliott not missed yet another extra point. Not only did it cost the Eagles one on the scoreboard, it also cost them again when they tried to go for two to make up the difference and failed to convert.

Talk about nitpicking. All Elliott did was make his next four kicks, including a 46-yard field goal with 65 seconds left to make this an eight-point game. If he missed, the Patriots get great field position, and a touchdown wins. Nailed it, effectively putting the game away.

Eagles' coverage units were solid, limiting Patriots kick returners to fewer than 15 yards per return — including a late lateral attempt — and Najee Goode was in on two tackles. Hmm, how should we mark this?

Grade: A

COACHING

Eagles' record: 16-3

Imagine a world where Bill Belichick isn't the best coach in the NFL. It's Doug Pederson.

Hey, you're living in it. Not to take anything away from Belichick, who's guided the Patriots to five world championships and eight trips to the Super Bowl in 17 years, but Pederson thoroughly outcoached the G.O.A.T. in this one. He thoroughly outcoached everybody all season long, Coach of the Year voting be damned. We all had our doubts about this man, but given the hand he was dealt, to even reach this point, let alone win the game, Pederson proved everyone wrong. He's going to be around for a long, long time.

Conversely, not Jim Schwartz's best game as defensive coordinator, although his unit got the job done when it mattered most. Is anybody complaining? Didn't think so.

Every member of this staff from to bottom, from Pederson to the coordinators, to the position coaches and the quality control guys and interns we don't know and never see deserves the utmost respect and credit for the way this game and season turned out. Nobody saw this coming, and sure, the team was better than we thought, but the biggest overachievers of all were probably on this staff. Absolutely incredible job all around.

Grade: A+

Super Bowl champs! Eagles take down Pats to cap special season

Super Bowl champs! Eagles take down Pats to cap special season

BOX SCORE

MINNEAPOLIS — All the grease in the world isn't going to keep Eagles fans off those light poles in the city. 

The Birds are coming home with the Lombardi Trophy (see celebration).

For the first time in franchise history, the Eagles have won the biggest game in sports. In an incredible performance, they bested Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots, 41-33, at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minnesota on Sunday night. 

Nick Foles played magnificently as the Eagles' offense out-fired Brady on the stage where he's become the G.O.A.T. and Brandon Graham made an incredible play when the Eagles absolutely needed him to (see story).

There's finally going to be a green parade down Broad Street (see Roob's observations).

After all they went through this season, it seemed rather fitting that it all ended like this. What a game. It certainly wasn't easy. 

While Foles was throwing dimes, the defense struggled. The Eagles gave up 613 yards. It's the most yards they've given up in any game in the Super Bowl era, regular season or playoffs. Didn't matter. 

Eventually, they pulled it off. Somehow, defying the odds, like they've done all season (see story)

The Eagles took a 22-12 lead into halftime after a ridiculous first 30 minutes that featured 673 total yards of offense. The Patriots actually outgained the Eagles in the first half but it didn't matter. The Eagles went up 10 when Pederson pulled off what might have been the gutsiest play call in Super Bowl history (see story)

The Birds got on the scoreboard first with a field goal but the Patriots were able to match it with one of their own. From there, the offensive floodgates opened and the two teams got into a shootout. The craziest thing about the Eagles' trick play is that the Patriots tried one of their own earlier in the game and Brady couldn't bring in the pass.

Turning point
Even though they already had the lead, that Graham strip sack has to be it. When Brady has the ball in his hands down one score, nothing feels safe. Every Eagles fan in the building likely felt that way. Until Graham knocked the ball free. 

Key stat
The Patriots' 613 yards of offense is the highest total in Super Bowl history. 

It didn't matter. 

Offensive stud
Foles made some incredible throws on Sunday night. We wondered which Foles would show up. No question. It was the good one. He's the MVP (see story)

Offensive dud
Jay Ajayi didn't have the kind of game many people probably thought he would have. 

Defensive stud
The defense was lackluster all game, but Graham made the play of the night with his strip sack on Brady. 

