February 6, 2005, a date that will stick in the minds of Eagles fans forever. 78,125 people attended Super Bowl 39 to watch the Philadelphia Eagles try to prevent the inevitable Patriots dynasty from fortifying itself. They came close, very close. But ultimately it would be the Patriot’s third Super Bowl victory in four seasons. A staggering feat that stung the hearts of Philadelphians, with the 24-21 loss to New England later being shrouded in legitimacy due to ‘spygate’. A lot has changed since that fateful day and the Eagles will be out to achieve what they failed to do last time.
“Listen, I think everybody in the league sort of envies the success to some extent, and rightfully so.” Doug Pederson said of the chess match that awaits him in Minneapolis. “They’ve been there, done that many times, and that’s something that every other team would love to have.
It’s impressive, obviously, and it’s well-respected and well-documented. At the same time, we’re just going to prepare the same and try to block out all the noise. There’s going to be a lot written to probably both extremes. But, again, our guys have been resilient. They’ve been able to block that noise out. Once the ball is teed up and kicked off, just trust our players, trust our schemes, and play football.”
Turnovers ruled the day in Super Bowl 39, with Tom Brady protecting the ball well and McNabb tossing three picks after fumble on a sack by Willie McGinest on the opening drive set an unfortunate tone. But even after all this time, the Eagles share no bitterness with the Patriots.
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“No. They beat us.” Jeffery Lurie calmly said after the NFC Championship win. “I have great respect for them. No, my heart and hope is that we can bring a Super Bowl to Philadelphia. Our fans deserve it more than any fan base in the country and whoever we’re going to play, that’s the team we have to beat to win the Super Bowl.”
So what’s different this time around? Both teams are #1 seeds coming into the matchup but unlike last time, the Eagles are not coming into this event after two NFC Championship losses. Instead, the Eagles are underdogs. The largest underdogs in a Super Bowl since the Cardinals vs Steelers in 2011. But that’s something the team have embraced all year long.
Every loss, every obstacle, every injury, every setback has acted as a key building block in the character of this team. One built on being that gritty underdog. Dog masks and doubters. That’s been the story over the last few weeks as the Eagles have risen from the ashes to a pair of huge wins over the Atlanta Falcons and Minnesota Vikings. Some players however, take that mentality to a primal level.
Lane Johnson on being installed as 5.5 underdogs in Super Bowl: "Pretty boy Tom Brady…Would like nothing more to dethrone that guy."
— Tim McManus (@Tim_McManus) January 22, 2018
Lane Johnson has been on a tear this season. The Pro Bowl right tackle has been nothing short of dominant for the Eagles and the chip on his shoulder from last year’s suspension has certainly carried over into this season. It’s this kind of mindset that benefits the Eagles however. Underdogs in each of their last two playoff wins, this game is no different…meaning that getting lost in the hype or becoming complacent, simply isn’t an option.
“At this point it’s for the city. It’s for [Eagles Chairman and Chief Executive Officer] Mr. [Jeffrey] Lurie. For the city. For everybody that put the hard work in this season.” Defensive end Vinny Curry explained. “It doesn’t matter who we play. It’s not about them, it’s about us. We’re not done yet. We just have to stay the course. Like I said, we’re going to embrace this moment. It’s a wonderful feeling. This is the thing guys talked about at OTA’s and here we go, you know what I mean? I’m pretty sure you’re happy.”
The Eagles have a very rare opportunity. All good things must come to an end and with the recent story detailing the fractures within the Patriots Locker room, who knows how much longer the B&B era will last? Without their franchise quarterback, the Eagles have been on an incredible journey and now, all these years later, they have a chance to end the dynasty that ripped that Super Bowl dream way from this city. Philadelphia has enjoyed a rollercoaster season that is rapidly becoming a fairytale…and if it ends in a Lombardi Trophy, not only would it be the most incredible story in sports, but it may well end what they started back in 2005.
Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports