It's crazy to think a week ago today, we were all preparing for Super Bowl LII. It seems like at least a few months have passed since then.
But on the morning of Feb. 4, I was still in Minnesota, getting ready for the Super Bowl. Part of the NBC Sports Philadelphia crew left my hotel for the game at 8 a.m. CT and the game didn't start until 5:30. We were worried about traffic and security and it's the Super Bowl, so get there early. And what else is there to do?
It was cold. I'm talking about the kind of cold that hurts when you're outside for more than a couple minutes. Luckily, we didn't have to be outside for too long. Eventually, we found our way into U.S. Bank Stadium and into our trailer outside of the stadium. I left the stadium about 16 hours later.
Looking back, that day is mostly a blur. A long, long blur. But here — in no particular order — are 10 moments I'll never forget:
1. Brent Celek was so happy; he had no idea what to say. After the game ended, I wanted to see Celek first. He's the longest-tenured athlete in Philadelphia and he's just such a Philly guy. I know he was born in Cincinnati and that's where he went to college, but Philadelphia is his home. This city adopted him and he adopted this city. It's not hard why to see why the fit was so natural. Celek is as tough as they come, completely no-nonsense. He's played in the NFL for 11 seasons and he's missed one game because of a concussion that didn't heal in time for an early game. One of the most amazing things about seeing Celek after the game was how excited he was to get the heck out of Minnesota. Sure, he was thrilled to celebrate with his teammates, but he wanted to get back to Philly and celebrate with his people, Eagles fans.
"I can't wait to get back to them and party," Celek said.
2. The Philly Special. I mean, are you kidding me? It would be tough to ever forget that. Hours after the game was over, everyone was still thinking the same thing: Can you believe Doug Pederson called that? The [guts] on that guy. Sure, the video shows that it was Nick Foles' idea to run the play, but Pederson still needed to go with it and he did. Gutsy doesn't even begin to describe it. The man called a trick play on 4th-and-goal against Bill Belichick in the Super Bowl. Insane.
3. Since I got to the stadium so early, I got a chance to walk around a little well before the game and it's absolutely incredible. I'm not a big fan of AT&T Stadium in North Texas. While it's a spectacle, it kind of feels like someone just dropped a football field in the middle of a shopping mall. U.S. Bank Stadium doesn't feel like that; it's an incredible place for a game. I had a chance to stroll the sideline before the teams even got there on Sunday and just seeing the Eagles' logo on the field made it sink in. I doubted the Eagles at times during the season, but not on Sunday. It just felt like they were going to win that one.
4. There was a while where there were certainly some doubters back in Philly watching. Tom Brady gets the ball with 2:21 left in the game on his own 25-yard line with a chance to drive down the field and win the game. Gulp. Based on the way the Eagles' defense had played until that point, things really didn't look great. As much as everyone will always remember the Philly Special, Brandon Graham's strip sack was the play of the game. Earlier in the week, DL coach Chris Wilson told me how important it was going to be for his guys to stay patient during the game. And then after not touching Brady all night, Graham gets a strip sack in the biggest possible moment.
5. The drive before that big play, the drive that gave the Eagles the win, was a monster. Foles led the way on a 14-play, 75-yard drive that lasted 7:01 and was capped by an 11-yard pass to Zach Ertz for a touchdown. Until Sunday, there hadn't been a 14-play drive in a Super Bowl since Super Bowl XLVIII on Feb. 2, 2014. The Eagles had two 14-play drives on Sunday night.
Before that drive in the fourth quarter, the last 14-play, seven-minute drive in a Super Bowl that ended with a touchdown came from the Bucs in their 48-21 win over the Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII in 2003.
6. Coming into the game, I really thought if Foles got into a shootout with Brady, there was no way the Eagles would win the game. If the defense didn't take care of business, Foles wasn't going to be able to get it done. Oops. The defense gave up 600 yards and Foles was just incredible. There were about eight to 10 throws that were absolute dimes, that were placed perfectly for his receivers, against the Patriots.
What that guy did over the three playoff games is ridiculous. He deserved the Super Bowl MVP trophy.
7. That hit from Malcolm Jenkins on Brandin Cooks early in the second quarter was vicious. Cooks caught a pass and started to run around looking for a lane and Jenkins came from behind and absolutely clobbered him. Jenkins was just trying to make a big hit and probably a statement. He didn't intend to knock Cooks out of the game but that's exactly what he did. It was one of those hits everyone in the building heard.
8. The Gronk drive. On the first drive after Justin Timberlake's mediocre halftime performance, the Patriots got the ball back and started feeding the monster. The Pats went 75 yards on that drive and Rob Gronkowski accounted for 68 of them, including five on the touchdown from Brady. When he's at his best, Gronk can't be guarded. There had to be some fear that he was just about to absolutely take over the game. He did have one more touchdown after that, but the Eagles and Foles were able to respond on the next drive with a touchdown of their own and were able to more than keep pace with the Pats.
9. I still can't believe Corey Clement went from an undrafted kid who never caught the ball much in high school or in college to being the leading receiver for the winning team in the Super Bowl. It's incredible. But what I think is more incredible about Clement was that no matter what the Eagles asked of him this year, it was never too much. They want him to carry the ball between the tackles? No problem. They want him to learn how to catch and start running wheel routes? No problem. They want him to pass protect and become the third-down back? No problem. They want him to take a direct snap for a wild-ass trick play in the Super Bowl? No problem.
Clement might not be super fast and there are probably some reasons every single NFL team, including the Eagles, passed on him last spring, but there's just something amazing about a kid who can do all that in his first year. Based on skills alone, Wendell Smallwood probably would have been a better complement to LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi this season, but Clement earned it. He earned it every week and every snap he took. Good for him.
10. After the game and the celebration on the field, the Eagles let reporters into the locker room before Pederson gave his speech to the team. So we were actually there for it instead of watching it a few days later on a video tweeted out by the team; so that was pretty weird. After Pederson spoke, it was Jenkins' turn. He joked he didn't have much else to say. From there, the celebration continued. There was a screen in the middle of the locker room set up with an Eagles Super Bowl champions background, so a bunch of the guys were taking turns getting in photos with one another and the Lombardi Trophy. This lasted for a long time. It was pretty cool to see a bunch of grownups basically turn into little kids as they kept finding new teammates to take photos with. Late in the night, the photos were mostly done and the locker room was much quieter. One rookie held the Lombardi Trophy and was trying to find someone to give it to. He looked at me and motioned and I just laughed. I told him I didn't get to hold it; I hadn't earned it. But there were plenty of people in that locker room who did, and he soon found another.