Defensive dud
Jalen Mills made some plays but also got called for a big penalty and was beaten on a deep ball to Chris Hogan. Corey Graham struggled to cover Rob Gronkowski. 

Key plays
• Jake Elliott hit a 46-yarder to put the Eagles up eight points after the Graham strip sack. 

• After the Eagles' offense took the lead, Graham got a strip sack on Brady and the ball bounced into Derek Barnett's hands. The place erupted. 

• On 3rd-and-7 from the Patriots' 11-yard line, Foles hit Zach Ertz for a touchdown to take back the lead from the Patriots with 2:21 left in the game. The play was reviewed, but upheld. Then the Eagles failed on the two-point conversion. 

• Brady hit Gronk, covered by Ronald Darby, for a 4-yard touchdown pass to give the Patriots their first lead in the game at 33-32 with 9:22 remaining in the fourth quarter. It capped another 75-yard touchdown drive. 

• Elliott kicked a 43-yarder to increase the Eagles' lead early in the fourth quarter to 32-26. 

• Brady hit Hogan for a 26-yard touchdown pass with 3:23 left in the third quarter to cut into the Eagles' lead, 29-26. It capped a 75-yard touchdown drive. 

• Foles hit Corey Clement for a beautiful 22-yard touchdown pass in the end zone on 3rd-and-6. The play was reviewed but the call stood. Clement caught the ball and got both feet down in bounds. That put the Eagles up 29-19. 

• Gronkowski caught a 5-yard touchdown pass on the Patriots' first drive of the second half. On that drive, he had four catches for 68 yards and a touchdown after having just one for nine yards in the first half. 

• In the gutsiest play call of the year, Pederson dialed up that insane gadget play on 4th-and-goal from the 1-yard line to give the Eagles a 22-12 lead heading into halftime. 

• James White had a 26-yard touchdown run late in the second quarter to cut into the Eagles' lead. He broke three tackles on his way to the end zone to make the score 15-12 after the missed extra point. Mills had a rough go on the 90-yard drive. He was called for a penalty and then got beat deep on a pass to Hogan. 

• Foles tossed a deep pass to Alshon Jeffery that was tipped up and intercepted by Duron Harmon in the second quarter. Jeffery almost made a circus catch but actually tipped it up to the DB. 

• LeGarrette Blount rumbled into the west end zone for a 21-yard touchdown in the second quarter to put the Eagles up 15-3. The two-point conversion play failed. 

• Brady became a receiver on a key trick third-down play in the second quarter and dropped the ball. He's the best quarterback in NFL history and the Patriots decided to make him a receiver. OK. Then on fourth down, his pass to Gronkowski fell incomplete and the Eagles took over on downs.

• On a 3rd-and-2 from the Eagles' 9-yard line, the Patriots handed the ball off to Brandin Cooks, who tried to hurdle Rodney McLeod. McLeod simply stood up and slammed him to the ground. Then the Patriots missed a 26-yard field goal after a botched snap. 

• After Blount broke off a big, rumbling 36-yard run, the Eagles followed it up with an incredible play-action pass. Foles tossed a dime to Jeffery, who caught the ball over Eric Rowe for a 34-yard touchdown (see story). The Eagles went up 9-3 after Elliott missed the extra point. 

• Mills broke up a pass to Gronkowski in front of the end zone on third down to force a Patriots field goal on their first drive. Before that, the Pats sliced through the Eagles' defense using some tempo to get them out of their game. 

• The Eagles converted two third downs, the last of which was a 3rd-and-12 pass to Torrey Smith for 15 yards. The Eagles capped the 14-play drive (7:05) with a 23-yard field goal to put them up 3-0. 

Injury update
Dannell Ellerbe (hamstring) returned to action after missing the NFC Championship Game and the Eagles' sick players were able to heal up enough in time for the game. 

Stefen Wisniewski left for a brief time during the game but returned. 

Up next
See you at the parade.