Brent Celek got hit hard. He knew it. Ravens safety Bernard Pollard, who delivered the hit, knew it. And the crowd knew it. But Celek, ever the warrior, wouldn't give Pollard the satisfaction of presiding over the hard hit that came on the tail end of Celek's 21-yard reception for a first down. So the tight end popped up from the ground, hopped forward and delivered his trademark first-down gesture.
I did that to "get the crowd going, get my team going and not let them know," said Celek. "You don't want the defense to know they hit you good.
"You know any time you play the Ravens, it's going to be a physical game. We wanted to come out and be physical too."
On the day, Celek led the Eagles with eight catches for a career-high 157 yards, the most yards receiving for an Eagles tight end since Pete Retzlaff's 204 yards in November of 1965. While Celek was a constant threat on Sunday afternoon, even leaping over Ed Reed at one point, that first down gesture following the first quarter Pollard hit perfectly mirrored the Eagles' trip through 60 grueling minutes of football during their 24-23 knock-down, drag-out win over the visiting Ravens.
"It feels amazing," said Celek. "These were the games that we were losing last year and to have a come-from-behind victory like that, it's not exactly what you want, but we'll take it. It just shows the heart of our team and the never-lose attitude."
Even on a career day, Celek remained a perfectionist following the game, as he blamed himself for a Michael Vick interception that careened off Celek's hands into the waiting arms of Reed. It was one of four turnovers on the day for the Eagles offense.
"I take responsibility for that," Celek said. "I can't do that. I can't drop a ball like that and put our team in that position. But it takes all of us. We've just got to be more disciplined, that's what it comes down to.
"I think we can be real good, it's just that we have to eliminate those (turnovers)."
Still, Celek will remember Sunday's game fondly, and not just because of his production or the team's hard-fought victory. All of that was made more special by a fervent Eagles crowd in the team's home opener.
"The crowd was amazing," Celek said with a smile. "I was so excited. Especially there at the end, you couldn't even talk to anybody it was so loud. I can't thank the fans enough. That was amazing."
Surely, Eagles fans will return the thanks.
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