Eagles beat Falcons on NFL’s opening night while fans still savor the Super Bowl win

The Philadelphia Eagles beat the Atlanta Falcons 18-12 last night on a last second goal line stand reminiscent of last year’s playoff win as Falcons quarterback and Philadelphia native Matt Ryan again overthrew his receiver in the end zone.  It was the final moments of a night filled with celebration of the season beginning, the displaying of the Super Bowl banner and a 45-minute delay due to weather

From the lightning in the sky to the mood on the ground, everything about the Philadelphia Eagles season opener felt just a little unusual.

Asked how they felt about the season ahead, Birds fans responded with words like “optimistic,” “confident,” and “excited and happy.”

And what happened to the fatalism typically associated with Philadelphia fans?

“I am a pessimist,” said Lee Howell, of Newark, Delaware. “But…I been waiting a long time. We did it last year. We’re not done yet.”

Even some untimely mechanical issues for Big Green, Howell’s tail-gaiting RV, couldn’t damper his mood.

They say success can change people. Can it change an entire fanbase?

Perhaps that question is better answered after the next losing streak. But on Thursday there was no denying the giddiness of Eagles nation.

Eileen Langford trekked from Cleveland, Ohio to attend the game and the official kickoff festival beforehand, which took over Penn’s Landing all day until 8 p.m. Langford’s Eagles fandom started when she was 12 and her younger brothers implored her to pick a favorite team and stick with it. She grabbed a blanket covered in NFL logos, closed her eyes, and pointed to Philadelphia.

A couple decades later, she stood in 95-degree heat for a photo op with the Lombardi Trophy.

“I had to be here,” Langford said. “I wanna see the championship banner. I wanna party with all my Eagles fans.”

Philadelphia native Warren Floyd had every reason to be an Eagles fan. It took a while, though, for Floyd to warm to his hometown team.

The conversion came in 1985, while Floyd was stationed in Germany with the military. Someone dropped a copy of that day’s Stars and Stripes newspaper on a table in front of him and he glimpsed that day’s Eagles box score. The Birds had lost the game, but Floyd felt a twinge of homesickness just seeing the word “Philadelphia” in front of him.

“Once I came home. I got my jerseys, got a few tickets, went to a couple games, and I been this way ever since,” Floyd said.

Floyd and Langford were among the many who braved brutally hot conditions Thursday to check out the NFL Kickoff Experience festival at Penn’s Landing. The headliner was pop star Shawn Mendes, who played a late afternoon show on the main stage.

Most of the other attractions, though, were football focused. There were autograph sessions, interviews with former Eagles players, and a chance to glimpse real deal Super Bowl rings.

Four of them were on the fingers of the Eagles’ pep band, which stopped for photographs with eager fans. Among them was 94-year-old Charlotte Bowman, a Navy Veteran, who succinctly explained why the Birds emerged victorious last season.

“That’s where God wanted them,” she said. “Amen.”

The day’s festivities began with a replay of Super Bowl 52, which seemed to draw as much attention as any other attraction. By the bushel, fans gathered around a pair of mammoth screens and watched the clock expire, yet again, on the New England Patriots.

After watching the replay, Donna Diederich and Ron Kinney reminisced about how they reacted back in February when the game actually happened.

“Oh my gosh,” Diederich recalled saying. “We won!”

“I was stunned for a minute,” Kinney said. “Then I hit it like, THE EAGLES WON THE SUPER BOWL!”

Kinney and Diederich laughed like old friends. They weren’t, though.

“Oh no we just met right here watching it right now,” Diederich said.

Turns out, it didn’t take a new season to bring Philadelphians together again. All they needed was to watch the last one again.

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