PHILADELPHIA — Lincoln Financial Field hasn’t shaken like it did on Sunday since the 2018 NFC Championship Game against the Minnesota Vikings.
It had the combustible energy of a giant soda can being kicked around for three hours. It was the Philadelphia Eagles coming in 5-0. It was Meek Mill’s performance of “Dreams and Nightmares” before kickoff. It was the hated Dallas Cowboys strutting on the visitors’ sideline. It was the Philadelphia Phillies bat-cracking their way to the National League Championship Series. It was the weekend-long sports party in the city that left fans drunk with excitement — and in some cases, just drunk.
It was all of that in a 26-17 win, capped by an on-field scrum where center Jason Kelce was taken to the ground and coach Nick Sirianni lost it with a profanity-filled sideline tirade.
“How ’bout them Eagles!” Sirianni screamed over and over as he made his way through the tunnel and into the locker room, putting his own spin on Jimmy Johnson’s famed line.
Defensive standouts Fletcher Cox and Haason Reddick playfully counted to six on their fingers. Linebacker Shaun Bradley belted, “Man, f— that [Dallas] star. Ain’t nobody worried about that s—.” Inside the locker room Kodak Black’s “Walk” boomed over the speakers as running back Miles Sanders and others joyfully bounced in rhythm.
“That was like the best atmosphere I’ve been in and it was a regular-season game,” receiver A.J. Brown said.”Look, Philly is lit. That’s all I’m going to say. Philly is lit and I’m enjoying being here.”
While the scene felt like a playoff win and the reaction was similarly euphoric, the party fizzled pretty quickly and the team’s mindset was back to business, even with their bye week up next.
“We celebrated this win because it’s a big win — a big division win, most importantly,” Brown said. “But as soon as the music stopped we started thinking about who we are playing after next week [the Pittsburgh Steelers]. We’re already trying to get ahead. This team is hungry.”
That may best describe the overall feel of the 2022 Eagles, the lone unbeaten team in the NFL. The roster is full of gifted players with a little something extra to prove. Guys like Sanders, cornerback James Bradberry and safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson are all in contract years. Brown, one of the top receivers in the game, got sent to Philly by the team that drafted him. Cox is trying to reestablish himself as a dominant player after a couple of down seasons, by his standards. He’s part of the 2017 championship core that includes Brandon Graham, Lane Johnson and Kelce, who are trying to make a push for more hardware in the latter stages of their careers.
Then there’s 24-year-old quarterback Jalen Hurts, on a quest to show that he is the answer to a long-term franchise quarterback. His maniacal pursuit of improvement — for himself and the team — has set the tone internally.
“He’s the ultimate leader,” said left tackle Jordan Mailata. “It doesn’t matter who you are, he’s going to hold you accountable.”
The 2017 Eagles team is the only one in the city’s history to hoist the Lombardi Trophy. This city is well aware of how hard it is to catch that magic carpet. Beyond exceptional talent and pitch-perfect coaching, it takes relentless effort, some good fortune, and the energy of the 53 players in the locker room bouncing off each other just so.
Football is too unpredictable to say what this team will look like in three months, but some of the necessary ingredients are in place for this to be a special season — something the crowd recognized Sunday night.
“I look at the people in the locker room — and this is what amazes me and what I love about it the most is — when I’m talking to the guys, breaking the huddle down, I feel their energy, I feel their hunger, I feel their [lack of] satisfaction,” Hurts said. “I feel all of this. And a guy in my shoes, that’s what I love because I know I have guys around me that’s going to step, I’ve got guys around me that’s going to go, regardless. And they know that we’ve got to do that together.
“We’ve kind of built this mentality, we’ve built this sense of not being satisfied. … It’s a journey, and we take that journey head-on.”