Really, it felt like 2009 again. There was Brent Celek making a big catch, bowling over a linebacker and lunging past the sticks for a first down. And there was the crowd at the Linc roaring its approval.
Just like old times.
"It felt great," Celek said.
Celek, once one of the NFL's most feared pass-receiving tight ends, has been largely a situational blocker since the emergence of Zach Ertz as an even-more feared pass-receiving tight end.
When Ertz was a surprise inactive Sunday with a hamstring injury, Celek and Trey Burton picked up the slack, combining to catch five passes for 80 yards and a touchdown in the Eagles' 51-23 win over the Broncos at the Linc (see breakdown).
The Eagles have tremendous tight end depth. Celek, from 2009 through 2013, ranked sixth in the NFL among tight ends in receiving yards and can still catch the ball and run. Burton, a former undrafted free agent, caught 37 passes last year, which is tremendous production for a third-string tight end.
The Eagles have been losing players all year, and in every case, the backup has performed at a high level.
Celek and Burton kept up that tradition Sunday.
"I'm not surprised by any means," said Ertz, who came into the weekend second among NFL tight ends in catches and yards. "I'm pumped for those guys. Brent and Trey stepped up and did exactly what they needed to do."
Celek had caught just four passes all year and only 27 in his last 30 games. And Burton had just nine catches the first eight weeks.
But Celek caught three for 39 yards Sunday, two for first downs, and Burton added a 14-yarder and a circus 27-yard touchdown — the longest TD catch of his career — as the Eagles improved to 8-1 with their seventh straight win (see Roob's observations).
"When you lose guys — and we've lost a few, (Darren) Sproles, (Jason) Peters — everybody else has to just play that much better, and that's what I tried to do," said Celek, now in his 11th year with the Eagles.
"That's what I have to do. That's what they have me here for. I've got to be ready to be that guy who can come in and help in the run game and help a little in the passing game, and when Ertz goes down, I have to be able to play well. That's what my teammates expect, and that's what I expect."
Safe to say there's nobody on this roster that hardcore Eagles fans appreciate more than Celek.
He's now played in 168 games, fifth-most in franchise history.
The only guy ahead of him who played his entire career with the Eagles is Chuck Bednarik, at 169 games.
So in two weeks, Celek will have played in more games than anybody in Eagles history who played his entire career here.
Nothing better than seeing the grizzled old forgotten veteran show flashes of his old self.
Celek — the only player on the roster who's played in an Eagles' playoff win — has done something rare, transitioning from a big-time starter to a rarely used backup.
"Sometimes that's just what you have to do for the team," Celek said. "If you want to be a team player and you still want to be a part of this organization, that's what you have to do.
"I could have gone in a different direction, but I want to be here. I love this place."